May is one of those months bursting with seasonal topics that make for interesting and informative local business stories, especially small business and entrepreneur profiles.
Taking it from the top:
Cinco de Mayo. Time is tight but if you are feeling energetic today, it’s an increasingly celebrated festival not only in Hispanic neighborhoods but at bars, restaurants, grocers and the like; here’s an AMNewYork article that notes an uptick in demand around this type of year for various foodstuffs and says “even Irish pubs celebrate Cinco de Mayo nowadays.”
Horse racing. If you missed tying a seasonal feature to Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, no need to fret. The 139th “Run for the Roses” is just the kickoff of horse racing’s Triple Crown season, which also includes the Preakness and Belmont stakes, so you have through the Belmont in early June to latch onto the horse-racing peg for stories about local tracks, trainers, stable operations. Don’t forget about “racinos,” where traditional horse-racing tracks have added slot machines to keep players occupied between horse wagering opportunities.
And if racing isn’t big in your region, chances are there is some other facet of the equine industry, from breeding and riding lessons or shows to controversial businesses such as those that operate carriage horses in tourist areas. All are worth looking at from a regulatory (and complaint/disciplinary action) standpoint, or as a source of business profiles. Here’s an economic-impact report from the American Horse Council, a trade group, which says that horses have a $39 billion economic impact in the United States and that the industry employs more than 4 million people. (Look for ancillary industries too; custom makers of tack, feed supplies, veterinary care and pharmacology, trailering, etc. — there might be some interesting cottage or family businesses among them.)
Mother’s Day. A perennial favorite; Mother’s Day is You can go the retail route; here’s the National Retail Federation’s forecast which says consumers will spend $168 on mom this year, and that iPads are going to be a popular gift. The 11 percent uptick in planned spending is likely to be good news for jewelers, florists and restaurants; the latter two experience some of their biggest sales days of the year around Mother’s Day, which falls May 12 this year.
If you want to take an edgier angle, consider something about workplace maternity leave policies, which have been spotlighted this year following the gyrations at Yahoo!, which recently announced a 16-week paid leave policy for new mothers. You could do a round-up of local maternity benefits at large employers and among small businesses, too. Or, take a look at the assisted reproduction industry. You could recap the process, and financial costs, for a couple going through fertility treatment, for example. (Caveat: Demand to see real documents, including canceled checks, bank statements, clinic bills, insurance statements.) Here’s a link to the Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology – perhaps it can point you to member physicians and tech companies in your region. Here’s a New York Times portal featuring a variety of older stories on related topics that may help you focus. And here’s a Forbes column that highlights some of the controversial aspects of in vitro fertilization, including expense and excess embryos.
Proms and graduation parties. Big, big business these days that a variety of service industries have come to depend upon. And here’s a new Visa study that claims parents plan to boost prom spending by a whopping 33 percent this year, pushing the average cost of prom attendance to more than $1,000. Here’s an ABC News article that recounts many of the expenses, from make-up to tux rental; you can follow that breadcrumb trail to local purveyors. Look for DJs and VJs, professional prom promoters/organizers and even professional prom consultants; this website advises wedding planners to “expand into the lucrative prom consulting business.”
Then there’s graduation. Parties, gifts and accoutrements like invitations all have their own industries, while others are latching on as well: Check out this Wall Street Journal piece about high-end “senior portraiture” that’s applying more glamor than ever to student pix and becoming a specialty of photographers. (I like the article’s point about the irony that kids awash in digital images of themselves still want posed studio shots.)
I interviewed some car dealers a few months ago and they all mentioned that college and high-school graduation were peak periods for gift-giving, some had been pressed into service to help parents surprise children with cars showing up at parties and the like. That could be a fun story tied to any number of personal finance angles, from the ever-growing length of car loans to the scarcity of good used cars. (Pre-owned vehicles are given as gifts, too.) And here’s an MSN story about Chrysler’s creation of the Dodge Dart gift registry, which lets people exhort friends and family to contribute to the cost of their ride in a sort of crowd-funding move. Any graduates trying it out in your area?
Don’t forget about trends in lower-grade graduations, too. Are people catering shindigs for elementary and middle-school move-ups these days?