Donald W. Reynolds National Center For Business Journalism

Two Minute Tips

A seasonal potpourri of business feature ideas

June 10, 2010

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If you’re ready for a break from housing, jobs, and oil-spill stories, here’s a potpourri of season tips you can use now for picturesque and informative business display features or file away for a slow day.

First off, the weather.

No matter where you are, it’s a volatile time of year and no doubt has some financial implications for your readers. Whether they’re homeowners frustrated with dried-out lawns, small businesses doing flood remediation or window replacement, construction firms repairing tornado damage, or individuals trying to navigate the insurance claims process, everyone has a stake in what Mother Nature has wrought so far in 2010.

In some cases, you might find families reeling from numerous financial hits at once. Maybe their electric bill is higher than normal in June due to the recent heatwave, even as they fork out to reseed a lawn or have a lightning-struck tree hauled away. Tallying up the financial toll of spring – and looking ahead to the weather-related costs of summer – would make for an entertaining yet useful feature. Especially if you can include tips on how to cut corners and still survive.

Flag day

While it hasn’t quite caught on to the extent Halloween and Valentine’s Day have, Flag Day (June 14) does have its retail opportunities. Many veterans organizations have ceremonies at which tattered flags are retired or respectfully burned. Of course, those flags must be replaced; the Flag Manufacturers Association of America can probably hook you up with a nearby manufacturer. It’s also a good time of year for stories about residential flagpole restrictions, the use of flag motifs on apparel and recreational items, and other more contentious topics.

And Flag Day is a reminder to start revving up a patriotic business story; I’ll write more about the 4th of July soon but take note that fireworks already are appearing in drug stores and supermarkets and grocers are printing up those flyers touting hot dogs, mustard and potato chip sales. Start pondering your Independence Day angles now.

Father’s Day

Coming up June 20th, dad’s special day also fails as a retail powerhouse but still may be worth a nod if your local Main Street bistros and merchants tie it to promotions and specials. According to the National Retail Federation’s report on Father’s Day Consumer Trends 2010, it looks like Dad merits $94 this year in gifts and related spending. Check out stereotypically manly venues like gyms, golf courses and clubs, sporting goods stores, RV dealers, and race tracks for Father’s Day specials and sales. Don’t forget about area sports venues, including baseball fields, and I’ve noticed a lot of specials by mail-order firms, too, particularly steak purveyors and the like.

If you want to be a little edgier, consider topics like sales of DNA test kits, local DNA testing labs, or a personal finance feature on the costs associated with single-parent adoption.

Art fairs

The season is well underway and readers always love a good feature about nomadic artisans and craftspersons who make a living by touting their wares at community fairs. To make it a real business story, try to find a local artist and really get them to open up about their sales, cash flow, expenses, the wear-and-tear of being on the road, and manning the booth at crowded festivals.

It’s probably not quite as idyllic as it seems and the real financial nitty-gritty will be a valuable small-business story for many readers contemplating a lifestyle jump. You might have to try a number of people before you find one willing to divulge. But sooner or later, you’ll hit someone who isn’t shy about money matters. Festival Network Online has a searchable database of art fairs and festivals nationwide.

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