Everybody is familiar with the idea that the holiday season is the best in retail. In fact, in 2022 it was estimated that consumers would spend close to $100 billion during November and December. But as it turns out, plenty of other profitable seasonal businesses exist. And for some, the holiday season is not the busiest time of year. Some of these businesses may look for temporary merchant accounts throughout all times of the year.
Temporary Vs Permanent Accounts
But, what are temporary accounts? Temporary merchant accounts are merchant service providers that offer a short-term contract. It could be for a certain number of weeks, or it could be month to month.
Are you looking for examples of temporary merchant accounts? They are actually hard to find. That’s because when a payment processor chooses to work with a merchant, it’s an investment. They must provide that merchant with hardware, software, and servicing.
If a merchant is only going to be with them for a short time, that investment of a temporary merchant accounts does not have an attractive return. True, the merchant might return next year. But what if they don’t? What if they go somewhere else?
What is The Best Merchant Service For a Small Business?
Even though their cash flow fluctuates, seasonal businesses are not confined to temporary merchant accounts. They can also get a permanent merchant account. And truthfully, this type of arrangement is better. For starters, the business might still have the odd client or customer in their off-season.
Then there is the aspect of the business relationship. The best merchant card services for small businesses are responsive and flexible. They can create a fee structure that makes them the least expensive credit card processing services for a seasonal business owner.
Seasonal Merchant Account Testimonials
You don’t have to take our word for it. Take a look at some customer testimonials from business owners with seasonal businesses. They chose to work with ECS and obtain a full-time rather than temporary merchant account for their part-time business.
Donna, Summer Camp Owner, Arizona
My seasonal business is summer camps. I started this business over 15 years ago, trying to use the summer to make a little extra money. At that time, I had two kids in school, and we couldn’t afford to send them to camp ourselves. So I put a Facebook post out that I was running a backyard camp.
That first summer, I had three neighborhood kids, plus my two, for a total of five. I ended up making a decent amount of money doing the same things I’d probably have to do for my own kids anyway (setting up a slip-n-slide in the back, arts and crafts, board games, and stuff like that). I started wondering if I could scale this business.
The following summer, I had ten kids and hired my niece to help as a counselor. I realized that this could really go somewhere. This project went on for two more summers, and at 20 kids, I realized we could not be a backyard camp anymore. We had to go somewhere.
So I started looking into the details to figure this out. I learned that legally I could not supervise that many kids on my property anyway. I need to get licensed, hire more staff, and run the camp at a safe facility. Amazingly, I was able to broker a deal with the local school district to use an elementary school.
This amount of space meant I could make the camp much bigger. But that, of course, meant more staff. More supplies. More expenses. It was a bit of a balancing act. I was trying to figure this all out in the fall, so at least I had nine months to go.
When I first started the camp, I collected cash from the parents at the end of each week. But that wouldn’t work here for several reasons. One of those reasons is that as my business grew, the expenses grew. And I’d have to pay some of them up front, like the deposit for using the school classrooms for the summer. I needed a way to capture payments from the parents before camp started.
I had no idea what to do. After all, I wasn’t really in business for more than three months out of the year. There was no reason to invest a lot of money in a payment processor with a temporary merchant account. I knew that accepting credit cards would entail transaction fees and monthly fees. But all the same, I knew that I would need a smoother way to collect payments upfront.
A friend told me about ECS, the payment processing company they used. They said this company was more flexible than significant payment gateways like PayPal or Square and that they could work with me as a seasonal business. Now, I have been with ECS for over a decade, using their merchant services.
ECS has also helped me set up more flexible payment options for parents who cannot pay for camp in one lump sum. As a parent who started a summer camp to have extra money for groceries, I resonate with that. I would highly recommend them as a company for seasonal businesses like mine.
Jack, Mobile Bartender Service, Colorado
I have been bartending for over 30 years in and around the resort of Aspen, Colorado. This resort is one of the most popular ski and snowboarding destinations in the world. You may not know that these trails are also fantastic for hiking and mountain biking in the summer.
That means there are really just two busy seasons in America’s Canary City: December to March and June to September. As for the canaries, that’s because Aspen used to be a mining town, and well…canaries were kept in the mines as a sort of poison gas detector. But enough about bird facts. Let’s talk about bartending.
There are some very wealthy people that come through Aspen. And these wealthy people like to party! Of course, everybody likes to party. But not everyone can afford to party with a personal chef and a full-service bar. I’m talking about people who hire sushi chefs to wave samurai swords over a hibachi grill and squirt sake into your mouth with a water gun.
Eccentricities like that make the party scene exciting. And lucrative. I was first exposed to the Aspen party scene as a young twenty-something. After college, I was bumming my way around, not really sure of what I wanted to do in life. I was doing a lot of snowboarding and a lot of looking for extra money. One of the easiest ways to get paid was to be on the wait staff at catered events.
I noticed that the bartenders would get a lot of tips. So I decided to learn about pouring drinks. I quickly realized this was good business. In a few months, I could literally make enough money to cover my expenses for the year. Of course, this was 30 years ago, and I was single. Times were different. I didn’t mind renting a room in someone’s basement and eating ramen if it meant hitting the slopes and enjoying the fresh powder.
But I was also ambitious. After a few years in the business, I made some friends who lent me the money to get started with my own mobile bar. That meant buying my drinks, glasses, and tables. It meant hiring bartenders. It meant getting my liquor license. And it meant collecting payments from clients.
Many customers have hosted bars where the host pays for the drinks. But some have cash bars, where the guests pay. This meant I would need POS systems. But paying for a temporary merchant account and shouldering those processing fees didn’t seem to make much sense for a seasonal business. Really, I am only doing gigs six months out of the year and not more than 10-15 days out of the month, at that. I needed the pricing model to make it all make sense.
A catering friend told me about ECS payment processing. He said they could help me get set up with reasonable processing rates for cash bar events. They could also help me collect online transactions with a virtual terminal, like a client booking a gig. I have been working with ECS Payments for the last ten years, and I wish I had discovered them sooner. They are perfect for working with seasonal merchants like me.
George, Store Owner, New Jersey
I am one of those people who love running their business. To be honest, part of the reason I love it is because I only have to work five months out of the year. In fact, I couldn’t really work for the other five months if I wanted to. I do a little bit of backend work. That’s my inventory and accounting period, as they say.
That’s because I own a store on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. I’m right between Caesar’s Palace and the Tropicana. The beach season is from Memorial Day to Labor Day, so I’m open from the last weekend in May to the first week in September. There are a few weeks before and after that where I’m setting up shop and closing up shop, but that’s it.
I only started doing this once I retired from my corporate job. You could say I wasn’t ready to play golf, shuffleboard, and bridge all day. I needed something to keep me busy. A buddy of mine was actually trying to unload his business. So I bought it. And that’s where I am today.
My business is very seasonal. Very seasonal. And very themed. A lot of the shops here are selling the same stuff, with a little variety. Beachy souvenirs, airbrushed t-shirts, and things you forgot at home: sunscreen, sandals, beach towels, floaty toys…that kind of stuff.
The boardwalk business is not a good cash business anymore. First off, nobody likes to carry cash anyway. The slot machines in the casinos don’t take cash. And nobody likes to have to carry all that cash on the beach. They want minimal stuff to carry, which means plastic: credit and debit cards.
And now, they want to use their phones to pay. It seems like Star Trek stuff to me, but I’m not complaining. They wave their phone over the POS, and the money hits my bank account. You’d think a payment processing company would be reluctant to lease out hardware to a business that’s only open half the year, but thankfully I have not found that to be a problem.
That’s probably because of who I’m working with. ECS Payments has been a great business partner. They know my business is seasonal, and we’ve worked out a contract that makes everybody happy. They also do a whole lot more than just collecting payments.
For several years, I negotiated a merchant cash advance to get my inventory up and running. I’ve had surprises from suppliers that could have threatened the outcome of the whole summer. In a pinch, I’ve needed to reach out to new suppliers and needed the funds to do that. ECS Payments came through with merchant cash advances and amicable terms for paying it back.
For seasonal merchants like myself, I highly recommend ECS Payments whether you want a temporary merchant account or a permanent one. I also recommend the third row of slot machines on the left-hand side when walking into the Tropicana from the Boardwalk. I’ve gotten lucky several times…but you don’t have to take my word for it. Give one of them a spin yourself. And if you’re a seasonal business, give ECS a call.
Steve, Inflatable Fun Vendor, Wisconsin
My name is Steve, and I’m in the business of inflatables. Get your mind right, people—I’m talking about bounce houses: bounce houses, slip-n-slides, and obstacle courses. I also have some partner vendors who do balloon animals, magic shows, and face painting. You probably guessed who my client base is already: kids. Well…their parents, actually.
And if you’re a particularly astute reader, you’ve probably picked up on the fact that I’ve tried to make my business evergreen. That’s because I live in Wisconsin, where the winter is colder than a witch’s…well, you know what they say. That ain’t where the cheese comes from; I’ll tell you that. Anyway, nobody is booking bouncy castles in February, so I’ve tried to branch out with some indoor entertainment.
And don’t you worry—I don’t have a sailor’s mouth around the kids. And I don’t smoke, either. But golly, when I get home, do I polish off a pack. You can take the carny out of the carnival, but you can’t take the carnival out of the carny, as they say. Yup…I got my start in the fair industry. I worked the fair circuit for 14 years as a ride operator.
I finally got fed up with that and decided to go out on my own. If you’re wondering why it only took 14 years…well, fresh funnel cakes are just so darn tootin’ good. Anyway, it turns out the bouncy house business had a much lower initial investment threshold than I thought it would. I have been doing this for 17 years, which makes me older than I want to tell you.
Now here’s the kicker. After all that work, my business is still pretty seasonal. That’s because most people have their birthdays in the late spring and early summer—June, to be precise. While I have the odd party here and there throughout the year, most of my work is in the summer.
The summer is also when I’ve got the most festivals, fairs, and events. So at the end of the day, my inflatable business is highly seasonal. And that means it was hard for me to find a suitable payment processor for a temporary merchant account. One challenge is that I’m selling big-ticket items. I’ve done events where I charge several thousand dollars for the day.
Do you know what an Amex fee for a $3,000 event looks like? Well, in my opinion, there are better ways of bringing funds into your business bank account that doest cost as much, like ACH payments.
The problem is that most payment processors don’t want to sit down with you and do the work to figure out what will make you the happiest—especially big ones like Square. Thankfully there are companies like ECS Payments. ECS Payments was recommended to me by one of my friends in the business (he’s also a rival, but we’ll leave that alone for now). ECS is the one who taught me about ACH payments.
They know my business is seasonal, and they’ve worked with me to set up online transactions. These go right to my income statement and my accounting software, so I don’t have to sit there and move all these numbers around on paper.
Their software has automated many different parts of my business, so I have more free time for cracking open a cold one (or six) and watching the Packers. I’d recommend ECS Payments to any merchant, including seasonal business owners like myself.
Ricardo, Personal Chef, Hawaii
Aloha. My name is Ricardo, and my two favorite things are hibachi and sake-filled squirt guns. You may have met my friend Jack already. He sent me an email that ECS was collecting testimonials from seasonal merchants, and I just had to weigh in. ECS is what brings my business to life! That, and soy sauce, sake, and squirt guns.
I am a personal chef on the island of Oahu, although I haven’t turned down any invites on Kaui or Maui either. My style is a little bit…colorful, and I’m not talking about my Hawaiian shirts! I was born in Ecuador, but I’m a traveling soul, you might say. I spent about three years in Japan, where I trained to become a sushi chef.
Eventually, after being invited by a friend, I ended up in Honolulu. He owned a hibachi grill and put me to work cooking and entertaining diners. It took me a few months to learn the ropes, but I got there. Hibachi is not just about cooking food. It’s about knifework, juggling, and lighting small volcanos of meat on fire.
Although I am still good friends with that restaurant owner, the business was not for me. The hours were highly demanding. I also wanted to get a little more for my culinary skills. So we amicably parted ways, and I started hiring myself as a personal chef. This was right when AirBnB exploded, so word of mouth landed me many referrals.
The majority of my events are private dinner parties. This is the life, I have to tell you. I am doing hibachi and making sushi for clients willing to pay top dollar. They also like to have fun. I bring a little zaniness to my service because it helps customers loosen up and enjoy the food. That’s where the sake squirt gun comes in. Open up… it’s sake time!
Now on to the downside of being a personal chef: it’s very seasonal. My busiest months are the winter and summer months. It’s somewhat ironic because Hawaii’s best weather is in the Spring and Fall. Of course, the seasonality of my business could be an upside. Since moving here, I’ve taken up surfing, of course. When business is slow, I’ve got time for that.
Even though it brings in business, you might be surprised that payment processors do not always want temporary merchant accounts. Merchant services are an investment, even if there is no hardware (and in my case, there is not… everything is booked online). Thankfully I have found a payment processor that is on board with me, and that is ECS Payments.
ECS Payments has been my permanent account provider for the last seven years. Even though my business is seasonal, they are there for me all year. This is especially beneficial if I get an odd client in the fall or summer (those clients who know when Hawaii has its best weather). I would definitely recommend ECS to other personal chefs, and I do. Mahalo to ECS for helping me with the cash flow.