That is a question many businesses have faced over the years.
Today, there are businesses that saw big increases in sales during the early days of the pandemic (2020 – 2021), but 2022 softened and 2023 seems kind of flat. This is especially true in many retail businesses “selling things”.
Why? Because many consumers switched to buying services (travel, etc.), after redecorating their house, or buying power sports equipment, etc. Since leisure travel is almost back to 2019 levels, and inflation surged (at least for a while), there is only so much money to go around.
As a business owner who wants to sell in such a scenario, you have to show financials from 2018 to 2022, and then estimate 2023 and 2024. If you can show that overall business growth from 2018 to now, then buyers may see this sales dip as part of the normal business cycle.
That said, as a seller, you should be prepared for a price that reflects the business as it is, not what it was in 2020-2021. You also may see buyers put earn-outs into their offers, that are based on your forecast for 2024 and 2025. This give your the opportunity to get more money over the next year or two, versus what you may get at the closing table.
So the answer to my question is “yes”, you can sell a business when sales take a dip, but you have to be flexible and show that there are growth opportunities for the buyer.