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Hearth & Home December 2017

Richard Wright
Hearth & Home Magazine

Barbecue Drives
Traffic & Tickets

We’ve heard from a number of patio and hearth retailers over the past few years that, while tickets are up, traffic is down. Not a good sign, but no one ever said that driving traffic was easy, or inexpensive. You could try, by inviting consumers to “come on down” to see your new chairs, sofas, tables, stoves, or fireplaces, but somehow it’s difficult to create excitement around those products.

Try advertising that fact Monday through Friday and you may find yourself lonely on Saturday, or at least only as busy as you usually are on that day.

How about trying a different approach, by inviting a sizeable number of people to come on down to watch and learn how to barbecue? You might mention that your invitees can sample the food while having a cold drink and listening to some good music.

No doubt you’ve heard or read that consumers today are looking for events in the stores they shop. Well, that’s an event!

No? Then try hiring a local chef to put on a cooking class, say on the best way to cook a T-bone steak over live flames, or ribs St. Louis style.

Still not convinced? Then it must be because you don’t sell grills – either because the margins are too small or the competition (Big Boxes) too large. If that’s the case, then you’re looking at the wrong metrics.

Margins in the barbecue industry are, for the most part, too low (look around and you may find a way to get to 40 points). So what? The benefits of selling barbecue products more than offset the loss of five or six margin points.

We know retailers who attract 300 or so attendees to each one of their barbecue events (one we know attracted 1,500!). We know others who set up their stores to handle a few dozen attendees at their cooking classes. We know many retailers who put on Eggfests in their parking lot and repeatedly draw crowds.

Stop right there! Now consider how much it would cost you in advertising dollars to draw a dozen, or 30, or 50 people to visit your store to see a new patio collection, or a new gas fireplace; we’re betting it’s a huge amount of money. Drawing traffic is vastly important to your livelihood. You can’t just sit back and watch traffic fall for too many years before you recognize that the sometimes-higher tickets just aren’t covering the gap anymore.

There’s another benefit to selling barbecues besides the margins that you receive and the traffic that you draw, and that’s the fact that, if you sell most products that together create an outdoor kitchen, or Outdoor Room, your tickets will skyrocket. Your sale of a cart grill alone will morph into a built-in grill with sideburner, and perhaps a power burner. You’ll find that pizza ovens are hot sellers, and they can do a lot more than just cook pizza.

No one enjoys running back to the (indoor) kitchen for cold drinks, so an outdoor refrigerator is a must, as is a sink, and a few cabinets, and perhaps a music system. We could go on.

The margin you receive on the sale of a grill alone is the least important reason to sell grills. Drawing traffic and increasing tickets are much more important to your business.

Promoting, demonstrating, and teaching barbecue are the best drivers of traffic for patio and hearth dealers – “that I can tell you.”

More Stories in this Issue

2017 Retail: Past & Future

By Richard Wright

Hearth & Home interviewed 48 specialty retailers of hearth, patio and barbecue products throughout the U.S. to determine how well they fared in 2017. For some it was a great year, for some it was a bad year, and for most it was an acceptable year.

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HEARTH: A Good Year for Most

By Bill Sendelback

It has been a surprisingly good year for hearth products, as well as a break-out year for sales of electric fireplaces through the specialty channel.

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Core Values

By Bill Sendelback

It’s a family affair at Hearth & Home in Mount Prospect, Illinois, a business that began in 1971 with a mission of taking care of its customers.

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PATIO: Not All Roses

By Tom Lassiter

Economic indicators were pointing in the right direction, and for many patio dealers, the season was good, but not great.

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BARBECUE: A Generally Good Year

By Lisa Readie Mayer

In general, it was a good year for barbecue sales through the specialty retail channel; the major problem was with the negative impact of Internet sales.

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The Carys of Wichita

By Lisa Readie Mayer

All Things Barbecue is a superbly run operation, and a role model for all specialty retailers in the barbecue business.

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2017 October Business Climate

In early November Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, barbecue and patio products, asking them to compare October 2017 sales to October 2016. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 214 useable returns.

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Parting Shot: Smart Move

Thirty miles from Phoenix, north on the 101, you will find Taliesin West, previously the winter home of Frank Lloyd Wright, who died in 1959, and now home to the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the School of Architecture at Taliesin.

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