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Holidays present peak profitability opportunity

Barbecue gifts are perfect for everyone

Barbecue season didn't end with Labor Day. The holidays should be one of your most profitable sales periods. All it takes is a bit of ingenuity on your part and if you don't take advantage of this opportunity, you have no one to blame but yourself. So start planning right now.

Example of ways to display grill products to encourage gift-giving during the holidays.

Example of ways to display grill products to encourage gift-giving during the holidays.

Where can consumers find a holiday gift that will be welcomed by anyone on their list? Whether looking for a gift for Uncle Ned, the brother and sister-in-law who are famous for outdoor entertaining, the neighbor who feeds the cat or dog when they're away or the friend who shares his catch after a bountiful fishing trip, a barbecue gift is sure to please. Industry research indicates that 80% of households barbecue, so how can one go wrong?

However, you must convey to harried holiday shoppers that their favorite specialty retailers offer them one-stop shopping to find unique gifts recipients will cherish. You need to turn your store into holiday central, making it so inviting that soon curious gift seekers will flock in looking for the solution to their gift dilemmas.

Everything needs to look and be festive to put customers in the mood to buy, so make your store look as celebratory as your home at this time of year. Put up a Christmas tree, buy some poinsettias, fill a brandy snifter with glittering balls and set it on a built-in barbecue island, tuck sprigs of holly everywhere, play seasonal music and serve warm spiced cider to fill the store with a wonderful aroma.

Everyone wants to find unique stocking gifts, so hang big holiday stockings around the store to inspire shoppers. Fill one with basic barbecue utensils and tuck in a couple of colorful long mitts. Stuff another with paper, but have a number of barbecue sauces and seasonings peeking over the top with a long-handled basting brush. Just review your inventory of accessories and you'll find many things that make great stocking gifts. For items too big to fit into the actual stocking, use colorful stockings to embellish a display of fish grids, burger baskets, turkey and vertical chicken roasters, a selection of thermometers, aprons, wood chips or chunks, platters, cutting boards, planks or barbecue cookbooks. Make a table tent card that reads "Something for every barbecue chef!"

Shoppers need inspiration and it is up to you to provide it for them.

Start by hanging oversize gift tags and big colorful bows on a number of items within the store. A patio heater or firepit might have a tag that says "To Patty & Joe — To Extend Your Outdoor Season." A stainless steel griddle could be tagged "To Uncle John — Invite us for a patio brunch." A smoker grill tag could read "To our favorite big game hunter." A charcoal or gas grill can be labeled "For Dad, the most awesome barbecue chef." You get the idea. Just look around at the products you carry and you'll get ideas matching gifts to potential recipients.

Another great idea-generator is to display clever holiday gift baskets in assorted sizes and price points. If you can't wrap them yourself, assemble the contents for each basket, take them to a gift shop in the area and ask them to provide appropriate baskets and turn them into appealing gifts. It will be well worth the cost because you can make a handsome profit on the value-added contents, now ready for slipping under the tree. Some shoppers may be inspired but want to choose items and assemble the baskets themselves.

Create a fish/seafood lovers basket that has an "Everything You Need to Know About Barbecuing Fish" cookbook, a fish grid, fish basket, several dry rubs to enhance fish, a citrus marinade, several sauces or glazes, a cedar plank and a set of skewers for barbecuing shrimp.

For a rib aficionado, combine a rib rack, several dry rubs, some rib sauces with clever names, an attractive cutting board and a specialty ribs cookbook. Other themes might include a Pan Asian basket with a focus on Oriental sauces, seasonings and rubs, a grill wok, a cookbook that focuses on Asian grilling or even one that concentrates on vegetables. A Healthy Griller basket can emphasize fresh produce, low-fat sauces, rubs to enhance chicken, fish and vegetables, a vertical chicken roaster and a cookbook with a light, low-fat focus.

If you've not viewed the holidays as a great time to sell barbecues and related outdoor living products, it's time to change your thinking. Promote your store as Holiday Central in your newspaper or radio advertising. Run a month-long sweepstakes with weekly prizes such as a tailgating grill, a set of utensils or a gift certificate. With a little extra effort, your cash register should be jingling nicely right through December.

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