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Tips for generating post-holiday traffic

Grill Column

Most Americans do not believe the recession is over, despite repeated enthusiastic declarations from the administration that it is behind us now and everyone can confidently move ahead with a more positive economic outlook.

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With no decrease in the unemployment figures, wages increasing slowly if at all, and no assurance that those who are employed will stay so, consumers are spending very cautiously. So with the holiday buying behind us, how do we motivate consumers to return to the stores, especially to buy barbecue-related products which are not on their priority list at this time of year when they are barbecuing less frequently?

This is the time to do some critical month-by-month planning to determine how you will entice customers to visit your store regularly in the coming months. If you can get them in the door, some visits are sure to generate sales. Here are some ideas to consider.

Step up your cooking classes. It’s a time of year when people don’t have such jam-packed schedules so taking a barbecue class – or even a series of them – seems more manageable. In fact, it may be downright inviting. And classes always result in participants purchasing products so they can try what they learned at home.

Continue your demonstration program, but concentrate on some comfort foods that are appealing when the weather is still chilly. Cook hearty soups or chili on the grill to remind grill owners about the versatility of cooking outdoors. Cook low 'n’ slow brisket to juicy tenderness, a meatloaf or macaroni and cheese which will benefit from the distinctive smoky flavor. All of these can be promoted as wonderfully flavorful but budget-stretching meals that won’t feel like you’re economizing.

In January, start an Accessory-of-the-Month Club and feature a different one each month that will earn loyalty points. At the end of the year the customer has earned a free accessory with the value varying according to the number of points they’ve earned for a monthly or less frequent purchase.

In February, add a “Win A Valentine’s Day Barbecue” sweepstakes. Let shoppers enter to win one of several prizes – dinner prepared at their home by a local barbecue expert, a box of prime steaks (perhaps co-op with a local butcher), a new grill or chiminea or firepit, or a basket of barbecue sauces, rubs, marinades, woods, an injector, cookbook, etc.

Invite customers in to explore new spring cookbooks in March. Feature at least three to six different cookbooks. Contact Pig Out Publications to find out what they consider to be some of the most promising new books for spring 2010. Choose your accessory for March to tie in with one of the book titles you are promoting.

In April, remind outdoor chefs that Daylight Savings Time has now given them an extra hour of daylight in the evening to barbecue often. Conduct a DST sweepstakes to win a new grill, a grill pad or some basic barbecue product to celebrate the beginning of peak barbecue season.

May is easy – National Barbecue Month and Memorial Day both revolve around backyard barbecues. Plan special activities for both. Perhaps staging a cook-off in your parking lot with the first 10 of 12 teams to sign up being allowed to compete for ribbons and prizes, generating traffic and local media coverage.

June is the time to celebrate Father’s Day, and what could be more appropriate than a barbecue grill gift? Feature a wide array at many different price points to accommodate every kid’s pocketbook. Perhaps give a free sample of one of your barbecue sauces, rubs, wood pellets or grill wipes, etc. as a bonus – your gift to Dad.

No question what July promotions will revolve around. With the red, white and blue of July 4th celebrations, you’ll have no trouble coming up with lots of ideas.

August is a good time to celebrate the bounty of early fall harvest, from tomatoes to corn-on-the-cob, squash, peppers, peaches and apples – all of which are delicious cooked over the coals. The vegetables and fruits may vary depending on which part of the country you live in, but all will be delicious. Again, a perfect topic for classes, demos, sharing recipes and more.

It may take a bit of extra thought but with a little ingenuity you can attract customers to your store regardless of the economy or the season. But you need to separate yourself from your competition by going the extra mile and creating interest that will make shoppers want to come and see what is new and exciting.

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