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Getting your share of growing grill sales?

Donna Myers -- Casual Living, August 1, 2007

Market research from Easy Analytic Software and Casual Living indicates within the next four years overall consumer spending on grills will increase 25% to $3.8 billion. In 2006, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association reported barbecue grill shipments took the biggest leap ever to top 17 million. Most grill industry veterans believe sales are far from peaking.

Southerners have always been enthusiastic about barbecuing and many industry trends originated in states like Texas, the Carolinas, Virginia and Tennessee. This region also has weather that helps sustain year-round enjoyment of outdoor cooking and backyard living. Perhaps the most important factor fueling strong projected grill sales today is population growth — and not only in the South.

Grill sales in the West are projected to grow slightly faster than the South. Both the largest metro areas and dozens of smaller metro areas are experiencing significant growth. Virtually all grill retailers have the opportunity to profit from substantially expanded sales of barbecue grills and accessories.

Manufacturers provide many benefits to help retailers capture this burgeoning market. Premium quality products, constant new innovative features, top notch performance and stylish designs that enhance the look of a yard or outdoor kitchen are just the tip of the iceberg. Ever-improved technology takes the guesswork out of grilling, barbecuing, smoking and makes it easy for outdoor chefs.

How to maximize your grill sales

An educated consumer is virtually every retailer's best customer, so ask yourself, "What you are doing to create good customers for your business?" Manufacturers now offer more effective tools to encourage consumers to learn about their products. CDs and DVDs often replace printed manuals to entice owners to get acquainted with their grills before using them. Do you emphasize how helpful these are when talking to a prospective buyer? Have you considered playing them in the store to capture attention?

Carry a good selection of cookbooks and accessories. Both are great for encouraging repeat visits to the store to keep up with what's new.

Barbecue cooking classes are very popular across the country. People want to know how to grill, barbecue or smoke properly. Cookbook authors like the BBQ Queens or Dr. BBQ will come into your store to conduct the classes and cook on some of the grill brands you stock. There may be a local chef recognized for his/her barbecue prowess, or even a champion barbecue cookoff competitor who lives within a reasonable distance and who would be delighted to teach a class or two for you. You can charge for these classes and let the "students" enjoy the food afterward, publicize it via local media and invite a newspaper food editor or the local TV station to attend.

While attending the classes, students get a chance to see your store and realize what interesting merchandise you carry. Some will buy on the spot, others may come back a short while later and chances are you've established a good repeat customer.

The Web is not your enemy. It can be a tremendous sales tool. As a retailer you need to familiarize yourself with the Web sites of the brands you carry. The more educational these are, the more useful they will be to help solidify a sale. This will reinforce your sales messages and can be the nudge needed to convince someone teetering on the brink of a decision.

Forrester Research recently brought good news for specialty retailers that 69% of purchasers research online, but 67% make purchases in physical stores.

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