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Promote grills to spark sales

Tanya Merritte, Donna Myers -- Casual Living, April 1, 2008

May is National Barbecue Month and for retailers it offers tremendous traffic-building opportunities. This is a peak time for barbecue purchases and it gives you a whole month’s jump start on what used to be the first big promotion of the season – Memorial Day. Since that long holiday weekend is followed rather quickly by Father’s Day and then the Fourth of July, you can kick off your barbecue and backyard living activities the first of May and keep them going full steam right through the big July Fourth celebration.

At-home eating and entertaining are going to be top of mind this year for many families who are already worrying about the uncertain economy. They plan to travel less and they’ll minimize the use of their automobiles to avoid the high gas prices that are crimping their budgets. Instead, they’ll think about refurbishing their own yards and turning them into mini resorts with amenities they have not enjoyed in the past.

So, what have you planned to generate excitement in your store?

Why not start with a huge banner outside the store inviting customers to come in and celebrate National Barbecue Month with you. Of course, you will run some barbecue grill specials to get them into a celebratory mood. Run a sweepstakes that will award a grill to someone at the end of the month and have people fill out entries so you can follow up with them later.

Plan demos every weekend outside the store and promote them well in advance in your ads and with in-store posters. Nothing gets people in the door or interested in grills and equipment as much as the tantalizing aroma of barbecued food wafting down the street. Often, tasting the food is just what is needed to remind customers they really should replace their over-the-hill gas or charcoal grill, clinching the sale.

Set up a display with many different barbecuing cookbooks to increase interest in learning. This would also be a great time to conduct one or more cooking classes. This would be the time to consider bringing in a recognized chef or a competition cooker who has won some impressive championships and let him or her educate and entertain your prospective customers.

Include in the instruction: Cooking the perfect hamburger with unusual condiments, how to make tender, falling-off-the-bone ribs, and beer can chicken, all foods that can be “showy” but are also high on most people’s list of techniques they want to master. Be sure to have a visible display of the cookbooks, rubs, sauces and accessories used in the classes so participants can purchase them readily. Heavily promote the classes to ensure you will have a good crowd. Invite local print and broadcast media to come as your guests. Consider having a radio station broadcast live from your store on one or more weekends.

Later in the month, start promoting Father’s Day gifts. Put tags on a variety of products on the retail floor declaring “For the best Dad or Grandfather.” Develop a card with Father’s Day and barbecue trivia questions for kids to fill out and use these as entries in a drawing that wins someone a barbecue gift for Dad. Be sure to include several gas grills and several charcoal grills that fall into a variety of price points.

A smoker would also make a fun gift for Dad, but don’t forget such products as a patio heater or fire pit, a hammock, deck protector, cookbooks, accessories and an assortment of condiments to accommodate everyone’s budget. You might offer a couple of items – such as a nifty tool set, or a basket with a number of condiments in it – at a reduced price. Remember all of these smaller products probably yield bigger margins than the grill, so don’t ignore them. They also keep customers coming back in just to find out what is new and while there they are likely to keep adding more products to their own collection.

Retailers always welcome an idea around which they can build a promotion. What could be better than one that starts with May is National Barbecue Month, then morphs into Memorial Day, Father’s Day and even July Fourth? You’re sure to fire up your bottom line.

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