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Tailgating, fall smoking & Thanksgiving

Stage barbecue grill promotions to draw traffic

Gary Evans, Donna Myers -- Casual Living, September 1, 2007

Not long ago, Labor Day signaled the end of the barbecue season. Today, fall simply means shifting gears from the lighter fare of summer to the heartier foods associated with cooler weather. Grills aren't put away when fall revs up family activities.

September marks the return of high school, college and NFL football games where tailgating has become enormously popular. While teams battle on the field, enthusiastic fans vie for their own title of "most innovative pit master" in stadium parking lots hours before the game. The aroma of exotic fare coming from the hot grills contrasts to the icy cold brews that usually flow freely. Many experienced tailgaters choose portable grills fueled with charcoal or propane, but it's not uncommon to see full-fledged grills and smokers with all the amenities of an outdoor kitchen.

This presents the perfect time for retailers to join the fun and mount a spectacular tailgating promotion. There are a multitude of great portable grills that will meet every customer's needs in both performance and price. Build a display that includes high quality, meant-to-last, stainless steel models with ample cooking space, infrared burners, griddles and more. Add colorful, more affordable grills that are versatile, yet fold up and fit compactly in an SUV or car trunk. Some grills mount on the back of a vehicle with companion coolers or tables that provide work space. All will boost retailers' bottom lines.

Some prefer tailgating in their own backyard

Families trying to avoid the hassle of sitting in traffic and packing everything for transporting have learned the best of all worlds is enjoying the game and the company of friends without ever leaving home. For these virtual tailgaters, encourage them to add a water smoker, offset barrel smoker, box-style smoker or a ceramic kamado cooker to their outdoor cooking repertoire. These are available in charcoal, electric or propane models and will be enjoyed year around for family meals as well as casual entertaining.

In addition to their grills, tailgaters need many other products for a successful cookout. Display bags of lump charcoal, instant or light-the-bag briquettes, a good selection of flavored smoking woods in chunks, chips and pellets. Remind customers to fill or exchange their propane tanks so they don't run out in the middle of their festivities.

There is no end to the accessories and seasonings that innovative tailgaters need. Display rib racks to help them cook for a crowd as well as pizza stones, pigtail flippers, basting brushes, elbow-length mitts, wood planks, woks, skewers and Dutch ovens for making chili or baking beans. An intriguing selection of marinades, rubs and sauces and perhaps a few tailgating or smoke cooking books will generate sales.

Think big for virtual tailgaters

The sky is the limit for sports fans who enjoy entertaining in their own backyards. Offer them the ultimate purchase — one of the new, wide-screen, weather-resistant TVs that can be left outdoors. Or provide portable fireplaces, firepits, propane or electric patio heaters that will ensure everyone is comfortable on cooler days and evenings. Encourage them to purchase grill pads to protect deck or patio surfaces from grease stains or food spills. These are now also available with a choice of more than 80 college team logos, which lets fans show their loyalty for their favorite teams. And fashionable designer grill covers will protect grills and keep outdoor facilities more attractive when the grill is not in use.

Transition into holiday barbecuing

By October it is time to remind customers that moving their turkey cooking outdoors will free up oven space at Thanksgiving or throughout the holidays. Promote smokers, rotisseries for gas grills, vertical turkey roasters and drip pans, marinades and injectors, rubs, apple, cherry, hickory, oak, pecan or sugar maple wood chips, and electric and propane turkey fryers.

Consider stocking the gallon or larger containers of peanut oil, which in some parts of the country are still not readily available.

Attract customers by offering classes on turkey frying or smoking for several weeks prior to Thanksgiving. Invite local TV or radio stations or newspapers to encourage media coverage. Run a sweepstakes and give customers the opportunity to win a grill, fryer, turkey or collection of seasonings and sauces that complement the turkey and other holiday dishes.

Don't think that you can rest on your laurels because summer has come to an end. There are all kinds of opportunities to bring customers into your store and entice them stock up barbecue products for delectable fall eating. You'll have only yourself to blame if you're not enjoying strong barbecue sales right through the end of the year.

Portable grills like Kingsford's barrel barbecue, at top, and the Toolbox Grill allow retailers the opportunity for fun fall promotions, extending the barbecue selling season.

Collegiate grill pads from DiversiTech are available with a choice of 80 college team logos and protect the surface of decks or patios from grease stains and food spills for at-home tailgating.

This top-of-the-line stainless steel portable Solaire grill offers the great steakhouse searing of an infrared burner.

The Coleman Road Trip grill is ideal for tailgating. With ample cooking space, it folds up easily for easy carrying and compact transporting.

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