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Fresh ideas to kick off peak barbecue season

Grill Column

This month, many of you will attend HPB Expo, which is sure to inspire renewed enthusiasm about the outdoor season ahead, excitement about all the appealing new products you’ve previewed and confidence that you’ll see some real improvements in the economy (and your business) in coming months.

With much of the country having suffered through a seemingly endless, cold, tiresome winter, just the warmth of Orlando will be enough to jump-start your spring frame of mind.

Now you need to get your customers as revved up as you are about the promising spring ahead and all the possibilities for homeowners to spruce up their backyards. Start thinking about your store and its displays to make them cheerful and to maximize shoppers’ eagerness to move outdoors.

Begin with some of the first signs of spring, such as branches of blooming forsythia, tulips, iris and other potted flowers that immediately lift spirits. Arrange a colorful collection of them outside the store and continue into the inside as well. Sprinkle pots of flowers strategically throughout the store. Set up some attractive, new-for-2010 cookbooks that will catch the eye of browsers. Set them up randomly on shelves or counters using bookends to support some of them and stacking others flat.

Remember the little flags that mark new products at Expo? Why not make some of your own and display them with new products you want your shoppers to explore.

In the case of accessories, you might show a variety of new ones together to encourage longer browsing.

And how about offering a variety of colorful patterns of grill covers, which also brighten up your showroom? Today these designer covers range from sports team logos to all kinds of florals, stripes and even cute animal patterns. Every bit of color adds cheer and makes your store more inviting.

You can strengthen your grill displays by grouping together charcoal grills or high-end gas grills or portables to take on the road. That way, when you identify what the consumer really wants, you’ll have lots of appropriate grills to show them in that category.

Smokers and kamados can include water smokers, offset barrel-type smokers, boxy refrigerator-looking smokers and ceramic cookers, which gives the consumer lots of options and makes it easy to compare features. Even pellet grills can fit comfortably into this category. The advantage of grouping a certain type of grills together is that once the consumer settles on a category you do not encounter the distractions of moving around the store and causing them to rethink what they really want.

This is a good time of year to schedule one or more cooking classes to show novices how to get the most out of the equipment they are considering buying. One class might be themed “What’s New for Spring 2010?” During that class, you can concentrate on new products and techniques that may not be as familiar to less experienced outdoor chefs.

Another class might focus on “Great Barbecues for Road Trips,” which could include everything from portable grills, food safety and storage tips, to easy-to-prepare techniques. There is opportunity to promote many accessories.

March is just the beginning of the peak barbecue season, but it is a good time to establish your store as headquarters for outdoor cooking. Encourage frequent visits and be sure consumers know when they visit your store they can count on finding fresh new, appealing ideas.

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