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Thoughts on the barbecue lifestyle

April 3, 2012

Next to November and Thanksgiving, May is my favorite time of the year. It's National Barbecue Month. I was first introduced to this month long event back in the early 1990s when I met Donna Myers at a National Barbecue Association convention. To have a whole month dedicated to one of my passionate pursuits is glorious. Imagine, 31 days celebrating the joys, flavor and fun of barbecue.

The first National Barbecue Month launched in the 1980s, when Donna Myers, working with the Barbecue Industry Association (now the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association), wanted to help the association's members kick off the peak barbecuing and grilling season. Twenty-seven years later, I believe that the popularity of this outdoor pastime continues to grow.

As a retailer, you have a tremendous opportunity to literally cash in on this month-long celebration. Now's the time to begin planning your National Barbecue Month events, and reap more in-store traffic and hopefully sales of grills and accessories. However, no good event can be pulled off without a game plan. Here are some ways you can capture your share of attention and sales in May:

* Promote National Barbecue Month with banners and signage in your store, and in all forms of advertising you do. This also includes your social media platforms as well. How can you expect the consumer to think it's a big deal, unless you make it one? Speaking of social media, make your National Barbecue Month celebrate relevant by including barbecuing and grilling tips, recipes and techniques. Why not hold a contest and ask the people who have "liked" your page to participate with their own contributions, and then award prizes for the best tips, recipes and techniques?

* Plan in-store and media events. Promote the new and exciting barbecues, grills and products you are selling. Send out invitations to your local media and hold a special new model introduction event. Be sure to include barbecued, grilled or smoked foods as part of your presentation. I know of one NewYork state retailer who did this, and netted more than $30,000.00 in free publicity on radio, television and in print.

* Contact local radio and television programs and offer to come to them and cook breakfast, lunch or dinner on the grill for them. Offer to demonstrate safe outdoor cooking tips for Memorial Day and/or show off what's new and exciting in outdoor cooking products. I can tell you this, if the on-air people love your food, you will have opened a door to building an on-going media relationship.

* Cross promote National Barbecue Month with complimentary businesses such as meat markets, take and bake pizza stores, etc. Offer "Your first two steaks cooked on your new grill are on us!"or "Receive a year's worth of take n bake pizzas with every new grill purchase!" These are value-added tie-ins that will help you draw in grill shoppers because you are offering something the competition isn't.

Now is the time to start planning for this great retailing opportunity. Remember, if you're not visible, you're invisible!