I'll Take Profitable Categories for $50, Alex.
In this blog, I want to tell you about a category our customers are asking about more and more: outdoor heating and cooling. This is not a new category. Gas operated ushroom heaters have been around long enough that warehouse stores are selling them. Fans, particularly shop blowers, aren't new either. When our customer comes to us to buy in this category, their expectations are to find something exciting and different..
I had to make a lot of decisions before we get into this category. First of all, I wanted products that were as well designed as the furniture we carry. Second, I wanted something that warehouse clubs and mass merchants didn’t have. Finally, I wanted solutions that were easy for our customers to understand.
Let’s talk about cooling first. For several years we have been carrying product from Deco Breeze. The line includes decorative standing and table top fans. Some are rated for full exposure to the weather; others have to be under a covered area. The price points are good and the fans work as advertised. We usually put our entire stock on the floor. The dress up our furniture displays and make our vignettes look complete. Best of all, customers can walk out with them which makes for a clean sales.
Deco Breeze also sell a mister attachment to cool the air blowing out of the fan.
Another fan line we carry is Lasko Products. I first saw their product at a Casual Market in Chicago. I loved the design; but, was wary since I had seen Lasko products in a local warehouse club. As it turns out, they were reserving the 4890 model I liked for specialty retailers only. The fan has three speeds, an oscillation feature, built-in low wattage nighttime LED lighting, and a remote. It’s another product customers can carry home and use immediately. Our days are so hot and humid in the summer, these fans are an easy sale.
While it isn’t as cold here as it is for our fellow retailers in the north, our customers are looking for ways to make their outdoor rooms less seasonal. To fill this demand, this year we decided to get into the heating part of the category. We have been carrying fire pits for many years; but, they aren’t recommended for use under cover. We decided to carry Solaira infrared heaters which are specifically for use in covered areas.
A regular heater has to warm all of the air in a room for the space to be comfortable. This can take a while and isn’t energy efficient; especially if you are only using a small part of a big room. The infrared radiation created by an infrared heater only warms people or things it falls on and does it instantly. Restaurants love this because they only have to turn on the heater when a table or small area is occupied. Big energy savings!
Be forewarned, infrared heaters require intense product training, are easier to sell when functioning units are displayed, and are not always plug and play. The heaters come in 120V and 240V. The 120V units can be plugged into any outlet rated at a minimum of 15 Amps. An electrician usually has to install the 240V version. We have teamed up with an electrical contractor to do our installations for us. His customers will buy the units from us at his recommendation and he will install for our customers on our recommendation.
Yours in confused retailing, Bruce