Here’s what’s cooking in grills
Atlanta — Here's one way to sell more grills: Put one in the backyard of your sales force.
According to a "Sell More Grills" session during the Ace Hardware Spring Convention and Exhibits, grill salesmen are more effective when they own their own.
"Passionate, educated associates sell more products," said Craig Hansen, senior merchant for barbecue. "Owners of these types of grills sell more grills. It's important to create those barbecue ambassadors in your store."
Demonstration days also extremely effecting sales tools. It's typical for a successful event to generate sales measured in the tens of thousands of dollars. And stores that execute grill demonstrations have 23% higher grill sales than those that don't.
Demos can be extravagant or simple. "You can have a grill that's just sitting there smoking — it could be crackers. Or you can cook and serve frozen pizza." (You don't want to use a gourmet pizza, he said, because customers will suspect the involvement of a gourmet chef.)
Bigger events include cooking lessons for specific brands, or "Grill Your Ace Off," parking lot parties, he said.
It's important to apply best practices in the grill category, partly because of the strong competition, and partly because of a high level of market saturation. Of the nation's more than 119 million households, a whopping 75% already own a grill. According to Hansen, people generally buy gas grills when the one they already own quits working.
The good news, he says, is that there is major growth in specialty sales. "If you're a strong Weber dealer and think your doing great with Weber, you should still investigate the specialty grills because there is real opportunity in that business," he said.
Weber, Traeger and Big Green Egg — the three big grill brands in the Ace family — have significant add-on sales opportunities. And owners of these brands make great customers in general. For instance, Hansen said a Traeger customer is in the top 5% of all Ace customers. They shop three times more than the average customer, and spend four times more than the average customer.
A well-trained in-store grill ambassador will ask the customer questions and guide the customer accordingly, says Jason Morse, from 5280 Culinary and BBQ Provisions, a grilling expert who regularly works with the Rocky Mountain Ace Dealers group to promote the category.
It's important to know how the customer will use the grill, and helpful to know how much time they expect to spend preparing meals, he said.
Above all, a true grill ambassador will sell the experience of grilling.
"It's about having fun," Morse said. "It's about showing the customers we're more than a big box chain. And people want to come and see us because we're the experts."
Ideas from the Ace show floor
Atlanta — Ace Hardware Corp. has set its sights on expanded sales per square foot across the retail network — from $204 in 2016, to $210 in 2017.
Achieving that goal will require some merchandise experimentation, according to Ace.
“If you think you’re going to increase sales by selling the exact same stuff you sold last year, you’re probably going to fail,” CEO John Venhuizen said.
He was speaking during the general session of the 2017 Ace Hardware Spring Convention and Exhibits, which rolled into Atlanta for three days of buying, networking and setting a course for growth.
About 1,200 exhibitors participated in the March 16-18 event, bringing ideas with a diverse range from trim-a-tree to barbecue sauce.
Above are some highlights captured by guests from HBSDealer.
Westlake paints a picture of growth
Westlake Ace Hardware announced it is the first hardware retailer to offer the full line of Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines Premium Interior Paint in its store. Personally crafted by Joanna Gaines, interior designer and nationally recognized home renovation expert from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper,” the line of 150 interior paint colors were designed by the Kilz Brand to help do-it-yourselfers recreate her hallmark “modern farmhouse” style.
The move is part of Westlake's continual effort to find ways to distinguish itself from competitors and big box stores, while providing a compelling shopping experience, according to Westlake CEO Tom Knox. “One way we do that is by offering highly localized, unique and stylish products that help our customers in new and exciting ways,” he said.
Along with offering other product lines like Magnolia Home by Joanna Gaines Paint and Stihl power equipment, Knox noted that Westlake places a premium on the quality of staff it employs and the service they provide to customers.
The retailer's growth strategy combines quality products with helpful employees, he said.
“Our customer promise to be the best, most helpful hardware stores on the planet wouldn’t be possible without our knowledgeable and service-oriented associates," he said. "The passion they show for their jobs comes to life every day when they interact with customers, and offer advice and product recommendations. As such, we are always creating ways to engage and develop them to their fullest potential, and create an atmosphere that’s attractive to future associates."
Westlake Ace Hardware, the largest member of the Ace Hardware co-op, has added 13 stores since 2015, bringing their total number of stores to 98 in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico. According to Knox, that kind of consistent growth will likely continue in the coming years.
“To fuel the expansion of our national footprint, we will continue to pursue acquisitions and organic growth plans that make sense for our customers and business," Knox said.