Why hearth dealers should add outdoor to their stores

March 20, 2019 Outdoor GreatRoom Company

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What’s one extremely effective way hearth dealers can increase their cash flow during the off-season? Add outdoor furnishings.

How do I know this? This was the topic of a seminar held during the 2018 Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo, where three hearth retailers shared their success stories.

Lucas Stritsman (sales team director, Best Fire), Kathy Buzbee (owner, Absco Fireplace & Patio) and Wayne Swaney (retail sales manager, Fireplace Stone & Patio) offered valuable advice about things to consider when bringing in outdoor furniture, such as the differences in customers, what products to add and how to train employees.

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  • Different Strokes. The panel agreed that hearth customers are easier to sell to, and patio could be the same, or it could be totally different. The great thing about patio furniture is that if the customer comes in looking for hearth products, they‚Äôre already in the store, which makes it easier to bring patio furniture into the sales process. But one important difference to consider with outdoor furniture is that it‚Äôs more of a want than a need.
  • Grills are Golden. One of the easiest products to bring in when starting on the patio side is grills. That‚Äôs because grills fall in line with other hearth products in the store, and grilling essentially combines hearth and patio. Grills are also a good starting point for all patio furnishings because once the customer has a grill, they‚Äôre going to want something to sit on outside with their friends or family while grilling. And if you offer great customer service, they‚Äôre likely to come back to your store to make future purchases.
  • Decisions, Decisions. When figuring out which company to buy the outdoor furniture from, the panel suggested starting with a manufacturer that doesn‚Äôt force a large early buy. Other things to consider include if the product is made in the U.S. (which means you can get shipments quicker) and if the manufacturer is willing work with you in the early stages. They encourage hearth dealers to get behind a brand‚Äîto know its story and history‚Äîand to be an expert in their products. The panel said to start small, and to make sure that you yourself like the pieces you are buying, because you can sell it easier if you like it.
  • Product Pros. When training employees about patio furniture, you need to cover everything from the technical to the visual aspects. The panel said to use the educated sales staff you have to offer better service, but you have to make them experts on patio furnishings. To do this, they even suggested role playing with your sales staff. Swaney said he has employees write facts about the furniture and then act out the sale as a training exercise.

These aren’t the only things to consider when thinking about adding outdoor, but they’re good starting points for the process. Once the initial work is done, adding furniture to your product mix can really boost business.

View the original article here.

Alex Milstein, Casual Living.

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