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A HearthStone stove and bags of fatwood fire starters at The Firebird in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Hearth Dealers: Surviving
the Next Four Months

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

In August we sent a survey to 2,179 hearth dealers in the U.S. and Canada. A total of 120 were returned and useable.

With economists predicting that the price of oil will remain around $42 or $43 dollars a barrel, or drop even lower, and weathermen forecasting another warm winter, the coming season may not be a good one for the sale of hearth products. In fact, it could be a repeat of last year’s experience.

Knowing that, what actions will you take to make this year better for your business?

Questions, and Percent of Dealers Answering in the Affirmative

  • Increase advertising and promotions – 29%
  • Reduce inventory – 26%
  • Reduce expenses – 23%
  • Nothing – 23%
  • Add, change and/or promote services – 21%
  • Reduce purchases – 21%
  • Add alternative products – 13%
  • Reduce, hold or increase prices – 12%
  • Add counter-seasonal products – 8%
  • Reduce staff – 7%
  • Put dedicated salesperson on hospitality accounts – 2%
  • Move to another, smaller location – 2%
  • Reduce hours of store operation – 2%
  • Reduce brands carried – 2%
  • Close a store location – 2%
  • Close or sell business – 2%
  • Other – 27%

MN – “Eight years ago we started to reduce staff, purchases, inventory, expenses, etc., and we continue that course. Moving to a smaller location is always an option. Service and installation is important; knowing your products is important.”

CA – “Business has been fantastic and no signs of slowing down.”

KS – “We will continue to promote the HVAC side of the business.”

British Columbia – “I will continue with my excellent customer service, whether it’s installations, inspections for insurance purposes, or price quotes. Word of mouth, website and Yellow Pages are the advertising methods that work well for me.”

WI – “We will enhance the level of quality and service (from both our salespeople and installers) that we already offer now.”

DE – “We are establishing a new, dedicated fireplace showroom.”

CA – “We will expand our sales force and geographic reach, and open additional location(s) if possible.”

CO – “I'm not worried, we are currently up 15 percent over last year’s sales numbers, and that was not a bad year for us either!”

NC – “In our location, new construction has rebounded strongly, so a mild winter will mean that construction won't slow any due to weather. We expect a busier season because of that, even though retail sales and consumer projects might be down a little.”

MO – “The majority of our business is new construction and remodeling. So while fuel prices and warm winters directly affect our retail sales of electric heaters, gas logs, wood and pellet stoves, etc., it has little if any impact on contractor and overall sales. We will continue to advertise pellets, electric heaters, gas logs and the like in retail sales tabloids as usual.”

VA – “We will use more pay-per-click online advertising.”

NY – “While others are predicting a harsh winter, like the Farmer’s Almanac, we will do what small businesses do best, adapt to the situation when it comes. We’ll try to make the most out of every customer who comes through the door.”

MA – “We will shift our marketing efforts away from wood and pellet products and feature our gas products.”

WA – “Train, train, train! The goal is to increase our closing ratio and improve lower-producing employees. We have no plans to cut back on advertising, inventory or sales staff, that would ensure a decrease in sales.”

WA – “We are already getting busy with contractors and remodels. We do not foresee the winter being warmer than usual. In fact, all indications have it that it will be colder than last year.”

CO – “We are already running lean and will just carry on with our skills learned from the Recession. People will get cold and, no matter what happens out there (zika, who will be president, the weather, etc.) we will just carry on and do our very best.”

WI – “We are continuing as is, and have rehired a secondary employee and should be able to handle the installation pressures. Because of the bizarre weather disasters in our area, we are still playing catch up. Fall should still be good for us. Highways and roads are not becoming passable. Business has picked up significantly.”

WI – “We have been busy all summer long with new construction as well as retail. I don't see it slowing down this winter. Our service has been steady from new home buyers who want their fireplaces cleaned and serviced. All in all, I expect a very good 2016 and start to 2017.”

OR – “We will continue to improve our web presence in a way that brings more customers into our store. In particular, this includes improving the coordination of our website and promotions with Facebook, Adwords and traditional media. We will also expand our Facebook presence from passive blog articles to the newer dynamic features for reaching new customers that Facebook now provides.”

VT – “We will have an expanded selection of gas stoves, inserts and fireplaces so that we're not as reliant on wood. There's quite a bit of new construction and renovation going on, so that should be good for us.”

Ontario – “Winters in Ontario are still cooler. The main home heating systems will be used less in the case of warmer winters, which will turn people to operate their gas fireplaces. A fireplace is a great alternate heat source that uses fewer Btus than a furnace. That will allow the end user to save a few dollars. There are also many power outages in our Province, and fireplaces operate during power outages. So fireplaces will remain a popular choice, no matter what the weather brings.”

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