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Hearth & Home October 2014

Fondue set from Companion Group.

The Potential of Accessories

By Lisa Readie Mayer

To rev up sales, take the Accessory Challenge; it just might turbocharge your barbecue business. Want a surefire way to amp up barbecue sales? Sell accessories.

That’s exactly what happened when Rob Woroniak, Operations manager of Salter’s Fireplace, Patio & Grill in Eaglesville, Pennsylvania, beefed up accessory offerings and made a conscious effort to promote them.

“We used to just sell grills, but now we have a full line of accessories, too,” he says. “Putting more emphasis on accessories has helped to give more prominence to the grill section of our store, and it has helped grow sales of both grills and accessories.”

Elevations Tiered Cooking Systems from Weber-Stephen.

Still in doubt? Consider this. According to Weber’s latest GrillWatch survey, 80 percent of grillers own tongs, the most popular barbecuing accessory. However, only 40 percent own an instant-read thermometer, another piece of equipment barbecue experts say is essential. Even fewer own specialty gear such as cast-iron griddles (18 percent) or rib racks (12 percent). Talk about potential.

With a little commitment and effort, the traditionally high-margin accessory category can boost sales, breathe excitement into your store, and build an enthusiastic and loyal customer base.

Trends Inspire New Products

Barbecue accessories typically fall under four main umbrellas, and there is potential in each. “Practical” gear includes essentials such as tool sets, grill brushes, grill lights, instant-read thermometers, replacement parts, charcoal-lighting products and other basics. Accessories such as kooky corn holders and kiss-the-cook aprons are purely for fun but they make great gifts.

21, 16 and 12 in. brushes from Brushtech.

Consumables include sauces, seasonings, charcoal, wood chips, pellets and other items that keep your customers coming back again and again. And finally, products such as pizza stones, perforated grids, griddles and grill baskets help barbecue enthusiasts try different techniques, grill better and enjoy it more.

Most accessory manufacturers monitor consumer requests as well as food and barbecue trends to develop products that meet the needs and interests of backyard chefs. For instance, Chris Hartley, vice president Marketing for Blue Rhino’s Mr. Bar-B-Q brand of accessories, says consumer feedback inspired the company’s switch to removable handles on its grilling baskets.

“Our grilling baskets have always been popular, but many people told us they want to close their grill when cooking,” he says. “Our patented removable-handle design answers that need.” Likewise, requests for bristle-free grill-cleaning brushes led to the company’s introduction of new scrubber brushes made with stainless-steel mesh pads. “And our growth in grill-lighting products addresses the trend of year-round grilling,” Hartley adds.

According to Niki Gross, Marketing Communications manager for Companion Group, makers of Charcoal Companion and Steven Raichlen’s Best of Barbecue lines of accessories, “A major trend that continues to grow is adding smoke flavor and humidity to the barbecue experience, especially when cooking on a gas grill.” The trend has influenced the company’s development of several innovative smoker boxes that hold wood chips or pellets, and liquids, to add smoke flavor and moisture to foods.

The company’s Himalayan Salt Plate, a thick platform of pink salt that sits on the grilling grid to cook and season food, ties into another popular food trend. “It’s one of, if not our hottest-selling item,” says Gross. “It’s visually impressive, imparts natural trace minerals into food and can be heated to extreme temperatures. We have many new accessories related to the salt plate coming out this year.”

The influx of new grilling toys has led to a storage issue for some. “Consumers say they want all the new racks and accessories but can’t store them all,” says Trace Weskamp, Weber’s global director of Product Development. In response, Weber has recently introduced products that can do double- and triple-duty, and collapse for easier storage.

Stainless-steel BBQ Rack from Weber-Stephen.

Its new Stainless-Steel Barbecue Rack cradles a roast on one side and, when flipped, supports racks of ribs, and it easily disassembles to store flat. The company’s new Elevations Tiered Rack and Skewer Set can suspend a grill rack for expanded cooking surface, a basket for cooking veggies, or a set of skewers, and also collapses for compact storage.

A multi-tasker from Man Law – its new 5-in-1 Multifunctional Grill Topper – combines a beer-can chicken roaster, kabob rack, grill topper, jalapeno roaster, and humidifier/smoker in one compact unit.

Retailers say pizza-grilling accessories, gear for kamado-style grills, and gadgets that make charcoal lighting faster and easier are brisk sellers. Also, anything to do with smoking continues to be popular with grillers today.

Action Plan

Ready to boost sales with the “Accessory Challenge?” Here’s how it works.

Stock a wide variety of barbecue tools, accessories, woods, sauces, racks, baskets, cookbooks and other gear.

Promote barbecue accessories with prominent displays, effectively merchandised to show the gear as it would be used on the grill. Feature an “Accessory of the Month” and promote it via displays, demos, your website, and all social media you use. Invite anyone who buys that particular accessory during the month to a special class or demo to learn how to use it and get the most out of it.

5-in-1 Multifunctional Grill Topper from Man Law.

Don’t just sell it, sell it! For starters, all salespeople should ask every customer if they have a meat thermometer. Imagine the sales impact if you sold a quality meat thermometer to the 60 percent of your customers who, according to the Weber survey, likely do not own one?

Asking customers about their favorite foods to grill is another easy lead-in to a discussion about accessory products that can help make cooking those foods easier, better and more flavorful. For instance, if the customer likes to cook ribs, talk about rib racks that maximize space on the grill or smoker, and wood chips, wood pellets, dry rubs or sauces to add flavor. These conversations build relationships with customers who will feel confident turning to you again for advice and gear when they’re ready to try smoking or pizza on the grill.

Take the Accessory Challenge for one month, and there’s a good chance you’ll see results. Take it for one year and it could change your business. Are you up for it?

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