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Hearth & Home March 2018

The Future Belongs to Women

By Lisa Readie Mayer

Women comprise a strong demographic that wields significant influence, economic strength, and buying power.

Helen Reddy’s 1972 hit, “I Am Woman,” was an anthem of the women’s liberation movement, but the lyrics just as clearly capture the zeitgeist of today. Over the past year, the nationwide Women’s Marches, Me Too movement, and Time’s Up campaign have served as reminders that women comprise a strong and sizeable demographic that wields significant influence, economic strength, and buying power. Manufacturers and retailers must pay attention to this group and learn to better connect with them as customers and decision-makers.

The Weaker Sex? Not a Chance

  • Women are outpacing men in earning college degrees. In 2014, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, 57% of bachelor’s degrees were awarded to women, 60% of master’s degrees, and 51% of doctoral degrees. “Based on today’s graduation rates, we can expect women to be the dominant force in the consumer economy for the next several decades,” says women’s marketing expert Bridget Brennan, CEO of consulting firm The Female Factor, and author of the book “Why She Buys: The New Strategy for Reaching the World’s Most Powerful Consumers,” in her blog on
  • Studies from the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Pew Research show 70% of women with children under 18 are working, and 40% are the primary breadwinners in their households (though they only earn 78 cents for every dollar earned by men).
  • According to The Female Factor, women drive 70 to 80% of consumer purchases, either by directly buying items, or influencing, or vetoing purchases. Women are the “gatekeepers” to their households’ everyday expenditures, but they’re also buying the big-ticket items too. For instance, women purchase 52% of all new cars and trucks, and their purchasing power extends beyond their own households; they often buy for their parents’ and/or in-laws’ households, as well.
  • According to the National Association of Women in Real Estate Businesses, more single women buy homes than single men. They accounted for 17% of U.S. homebuyers in 2016, up from 15% in 2015.
  • A 2015 study by wealth management firm BMO Wealth Institute reveals women control 51% of the personal wealth in the country, or $14 trillion. Their wealth and power is expected to increase; women are projected to control $22 trillion by 2020.
  • Baby Boomer women are a particularly-strong buying cohort. Studies show, once their children’s college bills are out of the way, women over age 50 spend 2.5 times more than the average person spends, and are the primary buyers of computers, cars, and financial services. According to a report from Karen Vogel of She-conomy, wealthy Baby-Boomer women make 95% of the purchase decisions for their households.

“Men are the low-hanging fruit, so hearth and barbecue dealers often forget about women,” says Shannon Good, owner of Good Marketing Group, a marketing consulting firm that specializes in the hearth, patio and barbecue, and water-quality industries. “But the truth is, women are involved in making most financial decisions, and they definitely make all design-related decisions. Retailers need to pay attention to this group.”

2017 Women’s March on Washington, DC.

How to Reach Them

Good says, “To effectively connect with women, retailers need to meet them with marketing messages where they are in their daily lives. That means knowing your target audience, tapping into what they are doing regularly, and using the resources that interest them.” She says, in addition to a mix of traditional print, television, radio, and direct-mail advertising, retailers must have an online presence and integrate social media into their marketing strategy.

The Pew Research Center indicates that 56% of U.S. women use social networking sites. More than 81% of Pinterest users and 68% of Instagram users are women. Houzz has 40 million active users, the vast majority of whom are female. Facebook users are more evenly split down gender lines (52% women versus 48% men), but women use the platform more frequently with 73% checking at least once a day, compared with 61% of men who do so.

Good says retailers and manufacturers can reach women on social media sites through the use of targeted ads and boosted posts. A social media platform such as Facebook, for example, helps an advertiser narrow their criteria to hit targets with rifle-like precision.

“You can refine the audience by gender, age, income, number of children, geographic radius, keyword search interests, and buying habits,” she says. “You can pay to ‘boost’ your store’s posts to the newsfeeds of people who like your page, as well as to their friends. You can pay per-click against a preset budget or a pre-determined timeframe. It’s very customizable to help you reach a targeted audience cost-effectively.”

Serving food samples hot off the grill.

Good says food and recipe platforms such as Yum are also suitable sites for targeted advertising. The app allows its 20 million users to search for, save, and share recipes based on specific foods, ingredients, preparation techniques, and more. If a woman is searching for a recipe for grilled vegetables, fish or chicken, for example, an advertiser can respond with a remarketing ad (a.k.a., ‘stalking’ ad) for grill baskets and other accessories. If the user searches for brisket or ribs recipes, they can be targeted with an ad for smokers, kamados and wood-pellet grills.

Besides social media platforms, Good says there are a wealth of home design, cooking and other related blog sites on which to reach women with targeted ads. “For instance, a barbecue retailer might want to place a remarketing ad on a blog site like to connect with women who are interested in grilling,” she says.

In addition to ads, Good recommends hearth, patio and barbecue retailers create Pinterest boards and Houzz portfolios with photos of completed fireplaces, outdoor kitchens and Outdoor Room projects, so women searching for design ideas, information, and inspiration on those topics can click on a product in your pin or post and be led to your website.

Above all else, Good says a top-notch company website is of the utmost importance. “No matter who you’re trying to connect with, a good website is the top priority, because all social media advertising and traditional advertising should drive traffic to your website,” she says. “Plus, search engines prioritize websites over social media pages, so they appear higher in search results.”

Good says websites must be current and constantly updated. They must also be “responsive,” adjusting automatically so they are readable on any device. “The latest study from Harvard University shows 90% of online users are using mobile devices, up from 81%, so it’s very important that the website be mobile-optimized,” she explains. “In addition, your website must be ‘secure.’ Hosting companies charge extra for this designation, but unless you have it, you won’t be up as high in search results.

“Consumers have a short attention span. Most look only on the first page of searches – in fact, they barely make it to the bottom of the first page – so you want to be sure you come up near the top. These are standard costs of doing business today, like trucks, uniforms and utilities.”

Good suggests retailers dedicate 3 to 5% of gross sales for traditional advertising and social-media-related marketing. She says this budget should be a separate and distinct line item from “operations-advertising expenses,” such as truck-wraps, signage, business cards, brochures, and the like.

“Some retailers say 3 to 5% is too much and they can’t afford it,” Good explains. “If so, I recommend you start with what you can afford and grow the budget from there. Frequency is key, so you have to keep at it with your messages.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What is my return on investment? What is one new customer worth?’” Good recommends that retailers utilize all available marketing co-op dollars from vendors, and leverage educational content by reposting, sharing and/or boosting manufacturers’ social media posts.

Selecting fabric at a specialty shop.

Other Ways to Connect with Women Customers

According to The Female Factor, women have higher expectations for customer service, so it’s important to provide regular sales training for your staff, and to elevate the customer experience in your store. Creating an environment that engages all five senses – clean stores with attractive displays inside and out; products available to touch and test; the enticing aromas of wood or charcoal burning; background music and friendly words from staff; and perhaps most compelling, tasting food samples hot off the grill – makes all customers, particularly female customers, want to linger in your store and return often. This kind of experience is not available online.

You can appeal to women’s need for time-saving convenience by offering automated annual services such as fireplace cleaning and maintenance, grill cleaning and maintenance, and outdoor-kitchen winterizing, so they don’t have to remember to schedule these tasks. Offer online ordering of propane, charcoal, wood and/or pellet barbecue fuels for easy in-store pick-up, or possibly even home delivery. Provide both in-store and in-home classes to teach women how to use their new grill. Making life easier for overworked, time-stressed women will ensure an appreciative customer for life.

Studies show that when women make up part of your customer base, they should also be on your sales staff. According to The Female Factor, “gender-balanced teams have a higher return-on-investment.”

Do you have women on your team?

One thing to avoid, say the experts, is stereotyping. Overuse of the color pink in communications or products targeted to women, for example, might come off as one-dimensional, or possibly even condescending and offensive. The one exception: when supporting breast cancer-related charities.

If you’re not doing everything you can to better connect with this powerful demographic, you’re missing out on sales. Because, in the words of another songstress, Beyonce, “Who Run the World? Girls!”

More Stories in this Issue

Women – and Man

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Fireside Chats

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Meet Amie Ryan

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The incoming chairperson of the HPBA is the owner of Ryan Brothers Chimney Sweeping in Roseville, California, up north, next to Sacramento.

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Best Infrared Engineer

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Infrared pioneer Bill Best marks the 40th anniversary of his infrared grill; he’s now working on a fourth-generation grill that he says, “Will be the way everyone grills in years to come.”

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Spinuzzi’s Last Stand

By Bill Sendelback

For 40 years, founder and owner Gary Spinuzzi of Bighorn Stove & Spa has battled the many difficulties that come with being a “small” specialty retailer; now, he’s close to retirement.

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Filling the Gap

By Tom Lassiter

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Mod Squad

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Modular outdoor kitchens offer high-end style, turnkey ease, and attractive profits.

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2018 January Business Climate

In early February Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio and barbecue products, asking them to compare January 2018 sales to January 2017. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 209 useable returns.

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