Sizzling Sales Insight

Summer is almost here and blokes around the country are thinking about sizzling a steak or slipping a prawn on the barbie. As a retailer, that means they might be coming through your door, so it pays to find out what they’re likely to be looking for.

Australians have always enjoyed a barbecue. Men love it because they can invite their mates around and tell a few yarns over a steak or snag and a beer or two. Women are equally happy about hosting a barbecue because it may be the only time their male partners volunteer for cooking duties. You don’t need to keep an eye on the kids, cutlery is optional and the dog will finish off any leftovers. What’s not to like?

Summer barbies are an Aussie institution, as dinky-di as Akubra hats, lamingtons and budgie smugglers. We’ve got the right climate for them, an inbred lack of pretence and a holiday season that lends itself to eating outdoors, so it’s practically in the constitution that every Australian household owns one. However, it wasn’t that long ago that the choices were limited. Barbecues tended to consist of gas or wood-fired hot plates, with the option of a grill for those who wanted to get a bit fancy. Red meat was the standard fare, but as menus extended to seafood and poultry, tongmasters wanted to diversify in the way that they cooked their meals. Hoods and rotisseries were added and side burners became popular. Mobility and storage also became an issue, and colours have even expanded. Today, the choices seem endless, but that just makes it all the more confusing for a retailer to know what barbecues they should be stocking. In the end, everyone wants to know what’s going to sell the best or give them the best margin, right? So, how do you do that? “Knowledge is the key,” says Jacki Kersting, Mitre 10’s Outdoor BBQs and Recreation Category Manager. “It is imperative to understand the key benefits and features of your barbecue range. Customers can often come into a store with no idea of the type, style or look of the barbecue that they are after, so it is imperative for your staff to be able to assist customers and walk them through your range, providing advice to help find the best barbecue that meets their needs.

”Offering customers a complete range of barbecue varieties is vital to driving barbecue sales. A solid range of good, better and best barbecues is a must, with options that suit all areas, budgets and applications. “In terms of product features, Aussies love to cook on a hotplate, so generally there is an expectation for at least one hotplate as part of the barbecue. Hoods are increasingly popular, as people diversify their range of barbecue cooking with roast meat, vegies and even cakes now on the barbecue menu. “Side burners are also generally seen as good value and as a necessary additional application, as they allow consumers to cook vegies and sauces at the same time as cooking on the hot plate. Cabinets are becoming a key focus too, as they help to hide gas cylinders and are a great place to store other accessories. So it’s important to know what features are available. But features aren’t the only factors entering the decision-making process of a prospective barbecue buyer. Cost – as with everything – still plays a part, even for the bloke with the latest model Commodore kitted out with all the optional extras. “Value for money is obviously important,” continues Kersting. “However, people are willing to pay a little more for a high quality barbecue. Consumers want quality products that suit their needs and will last the distance, regardless of their budget.”

“It’s about understanding what the customer needs,” agrees Cameron Macklin, Danks’ Business Planning Manager – Outdoor. “Is it value or is it features?” Macklin lists a barbecue’s cooking area, cooking temperature range, how hot it gets on the outside, whether it has a rotisserie (for roasting), integrated ignition or burners and value as factors and features influencing a sale. “But cheaper models still sell the best and the demographic is still predominantly male,” he adds. “The exception is when females get involved on big-ticket items. Women tend to have the final say then. Appearance, or fashion, becomes a factor.” You only need to look inside a Barbecues Galore showroom to verify that. Consumers are moving away from the traditional black barbecue, opting instead for bold colours that make a statement or match the rest of the décor outside. That’s especially the case in confined spaces, where mix and match policies tend to fail the visual approval test. Space is an increasing determinant driving barbecue sales. The days of Australians expecting to be able to purchase their own brick veneer house on a corner-acre block are long gone. High-density housing consisting of townhouse and unit developments is ever more popular, particularly in metropolitan regions where some 80% of Australians live. Outdoor living areas can be restricted to courtyards and balconies, where multi-burner barbecues with flip-out side tables aren’t always practical.

“More and more customers are searching for portable or space-saving features, including barbecues with folding sides or with wheels for easy storage,” explains Mitre 10’s Kersting. “As a result, our range of Weber barbecues are becoming more popular, as they are small and compact but still large enough to cook for the family. “As outdoor rooms appear to be getting smaller and barbecues bigger, it’s wise to consider the size, width and cooking capacity of your barbecue. For small courtyards or balconies, consider a Weber or a compact two-burner barbecue. For tiny spaces, look for a barbecue with wheels or folding legs, to make it easy to tuck away and store. “On the flipside, if space is abundant, there are a number of great six-burner barbecues to suit any budget, featuring plenty of storage space, side burners or brass wok burners – everything but the kitchen sink!” The kitchen sink? Now, there’s another idea!

Maintenance Suggestions

  • Clean your barbecue after each use to prevent grease build up.
  • Once clean, spread a light layer of cooking oil across the hot plate to create a protective barrier.
  • Cover barbecues and store them away from the elements for prolonged life.
  • Regularly check gas connections with a soapy water solution prior to lighting and tighten connections until the soapy bubbles disappear.

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