Selling With One Foot Out the Door?

Are you taking backyard living seriously?

We cover various backyard living products all year, but this issue is devoted to everything you may sell besides a hot tub. Outdoor products are always a little perplexing to me: While the overwhelming majority of our readers have asked us to continue to write and promote them on our pages, hot tub retailers seem to struggle with what to do with them.

Everyone is looking for the outdoor product holy grail — doesn’t require service, easy to order and stock, quick to drop off or install and looks good in the showroom without taking up too much space. Oh, and great margins. Is that about right?

Whenever we talk to retailers who have been successful selling both hot tubs and outdoor living products, the answer is always the same: You have to look like you’re in the business. One patio set won’t cut it. One grill on display isn’t enough.

When hot tub retailers tell us why certain product categories didn’t work for them, the answers are mixed: Didn’t have enough space, not worth our time, couldn’t get salespeople behind them, the wrong product for our market.

A core issue behind a product category not working, however, is defining your own brand identity. Do you truly desire to become the place your hot tub customers return to for furniture, umbrellas, grills and all things backyard? Do you want to be a wellness destination where you’re offering saunas and massage chairs alongside hot tubs? Or is your heart in hot tubs and hot tubs alone? There’s nothing wrong with any answer, but often times, retailers bring in a category to gain extra revenue but lack passion for the products. Some retailers successfully marry the oddest combination of products in their showrooms — hot tubs and mattresses, really? — but it works because the store has fully committed to both.

Before you bring on your next new product, run the numbers. Look at the formulas. See what it’s going to take to be successful. But also, ask yourself if this is something you really want to sell. The passion has to start from the top down: If the business owner isn’t excited, employees won’t be either.

Megan Kendrick, publisher

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