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.