Investing “Outside In”

Written by John Laing

December 21, 2019

If your business is like that of other Nationwide Marketing Group members, it’s pretty good right now. While some uncertainty remains for the future, the economy has stabilized, consumer confidence is at an alltime high and independent retailers are winning! 

With all these positives, now is the perfect time to rethink your business, categories, products and services. Look for opportunities to reinvest in your store to drive more footsteps, generate new leads, broaden your reach with existing consumers and increase your bottom line. 

One of these opportunities is outside living. But don’t take it from me. Here are examples of just two Nationwide members that have achieved great success by investing in the outdoor living space. 

Silica For Your Home 

Based in Fon du Lac, Wisconsin, Silica For Your Home has been in business since 1922. It began as Silica Hardware, serving the eastern portion of Wisconsin with a myriad of hardware products. 

According to Silica President Tom Schneider, grills became part of the company’s assortment more than 40 years ago. Today, Silica For Your Home operates three stores with a mainstore display space of 34,000 square feet. They sell appliances, furniture, consumer electronics and outdoor living products, and focus on selling affordable quality.

A recent investment in their grill area has paid big dividends. Silica dedicates about 800 square feet of space (2.4% of the showroom) to outdoor cooking, showing 34 grills, accessories and consumables. It’s important to merchandise grills properly, but one of the big wins for Silica has been the accessories and consumables display approach. 

Instead of using the factorysupplied displays, Silica worked with a third-party display company, Wind Mill Slat Wall, to create a common look throughout the accessory/add-on area and right behind the grills. Not only does it look consistent, but they were able to display more accessories and in a neater fashion than they would have with factory displays. 

In addition, Silica placed the “consumables” – such as wood pellets, lump charcoal, seasonings, rubs and saucesnear the front of the store to help generate impulse purchases. The average percent to sales for accessories/add-ons/consumables in the outdoor cooking industry is 12%, and increasing sales of these items will generate higher gross margins for your company. As an example, Silica’s process for ensuring consumers come back to them for wood pellets is a “punch card,” where they buy 10 bags and earn the 11th for free. Considering the fact that the average wood pellet grill owner buys 16 bags of pellets a year, it’s a simple but effective approach. 

Silica’s grill brand assortment consists of Weber, Napoleon, Traeger and Green Egg, and they will soon be assorting Kamado Joe as well. Sales of Napoleon and Traeger are coming on strong. Product demonstrations have been a critical piece of their success. Silica For Your Home consistently cooks on Saturday and brings food samples into the store for customers to try. This generates recipe conversation and usually leads to selling more consumables.

In addition to their own cooking demos, they will periodically have factory rep support as well. Most recently, they held the only Wisconsinbased Traeger Shop Class. Through the assistance of Traeger’s marketing team, Silica For Your Home was able to reach out to new and prospective Traeger owners. The consumer paid $100 to register for one of the three-hour classes to be held on two consecutive nights. At 50 people per class, they were able to reach 100 passionate outdoor cooking enthusiasts. Silica provided the tent, but Traeger did the rest. Some drove more than 100 miles to participate. The event was “outstanding,” according to Tom Schneider 

Another key to Silica’s success is that they do their own service. Since most grills come with a partsonly warranty, this is an important element to the category. It keeps the connection to those consumers and helps them control their destiny on problem resolution. 

Silica For Your Home LOVES the Outdoor Living category. Not only is business up 15% with gross margins in the 32%+ range, but they love the fact that the consumer is a happy shopper. They love the fact that you can engage their senses; smell, taste, touch, etc. Their investment is for the long term, but it’s paying off today! 

Mid-City Superstore 

Based in Norfolk, Nebraska, Mid-City Superstore is a second generation-owned company that has been in business since 1976. Co-owner Jason Speidel runs a large 75,000squarefoot showroom selling furniture, appliances, consumer electronics and outdoor products. Over the last year or so, Mid-City took a 500-square-foot outdoor living display to 1,500 square feet. It includes a beautiful outdoor backdrop for the area that houses grills, patio furniture, accessories and consumables. It’s located toward the middle-back of the store, and they’re now considering moving it even closer to the front door.

Grill sales have more than tripled since Mid-City invested in additional space and product lines. Their grill line-up consists of Yoder, Kamado Joe and Broil King. And they will soon be diversifying their assortment by adding griddles, pellet and tailgating/camping products.  

Jason cites two keys to success: promoting passionate salespeople and connecting with the consumer. 

Mid-City’s June promotion was called the “Ugly Grill” contest. During the four weeks leading up to the 4th of July, consumers submitted pictures of their ugly grill, and the person with the ugliest earned a free one. The contest was promoted by a local radio station and through social media. In August, Mid-City will hold a huge “Tailgate Event” with local Nebraska Cornhusker football players providing autographs as the football season kicks off. It’s a great chance to not only sell cooking equipment for tailgating but also TV & audio solutions, coolers and other complementary products.

Mid-City’s sales team is relatively small, but they are all passionate about outdoor cooking, and they believe in what they’re selling. Jason Speidel personally contacts every consumer about one week after a purchase to make sure the customer is happy 

With gross margins averaging 35%, Jason and Mid-City Superstore are very pleased with the outdoor living category. Their investments are paying off. 

So, here are two great examples of Nationwide members having success in outdoor living. They’ve invested in a fun category that makes money and generates new foot traffic. Are you missing out on an opportunity to invest Outside, In? If so, contact me at john.laing@nationwidegroup.org to learn more. 

Connect With Us!

More Podcasts

215: Understanding the Cost of Doing Business as an Independent Retailer

215: Understanding the Cost of Doing Business as an Independent Retailer

What if there was a way to benchmark your business against others in just about every aspect? That’s exactly what NMG’s new Cost of Doing Business study aims to solve.

214: Victrola Helps Bring Vinyl Back Into the Mainstream

214: Victrola Helps Bring Vinyl Back Into the Mainstream

Victrola is helping independent retailers capitalize on the resurgence of the record industry by offering innovative and modernized turntables. Don Inmon, head of product and brand there, dives into the category and their portfolio.

213: A Furniture, Bedding and Outdoor Update with Jeff Rose

213: A Furniture, Bedding and Outdoor Update with Jeff Rose

It was a truly action packed PrimeTime for the NMG Furniture, Bedding & Outdoor team. At the end of it all, we caught up with Jeff Rose, VP of the division, to talk about the new vendor introductions, the first-ever tour offered to Members of the World Market Center campus and other trends impacting the furniture, bedding and outdoor industries.