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Hearth Retailer Profile

Gas Logs Have Come a Long Way

Not all gas logs are created equal. In today’s design-focused culture, gas logs can vary in design and quality as much as fireplaces themselves can. As homeowners spend thousands of dollars on their fireplace surrounds, mantels and other room accessories, it doesn’t make sense to leave the focal point of the room empty or, even worse, filled with a cheap, unrealistic log set.

Rett Rasmussen, the fourth-generation owner of Rasmussen Ironworks in Whittier, Calif., says, “Consumers today want and expect choice.” The Rasmussen family has been in business for a century; has been manufacturing high-end, realistic logs since 1958; and is considered a leader in the gas-log industry. It designs and produces gas-logs sets measuring 12 to 96 inches and every length between, as well as custom sets for large and unusual fireplaces.

Today, consumers can buy entry-level gas logs anywhere, from Home Depot to home-improvement catalogs. “Specialty retailers need to be more than just box passers,” Rasmussen says. They need to be experts in both products and design for the categories, including gas logs, that they carry in their stores. As Rasmussen explains, specialty retailers should consider realism, variety and style when deciding which gas logs will appeal to their customers.

High-end manufacturers take painstaking care to create logs that look just like the real thing. Rasmussen Iron Works creates one-of-a-kind molds using real wood logs as patterns, instead of clay or other materials. Rubber for the molds is brushed on the wood and it sinks into all the nooks and crannies, creating a very detailed bark reproduction. “Mother nature does it best,” Rasmussen says.

The Rasmussen manufacturing team hand applies seven different colors of ceramic wood stain to simulate texture, split color and char. “There is no need to settle for something less than realistic,” Rasmussen adds.

There are many types of wood available to consumers, including manzanita, driftwood stumps, birch, oak, eucalyptus and pine. These tend to vary in popularity by geographic region. “Know what woods are indigenous to your area, and if you do your research, you’ll probably be able to find the wood or something that looks like it,” Rasmussen says.

While traditional logs are the meat and potatoes of the industry, there is a growing trend toward more design-oriented sets that work well in modern decor. Rasmussen notes that sales of the company’s Alterna line of ceramic FireShapes, FireBalls and FireStones have more than doubled over the past year. “They used to be a novelty that we burned in front of our booth at the trade shows, and now they are becoming a larger part of our overall sales,” he says.

There are hundreds of varieties of fireplaces, and every one of them requires a different log style. Bigger fireplaces look best with horizontal, hefty logs, while tall fireplaces (like Rumford fireplaces) and outdoor firepits look best with teepee-style sets. Retailers should carry log sets that correspond in size and shape to the fireplaces that they sell and should take the time to help customers match logs with fireplaces.

Rasmussen recommends having a burning display because people want to see, feel and experience what is going to be in their fireplaces. “Whatever you have burning in your store will sell five to six times more than a cold display,” he explains. Don’t put the cheapest offering in the burning display; use the most expensive.

There are so many log sets available that it can be overwhelming not only to consumers, but to retailers as well. Rasmussen highly recommends that retailers take the time to single out a few manufacturers and become familiar with their products. “Customers expect specialty retailers to have a good selection of high-end products and to know them inside and out,” he says. “That is the only way they are going to set themselves apart from the mass merchants.”

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