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Experience Is On Your Side

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If you haven’t noticed, “Experience” is the buzzword du jour in retailing as veteran store operators of all sizes and scope look to counter the unrelenting growth of digital commerce.

Consider this stunning estimate: Amazon, which needed just 20 years to reach a staggering $80 billion in revenues, is expected by some retail observers to double that total in the next three to five years.

If true, most of those billions of dollars aren’t going to be added to the economy. They’ll come at the expense of many traditional retailers that have been so distracted by the urge to chase Amazon that they haven’t taken the steps needed to beat Amazon. Yes… beat Amazon. That is the required mindset.

So, as department stores and big-box stores all scramble to craft more compelling experiences that can keep their stores at the intersection of today’s digitally detoured traffic flow, where does this leave the independent gourmet housewares retailer? Perhaps in a more advantageous place than some might expect.

After all, as other channels abandoned retail theatrics, most successful gourmet kitchenware stores continued to infuse their stores with experiences — on top of knowledge and service — unavailable elsewhere.

While such experiences are already mixed into the mortar that has held together the most successful gourmet retailing bricks for years, it’s time to reinforce the foundation.

Today’s consumers — not just Millennials, but also recalibrated Boomers and GenXers — crave participation over the accumulation of stuff. With the proper positioning and encouragement, they’ll gladly accumulate the stuff required to achieve such personal involvement.

Such sentiment highlighted the recent GOURMET INSIDER® Roundtable at the Dallas Market Center (see story on page 26) that attempted to predict what would constitute the successful gourmet store of the future.

A willingness to change always underscores such discussion. A closer listen to the independent storeowners on the panel revealed that positive change might best be achieved by reasserting the up-close-and-personal experiences already inherent to the business. It just needs to be done from a new view.

Maybe you start by repositioning the business as a cooking store, not a kitchenware store. You tout the engaging activity instead of the stagnant product.

Then, unbound by the territorial category buying restrictions of most big-box stores, you allocate space for vivid lifestyle presentations that blend all sorts of complementary products. You promote aspiration and achievement over pure functionality.

Then, you could layer in more local foods, crafts and accessories that tighten your ties to the community. You could top it off with unexpected events — acoustic music happy hours, after-closing comedy shows and whatever else you can create to entertain people and connect them with your business when they’re not necessarily on the shopping grid.

Independent gourmet stores, no doubt, have so much more to consider today in the chase to keep up with digital and big-box competition. But they also have an important advantage if they recommit to the required mindset. Experience is still on their side.


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