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For all the talk of consumers eating and drinking more at home, the economy is not without its challenges for gourmethousewares, and the coffee and espresso maker business is no exception.
While citing a few bright spots, most gourmet insiders described the brewing appliance climate as “pretty good,” with the economy continuing to dampen this and many other gourmet segments. Overall, retailers pointed to coffeemakers in the $79 to $99 range as among their top sellers with comparable success in espresso machines under $300.
The high-end super-automatic espresso segment, robust in terms of new and innovative product, continues to be a category that offers merchandising benefits beyond its sales velocity. While most single store operators report average sales between 6 and 10 units annually, they indicated that having the sleek, high-tech units on display reinforces a store’s credibility as a gourmet destination. Keeping units set up and ready to serve, a critical element in achieving a sale, also serves to enhance consumers’ shopping experience and create an environment more conducive to coffee product sales.
Mike Fear, owner of Now You’re Cooking, in Bath, ME, is among those enjoying full-bodied coffeemaker sales, noting that the recent addition of the Nespresso Citiz to his mix has captured the attention and discretionary dollars of his shoppers. “It’s really going gangbusters,” Fear told Gourmet Insider®. “I think consumers like that they have a choice of adding frothed milk to their espresso or if they’re not into dairy can just do a straight shot of espresso.”
Barbara Freeman, co-owner of Kitchenware Outfitters, in Savannah, GA, is also enjoying solid gains in her Nespresso business this year, a reversal of less than stellar sales last year. “Year-to-date we’ve sold double what we sold through the same period last year,” Freeman said. “When it went down last year I thought it might stay down, but it’s really picked back up.”
She attributes some of the gains to consumer efforts to match their favorite coffee house experience with a more cost-effective at-home preparation. “The other thing about Citiz that I think is appealing to some consumers is the size,” Freeman noted. “It’s definitely small enough that you can take it with you when you travel and I’ve had some customers pick it up for that purpose.”
Single-serve has been gaining momentum, according to gourmet insiders, not only in espresso, but in basic coffee brewers. “The Keurig Special Edition and the Cuisinart Brew Central 12-cup are my best sellers,” said Shelley Doyen, owner of Ideal Kitchen in Manistee, MI, citing a single-serve and an automatic drip machine. She noted in fact that Keurig K-cups are the only coffee she carries in her store, with the pre-measured pods serving to bring shoppers back on a regular basis.
Katie Tedesco, manager of Connecticut’s Greenwich Kitchen Works, also pegged units from Keurig— the Mini Brewer— and Cuisinart— Brew Central and Grind & Brew— among her top sellers.
While none of the insiders contacted for this story described the business overall as strong, within the core drip coffeemaker business virtually all identified the $80 pricepoint as the category’s real hot spot.
K.C. Lapiana, owner of Pittsburgh’s In The Kitchen, cited that pricepoint as a current void in her mix, noting also that her current coffee maker sales are “awful.”
“Our sale in coffeemakers have been down, down, down,” Lapiana said, adding that her current opening pricepoint in the coffeemaker segment is $100, though she is awaiting delivery on some new $79 models.
To address the lull, Lapiana said she’s been working with her vendors to beef up her demonstration program. “We’re going to line up the coffee and espresso makers, turn them on and give people free coffee on Fridays and Saturdays, our two busiest days,” she said.
She also plans special vendor-sponsored events that will include demonstrations and promotions, a strategy that she’s employed at other times and in other egments as business has tailed off. “When we see something is down or something’s not moving we’re going to promote it; put it right out front and center and look to promote it,” she said. “I’m not shy about letting my manufacturers’ reps know this is not doing well and you need to come here and help us make it right.”
She noted that the response she’s received from her suppliers’ reps has been outstanding, with most stepping up to provide demonstration machines for the program.
Whether their business is “gangbusters,” “fair” or downright “awful” gourmet insiders were unanimous in stressing the importance of demonstrations in building coffee and espresso maker sales. Now You’re Cooking’s Fear noted that for some products, demos will produce a hit rate over 50%, citing the AeroPress as one specific example. “When I demo that, almost 90% of the time I’ll get the sale,” Fear said.
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