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If you need convincing of the sales-driving potential of demonstrating an upscale countertop kitchen appliance, just ask Jason Politowicz.
Politowicz is general manager of the St. George Grain Co., a gourmethousewares dealer in Southern Utah. In addition to offering a comprehensive demo program, including frequent classes involving a variety of cooking and food prep appliances, Politowicz serves up good cause for kitchenware specialty retailers to be on call at all times when it comes to putting a product to work to complete a sale.
“Just today I sold a Bosch Kitchen Machine to a man who asked me how it compared to another product,” Politowicz said. “Instead of trying to explain it, I took him over to the demo kitchen and spent 15 minutes showing him how it worked. That made a big difference.”
As an authorized Bosch Kitchen Center with about 8,000 square feet of selling space, including a full-service kitchen, St. George Grain Co. might be more dedicated to and equipped for stocking, demonstrating and selling premium countertop appliances than some smaller gourmethousewares stores.
“We’ve become a destination for better housewares and small appliances,” Politowicz said.
However, the store’s demonstration commitment and methodology might provide some encouragement for independent retailers wrestling with how to boost productivity from limited space and selection in cooking and food-prep electrics that can be difficult to differentiate versus big-box and department store retailers.
“People might be dissatisfied with a product they purchased from a big box, and they want to learn first-hand why a higher-end product is better,” Politowicz said. “When a professional shows you how to use a product properly, and you take it home and it delivers great results right away, you’re more likely to use and recommend it. That’s the payoff of an expert demonstration.”
Politowicz partners in the St. George Grain Co. with Gary Leavitt, who also heads L’Equip (formerly Kitchen Resource), a veteran distributor of upscale kitchenware, including Bosch mixers and L’Equip juicers, processors and grain mills.
Opened in January 2010, the store sits on space previously occupied by the kitchenware department of an adjacent ACE hardware store. When the hardware store decided to exit the kitchenware business, Politowicz and Leavitt claimed the space and remodeled it as a separate kitchen store, including a café with a mezzanine level for seating.
St. George Grain Co. features three aisles of kitchen electrics from a wide range of upscale brands targeting the gourmet specialty trade. The store also stocks a selection of Bosch major appliances to go with assortments of gourmet cookware, kitchen tools and natural foods.
The demo kitchen actually encompasses three kitchens in one, occupying a good portion of the store’s back corner. “It takes up a lot of space, but it is selling space,” he said, crediting the kitchen’s vital role as a customer-training hub for driving sales.
Situated in the Southeast corner of Utah, about a 90-minute drive from Las Vegas, St. George attracts “snowbirds” and other tourists to go with a robust year-round retirement base. The St. George Grain Co., meanwhile, attracts traffic with the help of run-of-press newspaper advertising, participation in local-merchant discount books, café specials and a fresh bread deal that has become one of the store’s signature promotions by offering nine natural varieties at a value price of $1.59 a loaf. Politowicz said the store sells as many as 1,500 loaves a week.
The store’s cooking class program is a key promotional focal point and the heart of its kitchenware demonstration strategy. Politowicz figures the cooking classes recruited some 40% of the approximately 3,000 customer names entered into the store’s database since it opened.
The store often schedules three cooking classes weekly. While many classes are geared to cooking styles and food themes that can involve myriad products, Politowicz aims for one class a week to be centered on a specific product. He cited classes highlighting Bosch mixers, Vita-Mix blenders and SodaStream.
“We try to feature as many products as possible in our classes,” Politowicz, said, noting the store often highlights a table of products during classes encouraging participants to “use what the pros use.”
While class participants might be more likely in the immediate aftermath of a session to purchase smaller, less-expensive items featured in the class, Politowicz said the experience seeds shopper loyalty that often blossoms into bigger-ticket sales during later visits.
The St. George Grain Co. employs five sales associates, each required to undergo training on many of the premium food-prep electrics offered by the store. “You have to be a professional to get someone to buy a $500 blender,” Politowicz said.
And the sales staff has to be prepared at all times to demonstrate any given product. That, he said, is a selling opportunity not to be missed.
Villeroy & Boch’s La Classica Contura features a design inspired by the domes and rotundas of Europe. The collection boasts strong lines with architectural undertones. It is made from dishwasher and microwave-safe bone porcelain.