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While tabletop may not be the largest category for some independent retailers, gourmet insiders who take advantage of seasonal and colorful table settings find that their assortment draws customers to their stores.
“Tabletop adds a fun element. We do it well; that gets a lot of reaction,” said Betsy Murelle of The Country Gourmet, in Banner Elk, NC.
Tabletop displays are a great way to communicate changing seasons and holidays in addition to adding a fresh look to a store’s overall assortment, according to gourmet store owners. Many use color as well as themed assortments to let their shoppers know it’s time to start thinking about the outdoor entertaining season or Christmas.
“We have a dining room table set up in the [front] alcove. It does help the shoppers to visualize and put together textiles with tabletop and helps sales,” added Lyons. Lyons said she also mixes whiteware with bright solid colors to show customers how they can mix up their basics seasonally. “We do a lot of cross-merchandising with a picnic theme [for the warmer weather], and mix tabletop items in with it, such as chip n’ dips and serveware,” she said.
At The Country Gourmet, Murelle uses color to change her tables seasonally as well.
At The Coastal Cupboard, in Mount Pleasant, SC, Brad Pitner’s approach to seasonal tablewareincludes season and holiday-specific tableware, which sells well. Out of the five different islands that feature dinnerware in the store, the main one in the front is seasonally driven, “enhanced” by pieces from the store’s everyday collection. At Christmas, customers await a main holiday table display from the “gifty tabletop” line Amscan. “People look for it every year,” said Pitner.
In the summer, The Coastal Cupboard, highlights its coastal assortment, although it carries the items year-round due to the area’s warmer temperatures. The store will be spotlighting Vietri’s Incanto Mare turtle and crab tableware for the upcoming summer season. Mud Pie’s Sanibel coastal gift and serveware line is also a best seller.
The summer season or warmer weather also brings an opportunity to add a different kind of tabletop to the store, designed for porch living.
Pitner said he sees an untapped opportunity in bringing in an outdoor entertaining focus this year; and he is calling the launch “Porch Time.” The theme will include picnic baskets, break-resistant glasses as well as outdoor décor items; animal and bug watering cans from Global Amici were one of the store’s biggest sellers last year, added Pitner. “People want to decorate their outdoor area and we’re going to approach it as hardcore as we can,” he said.
By contrast, the addition of outdoor tabletop entertaining did not fare well for Cucina Fresca, in Elko, NV. “We tried to do outdoor entertaining. Acrylic wine glasses we do a little, but big boxes do those and hit pricepoints that we can’t,” said owner Gwen Uhlig. “I haven’t seen anything really exciting to make people want to spend a more premium price.”
The success of any seasonal or tabletop assortment can vary largely by the clientele and surrounding area, according to store owners. For example, at The Country Gourmet, Murelle sets about five or six tables with a mixture of tableware. “We’re in a resort area with a lot of older clientele and this is their second or third or fourth home. Sometimes they want to be fun, sometimes they want to be traditional; it’s one extreme to the other,” she said. A rustic, homey cabin look that reflects the mountain town works well, such as earth tones from Terra Firma or Spode Woodlands pattern, while bright colors don’t do as well. The store mixes it up with Vietri, Royal Worcester, Portmeirion and Arte Italica. The Country Gourmet also offers its customers flatware from Utica, Ginkgo International, and Yamazaki. “Chargers, from fine to rustic, provide sales opportunities, when they are displayed on The Country Gourmet’s table settings.
“We [originally] started with the gadgets and the gourmet things and [still] have that whole section, but the plates and the linens, that’s what makes it fun. People do get into it,” Murelle added.
Tabletop takes up nearly 20% of The Coastal Cupboard, said Pitner. Everyday dinnerware that works year-round is anything Vietri, Sophie Conran by Portmeirion, as well as Casafina, Juliska and whiteware, such as from Red Vanilla and Fortessa.
However, for stores that have a more limited tabletop assortment, it’s because they don’t have the floor space to really make a statement showcasing the varied colors and patterns of dinnerware.
“I only have 4,000 square feet of selling space and I sell functional stuff that works great for the kitchen. When I bought the store, they sold china, crystal and flatware; it was a little too old-fashioned, [and it was discontinued]. I brought in Fiesta and Polish Pottery, but tabletop isn’t something I focus on,” said Rita Burns of Tess’s Kitchen Store, in Downtown Grass Valley, CA.
At Cucina Fresca, Uhlig said the store cut out dinnerware altogether, but still carries serving pieces, which help add a pop of color to window and table displays. “We’re not a big enough store [1,400 square feet] to really offer a selection. We try to stick with simple, solid colors,” said Uhlig, such as BIA Cordon Bleu’s Wavy Bakers and Tag.
According to Brooklyn Kitchen’s Taylor Erkkinen while tabletop isn’t a big focus at the store, the retailer this year is keeping their whiteware assortment strong and expanding into different plate sizes. Open stock flatware from Gourmet Settings also sells well, she said.
Customers visiting Someone’s In the Kitchen, in Rapid City, SD, are greeted by a tiered display of tabletop right at the front of the store, said owner Betsy Lyons. “We’re always looking for new tabletop. We’re not in a high-income area; people are practical, they want durable tabletop that is affordable.” The retailer carries Tag, Signature Housewares, Cypress Home and Clay Art, and is bringing in a bright and colorful grouping for spring.
While tabletop may not be a focal point for some, it does add a fresh perspective to the look of the store, and for shoppers, the look of their kitchen or entertaining areas, said store owners.
Carrol Boyes’s On the Brink decanter features an elegant sculptural figure of the human form made out of aluminum, which holds a glass decanter. Carrol Boyes is a South African designer whose product is new in the United States.