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There is no one-size-fits-all key to merchandising electric coffee and espresso makers, say gourmethousewares store operators.
Customer needs, knowledge and willingness to spend vary substantially depending on the product they’ve come to buy, and stores need to merchandise, promote and sell accordingly.
When it comes to buying an everyday coffeemaker, most consumers have substantial experience with the product and technology and often come in search of a specific model or feature. “Many of them come in, they’re very well educated, they walk right to the machine they want and purchase it,” said Donna Toepfer, owner of Gretchen’s, in Mount Vernon, WA. “Oftentimes they’ve done research, they understand the positives and the negatives; about three quarters of the time they’ve already made their decision before they walk in.”
In many instances, these shoppers are making a replacement purchase or perhaps stepping up to something they’ve read about. Popular current features with this crowd, according to retail insiders include thermal carafes to keep coffee fresh tasting and hot without the burning effects of leaving the pot on the hot plate, or larger size carafes. Lorraine Hitchcock, owner of Beyond Pots and Pans, in Stockton, CA, for example, said her customers have been requesting the new Cuisinart 14-cup Brew Central unit. “We’ve gotten a lot of requests for that, they want the larger capacity,” she said. “The other thing they’re coming in for is the new Capresso Team unit, those are doing very well.”
While store owners say they routinely avoid brands and pricepoints associated with big box retail channels, the economy has had an impact on consumer shopping patterns and, as a result, some gourmethousewares stores are adapting their mix to encompass lower pricepoints. “Traditionally our opening pricepoint model was $79.99, but this summer we’ve taken it down to $59.99,” said Paul Fricke, owner of Cooks’Wares, in Cincinnati, OH. “We felt we needed to make that move to be down there with some others, including Williams-Sonoma, which has dropped its pricepoints down to offer a $59.99 model.”
The move has not altered his brand selection, he explained, simply broadened the selections he’s made within his current assortments.
Moving up the pricepoint spectrum, a number of stores are reporting success with single-serve coffee and espresso options, with most citing Keurig as a strong performer on the coffee side and Nespresso on the espresso front. “Keurig has been doing real well for us,” said Karen Skalicky, owner of Creative Kitchen, in Fargo, ND. “The one negative for us is that we’d like to have more choices in the coffee to go along with it. Right now we’re only able to get about 10 choices through [the distributor] and Keurig carries about 30 choices on the website. I wish we had more availability.”
Most stores reporting strong sales say they do a good deal of cross merchandising, blending machines together with various coffees and accessories aimed at reinforcing consumers’ perception that they can achieve a coffee house drink in their own homes. Most also stress the importance of assortment merchandising, giving shoppers multiple pricepoint, feature and brand options, even layering in complementary non-coffee categories.
“We have a coffee and tea statement that we’ve put together,” said Susan Farley, owner of Cat On A Whisk, in Southport, NC. “And we also use shelf talkers for each specific model that detail the specific features of each model.”
Store operators note that the salesmanship required to achieve success in the category rises in proportion to the pricepoint and sophistication of the device, which is particularly true of the newest generation of super automatic espresso makers. Most retailers say they have tried the category, with some opting out, saying it was too much of a challenge.
Those enjoying success with the category have several characteristics in common. They offer more than one unit. Their sales associates have received specific training to sell the category and they keep units set up for demonstration at all times.
Both vendors (see Trainer’s Corner on page 14) and retailers stressed the necessity of demonstrations for success with super automatic espresso maker sales. “If you’re just doing plain demonstrations throughout the day on a Saturday, all you’re doing is serving coffee,” said Creative Kitchen’s Skalicky. “To have the ability to demonstrate a machine to a customer who’s thinking about a purchase is really important.”