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You hold in your hands the largest issue ever of Gourmet Insider (March - April 2012). Since its launch in 2006 as a quarterly supplement to HomeWorld Business, Gourmet Insider has grown in frequency, size and distribution, an accomplishment for which we are both proud and very grateful.
I would like to take a minute here to thank all those who have contributed to the success of Gourmet Insider; our readers whose feedback fuels and motivates us; our advertisers whose consistent support enables us to offer an ever-expanding package of informative content; Mr. Frank Brady whose insights and constructive outlook offer lessons in both life and business, and our staff.
While many of you have spoken to our editors there is a host of people behind the scenes without whom this publication would not be possible. From our tireless sales staff who provide an ever-expanding canvas upon which to create merchandising magic, to our art staff whose creativity gives Gourmet Insider its unique flavor, to our production team who make sure we get it out the door on time and ship-shape, GI is a complete team effort.
In publishing, not unlike retailing there are myriad moving parts to a successful organization, a breakdown by any one of which can derail an otherwise effective effort. Making sure that everyone is on the same page working toward the same goals and at comparable levels of intensity is critical to sustaining organizational success.
One of the difficulties I often hear expressed by retailers is the challenge of finding and maintaining high quality store associates. These front-line ambassadors often create the first impression that new customers have of their store; one that can cultivate a return customer to help business grow or one that can alienate shoppers, turning a store into a lonely ghost town of dusty, unseen merchandise. For retailers looking to grow their business beyond a single location the importance of having a system of training to cultivate effective employees is critical.
The cover story in this issue shines a spotlight on Sur La Table, one of the industry’s most rapidly growing retail organizations. It’s easy to forget as the chain closes in on its 100th store that for half the company’s history it was a single-store operation and that it wasn’t until 1995 that the second Sur La Table opened its doors.
Maintaining the integrity of the store’s gourmet roots while expanding its operation to encompass 5, 10, 75 stores and still growing is no small accomplishment. Sur La Table president Jack Schwefel shared his insights on this noting, “Our biggest challenge since 45 stores has been to put smart people, passionate people in front of customers.”
To address that challenge Sur La Table makes a concerted effort to get product into the hands of its employees. People who have used the product, Schwefel points out, are much better able and more likely to sell it effectively.
This technique is employed by a number of savvy store operators, many of whom have come up with creative strategies for giving employees experience with product as a training tool. One of the more common methods is to have a product “library,” that is a selection of products that employees can borrow, take home, play with, then return; hopefully with a better knowledge and appreciation for the product.
One creative retailer described a program that encourages employees to pick a favorite gadget each week, keeping it with them as they work to suggest to potential customers. Whatever the method most retailers acknowledge the value of getting employees experience with the products they are going to sell.
The other noteworthy point Schwefel makes about Sur La Table’s ability to build staff in support of its growth is the type of people it seeks and attracts. “A lot of our part-time staff is training in culinary schools and working in the food industry,” Schwefel notes.
For those retailers who have found themselves disappointed by the results from ads in local papers or Internet sites, a program of working with local culinary organizations, schools, or restaurants could prove beneficial.
Having the right people can make all the difference for an organization. I know. I’ve been blessed to work with some really good ones. Thanks again to all of those who have helped us build Gourmet Insider.
Hawthorne Gilt is new from Caskata’s luxury line Insignia C, and features jewelry-inspired bands of weaves and crosshatches in a matte gold color way. The dinnerware is bone china, and it is made in the USA.