There is no denying that retailing is in the midst of change. And while we’ve seen this change coming, there is a greater sense of urgency among independent gourmet housewares store owners, which was quite palpable at the recent winter markets.
The consumer is changing. They are demanding more. Authenticity is top of mind and experiences take top dollar. However, this is good news for gourmet housewares retailers. Foodie culture is continuing to grow and dominate the lives of Millennials. They want to eat different foods, fresh foods and good foods. But, they also lead busy lives and many of today’s 20- and 30-somethings have yet to develop the basic culinary skills needed to prepare a tasty meal at home.
The growth of home meal delivery services has sought to provide a solution to this problem. But without the proper tools and knowhow, even the highest quality of ingredients won’t lead to a top quality meal. But here lies the opportunity for independent store owners to boost sales, attract younger consumers and offer a service that their big-box competitors cannot provide.
Tony Curtis-Wellings of Austin, TX-based Faraday’s Kitchen Store recently told me a story in which he had a few young people take a cooking class. He found that his students did not have a love of cooking. In fact, they hated it. Why did they hate it? They ordered a meal kit program but didn’t have the proper skills to fully enjoy the experience. Curtis-Wellings provided them with new skills and there’s a good chance those young consumers will find more satisfaction when making their next meal at home.
Which leads to my next point. Consumers also want experiences when they shop and they are quite willing to share those experiences with their peers. Not long ago, positive word-of-mouth was key for a small business to succeed. Now, it’s word-of-media, as in social media. Millennials — including me — will Snapchat their way through a cooking class or Instagramming photos of their finished meals. By creating an authentic and welcoming experience, you are arming yourself with a necessary skill for business growth.
But not all experiences require a cooking school. In Atlanta and Dallas, I heard so many great ideas from retailers about how to arm yourselves with ways to create authentic experiences with your customer, whether they are shopping for product or attending an event.
One retailer told me about a cookware test drive — once a month, she has people come in and try new cookware for $10. If they purchase, that $10 goes towards their new item. Another retailer discussed bridal registry and how to turn what is typically a mundane task into a party. Every few months, registered couples are invited to the store for wine and cheese and the store offers the soon-to-be brides and grooms insight about the tools and gadgets that will be staples in their kitchens.
This level of service, along with unique experiences, will make your store memorable and create loyal customers. Those memorable moments spent in your store will also be shared by those customers on their social media accounts. Ultimately, 10 customers could be telling thousands of friends about the great time and experience they had at your store.
As each of you work to provide your customers with the optimal in-store experience, we are pushing ahead to help provide you with an optimal reading experience. In an effort to further connect an industry that relies so heavily on networking and fresh ideas, we offer our web exclusive series on GourmetInsider.com. Every Monday, we feature a story online and in our daily e-newsletter from someone in the industry that is doing something different. This runs the gamut from branding, product selection and merchandising to digital marketing, blogger outreach and experience building.
And, as we step foot inside McCormick Place to scour the show floor for the new, the unique and the money-makers, remember that those are only part of what will earn your customers’ dollars this year. The rest will come from you.