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A Cut Above


Independent kitchenware retailers don’t need to be reminded how important cutlery is to their business. That doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from a refresher to stay on top of best practices.

This issue of GOURMET INSIDER® offers some assistance through its annual “Chop Shop” cutlery report, which reveals insider views on optimizing sales and profit not just from premium knives, but also from boards, sharpeners and other cutting accessories.

Selling high-performance cutlery starts with a sharper understanding of today’s prospective cutlery consumers.

As likely as shoppers spanning generations — from aspiring millennial foodies to empty-nesting boomers rediscovering the kitchen — are to have done their online homework when it comes to researching cutlery, most lack the basic skills required to achieve a fully satisfying cooking experience.

Just ask them.

That’s what Tony Curtis-Wellings of Faraday’s Kitchen Store near Austin, TX, did recently.

“I sat at the knife counter and I asked my customers, ‘What do you use a pairing knife for?’ ‘What do you use a utility knife for?’ ‘What do you use a Chef’s knife for?’” he recently told Gourmet Insider for an exclusive story on

The startling results of Curtis-Wellings’ informal poll could be game changing for cook shops. “Less than 5% of the people I asked knew what to use the three basic knives for,” he explained. “For the last 12 years, I’ve been trying to do advanced cooking with our community, and we are still fundamentally at the basics.”

This plays into what should be a core advantage of the gourmet kitchenware channel: An affinity for customers that can assess needs and skills before pushing the latest, greatest chef’s knife.

While serving cooking-savvy connoisseurs has been a cornerstone of gourmet store success, the channel’s future will be reinforced by taking care of inexperienced home cooks across all generations who value better products and will respond attentively to hands-on, personal guidance versus hard selling.

It’s not enough for storeowners to equip their staffs with the information required to explain a product to shoppers. It is imperative for all store associates to be thoroughly trained to demonstrate, on demand, how each knife in the case is unique. It also might be time to schedule a few more basic cutlery skills classes, dressing them up with varied specialty food themes to build repeat attendance.

The gourmet cutlery market has seen an appetizing array of stylish, high-performance and attractively priced new entries to complement the channel’s long-established cutlery stalwarts. The opportunity to drive more sales with a wider selection of product is enticing in a challenging retail climate. However, expertly edited selections, backed by the ability to connect each customer to the right product, remain this channel’s most persuasive attraction against the self-service assortments of big-box stores and the virtually limitless offering of e-commerce channels.

The knife choices behind the glass can be simultaneously dazzling and intimidating to today’s novice foodies, who are hungry to prepare expert meals worth sharing on social media or showing off at the next get-together.

These consumers delight not just in the possession of premium tools, but even more so in how these tools can elevate their skill and experience. But many don’t know how to start.

Just ask them.

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