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A Lifetime Relationship

Wedding Registry Helps Build 

Repeat Customers For Life

DALLAS— For many independent gourmet kitchenware retailers, bridal registry is an under utilized tool for courting new business and engaging a new base of long-term customers with a hands-on, personalized experience hard to match by chain stores and e-commerce sites.

The GOURMET INSIDER® Roundtable Series examined best practices for productive bridal registries during a panel discussion hosted at the recent Dallas Total Home & Gift Market, which took place at the Dallas Market Center.

The panel of independent retailers included Becky Moore of Murphy’s Department Store (Stillwater, OK); Nancy Schneider of Chef’s Shoppe Gourmet Kitchen (Edwardsville, IL); Elizabeth McElhatten of King Hardware (Shreveport, LA); Linda Motley of P.S. The Letter (Fort Worth, TX); Ashley Berry of Someone’s In The Kitchen (Rapid City, SD); Julie Butler of Texas Threads (Hereford, TX); and Tricia O’Connor of The Kitchen Store & Nature’s Pantry (Conway, AR).

Gourmet Insider executive managing editor, Emily Cappiello moderated the discussion, sponsored by Dexas, Hammer Stahl, Bradshaw International’s Emsa brand and Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry’s Chef’s Design brand.

Panelists agreed trust is their strongest currency for building relationships with bridal customers toward the goal of well-rounded registries and high registry completion rates.

“The biggest part is gaining [a prospective bride’s]trust,” McElhatten of King Hardware said. “They’re going to be with you for the rest of the year.”

And perhaps much longer.

“They are the next mothers-to-be,” O’Connor of The Kitchen Store said. “It’s a lifetime relationship.”

Matching prospective bridal registrants with a store associates early in the registry process is a critical component to building confidence on the part brides as they are presented with lots of information and choices.

“Whoever in our store initiates the relationship, the bride gravitates to that person,” Moore of Murphy’s Department Store said. “That leads to a well-rounded registry.”

Beyond personal attention, gourmet kitchenware shops possess the unique ability to pair local knowledge with deep product consultation, which can comforts future brides at a time when they might be overwhelmed by detail after detail while planning their weddings.

“We give them a second to breathe and let them know we are here to help,” Berry of Someone’s In The Kitchen said. “That really gets them excited about the registry.

“Don’t over think it,” Berry advises registrants. “Don’t get too structured. It’s about what you like. If you personalize that for them, you get a much stronger registry. They won’t feel lost.”

O’Connor extends personal approach to social media by posting photos of registrants, which, in turn, spreads exposure for the store. “The bride wants attention,” she said  “Make it special. We’ve taken the burden out of some of her planning.”

“I used a personal picture of the bride for first time this month, and the shares were amazing,” Butler of Texas Threads added.

Prospective brides often need a lot of direct product guidance. Panelists urged their independent retail colleagues to glean plenty of information on the lifestyles, preferences and cooking skill sets during the initial consultation to help construct registries properly tailored to each registrant.

The tastes and needs of the typical young bride have clearly shifted from long-standing registry traditions, panelists said.

“Everybody is going more casual,” McElhatten said, noting, for example, the increasing registry demand for serving and entertaining accessories compared to traditional dinnerware place settings. “They want fun serving pieces.”

Berry added: “As long as they find good patterns and fun pieces, they don’t mind mixing and matching.”

Open stock selection— from serveware to cookware to cutlery—

is the prevailing bridal preference at the panelists’ stores.

“I don’t remember some who wanted to register for a cookware set,” Schneider of Cook’s Shoppe said. “They are picking different pieces.”

Schneider suggested open-stock bridal demand has as much to do with cost considerations as personal preferences. “They are considering their guests and their investments,” she said.

Similarly, when it comes to cutlery, O’Connor said, “We encourage them to register for knifes individually. They are more likely to get three or four knives than a set.”

Increasing sensitivity among today’s young brides to unburden guests from higher-priced goods is a notable change from previous bridal generations, some observed. Even so, their stores’ reputations for expertly curated selection and high quality often beat price as prime incentives, beyond personal service, for most brides to register with such local specialty outlets.

“We try to give them more accessible pricepoints for their guests,” Butler said. “But it’s important for us to make sure they get what they need. We need to educate them. They know then need an whisk, but they might not know why they need a whisk.”

“We help them find gadgets, they won’t get at other stores,” O’Connor added.

Millennial consumers often come into Berry’s store armed with online research and with a strong idea of what they need and want.

“The biggest thing is getting the bride out of her comfort zone,” Berry said. “They often worry about registering for things nobody will buy. They’d be surprised.”

The roundtable panelists noted the increasing participation of future grooms in registries. It’s a development some said has upgraded choices while improving the brides’ engagement in the process and confidence in their selections.

“Once [the grooms]get excited about gadget, the grooms will lead,” Berry said. “The goal is a well-rounded registry. When the groom interacts, the bride feels validated about what she wants.’

Added Schneider: “Grooms usually want the good stuff. They know the value of high-quality tools.”

Most of the panelists said they combine paper and scanning systems to record and track the registry, although some still use paper only. Despite promoting the advantages of a hands-on, in-store approach, many said they back up in-store registries with online registry services.

“You can go online to adjust the registry,” O’Connor said. “We can also show them a product online that we might be out of. Most young brides want it on a website, so they and their friends can see it whenever they want.”

“I like waking up in the morning to learn someone has been shopping,” Butler said.

Digital registry services, though, shouldn’t come at the expense of in-store guidance. “They can initiate the registry online. But we allocate more manpower to making the experience better,” Motley of PS The Letter said.

Even when dealing with a younger generation predisposed to digital shopping— and considering such non-traditional registries as travel and recreation— would-be brides still embrace a less “techy” approach to the registry experience, roundtable retailers said. The quality of the registry experience remains a primary differentiator for independent retailers.

“Whether they buy 10 or 100 items, they’re special,” Butler said.

“If you don’t get excited about it, they won’t be excited,” Berry added.

Moore of Murphy’s stressed the bridal registry is unusual in that it is a multi-target sales opportunity that can cement lasting relationships between a shop and several potential customers.

“When doing a registry, you have to sell the product (multiple) times:” Moore said. “First the bride and then the guests. If they come to complete the registry or to return something, you have to sell the bride all over again.

“By the time they’re married, you feel like a friend,” she continued. “Then you have a customer for life.”



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