The premium kitchen cutlery industry has resisted radical marketing and merchandising change through the years.
Perhaps with good reason.
High-end cutlery celebrates a long history marked by some leading brands that measure their heritage in centuries, not decades.
Fine cutlery rooted in such manufacturing tradition has long been offered on the merits of such ageless factors as premium stainless steel, full-tang construction, precisely angled blades, durable handles and perfect balance. That marketing recipe, when combined with proper handling skills and sharpening guidance, has satisfied generations of discerning home cooks while contributing robustly to the top and bottom lines of independent retailers seasoned in the craft of demonstrating and servicing such kitchen essentials.
But, as is the case across the retail housewares business, traditional marketing values and practices are being challenged by new lifestyle values and consumer expectations. The marketing demands for all types of premium products have been expanded from accentuating production and performance qualities to accentuating personally expressive and experiential attributes.
It is inspiring a marketing renaissance — maybe even a revolution — for the gourmet kitchen cutlery business, which is brimming with transformative ideas this year.
Venerable market leaders in premium cutlery, without compromising long-standing manufacturing standards and advantages, are tapping into the emotional side, in tandem with the practical side, of a new consumer generation. They still underscore the heritage behind how and why precision knives are designed and made to perform a cut above mass market alternatives. They’re also sharpening more progressive lifestyle points that aim to position their products and their brands as responsive, leading-edge enablers of extraordinary dining and entertaining experiences.
Meanwhile, the evolving marketplace has encouraged the entry of new-age cutlery suppliers with fresh approaches intent on further disrupting long-held norms of how to design, market and merchandise premium knives; how much such knives should cost; and where such knives should be made.
Thinking differently about precision cutlery starts with understanding and embracing how consumers are thinking differently about their personal preferences and priorities. Today’s consumers still need the type of in-depth schooling on premium knives, skills and maintenance offered by successful independent kitchenware retailers. They also require, perhaps more so, inspiration, personalization and accessibility to justify a big potential investment.
Suppliers and retailers of high-end cutlery confront a promising growth opportunity by adapting collaboratively to make an intimidating category more approachable to a new generation of shoppers — to all shoppers, actually.
The specialty kitchenware trade is primed for effective, novel ways to break through barriers impeding sales of an expensive product typically locked behind glass. Cutlery is too important for independent retailers or their vendors to put off the consideration, development and implementation of innovative merchandising platforms, such as recent programs from select vendors that integrate selection-widening e-commerce solutions into a one-on-one store experience still so instrumental to high-end cutlery sales.
Success in today’s new retail world demands specialty marketers and merchants to inspire and engage consumers emotionally as much as functionally.
Now it’s time to start the next chapter in the long history of the premium kitchen cutlery business.