Every year, Dave and Mary Weldy, owners of Chelan, WA-based Culinary Apple, close the store for a few days and take their team on a training mission. This can include vendor training, field trips to other retail stores and networking opportunities with other owners and employees in and around the area.
However, this year the Culinary Apple team did something different, said store manager Joanne Strandberg. She explained that the group was invited to Progressive — along with several other stores and their employees — for a full day of product training and discussions.
“Progressive really has gone above and beyond with the training they offer,” she explained. “They brought in multiple stores and went through so much information with us. They discussed trends in the industry and did a presentation about what the different generations are buying. Then we had a private lunch and a roundtable discussion about things that are doing well, what the other stores are seeing as far as trends go. It was so helpful,” she added.
After, Strandberg explained that the groups were walked through the company’s products and were able to play with and test all of the goods as well.
“Everyone who attended left with a generous gift bag full of new Progressive products for our personal use, and they even printed an historical sales report so we had as much information as possible about how each product has performed, and what else we might want to consider,” Strandberg said.
This experience, noted Strandberg, is something that other companies should consider doing as the independent gourmet channel has something that many other sales channels — including online — can’t offer. That, she said, is experience and expertise.
“It’s nice to be able to tell a customer, ‘Yes, I’ve tried it, this is how it works,’ and even with some products to be able to tell them that we were involved in product development, some of the changes we suggested and this is why it’s better now. We take that very seriously because it’s invaluable,” she said.
Strandberg said that by other manufacturers hosting trainings such as the one Progressive did, it will not only help independent retailers stand out, but it will also be a benefit to manufacturers.
“The products that we really know about are the ones that we may push a bit more because the manufacturers passed all of the training and information on to us and we can pass that on to our customer,” she said. “They need to take the time to educate us because small, independent stores have so much knowledge and can really take the time to educate customers.”