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Defining Moment

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There’s been lots of chatter recently about the so-called convergence of the housewares and gift businesses. There was even a session at the 2015 International Home & Housewares Show entitled “Housewares & Giftwares Converge.”

Really?
Merriam-Webster includes the following among its definitions of convergence: “The act of converging and especially moving toward union or uniformity;” and “The merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified whole.”
You would be hard-pressed to find many independent kitchenware store operators who fully embrace the theory that the housewares and giftwares categories are, by that definition, converging. The more applicable word is crossover.
Yes, more independent kitchenware retailers are looking for select “gifty” kitchen, household table and décor items that straddle the line separating housewares and giftware. In doing so, though, they should be eyeing incremental sales without blurring the focus on premium, functional product, service and education so vital to their cook shop identities and credibility.
Positioning assortments to be more “giftable” can be a productive move by independent kitchenware retailers throughout the year, even more so as they battle the big boxes and dot-coms for holiday traffic. That said, simply adding decorative accessories and assorted tchotchkes in hope that customers will grab a couple of stocking stuffers on the way to the cash register isn’t the answer.
Independent cook shop owners on a GOURMET INSIDER® Roundtable earlier this year warned against straying too far from their kitchenware roots — the primary reason shoppers come back — in pursuit of add-on gift sales. It is better to create themed pro- motions, events and bundles that tap the gift potential of core kitchenware and cultivate long-term customers, the roundtable panelists agreed.
The growing presentation of kitchenware resources at historically gift- and décor- focused trade shows in Atlanta, Dallas, New York and Las Vegas likely has contributed to the idea that housewares and giftware are converging at retail.
Such expansion by these trade shows, though, doesn’t presage the merging of the independent housewares and gift channels. Rather, these shows have capitalized on an opening to host concurrent marketplaces presenting a diverse range of affiliated home categories, often to the benefit of indepen- dent retailers focused on specific segments. Crossover buying opportunities offered by such a wide scope of home products at these trade markets are a convenient bonus for retailers looking to accent their core assortments with add-on prospects.
Most independent kitchenware storeowners can’t risk splitting their merchandising identities and confusing — even worse, alienating — their core customers. Neither can most small gift store operators.
Check the meanings of convergence and crossover. Understanding the difference can help keep your business well-defined.


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