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Expect The Unexpected


The business climate for today’s independent retailer is in a state of continual change and store owners must navigate choppier waters and identify new ways to find calmer seas in an effort to keep sales growing.

Perhaps like no other time in recent memory, the path to success for retailers differs from store to store. While there will always be basic elements that all successful store owners will use on a daily basis, retailers today need to sharpen their focus on the specific needs of their customers.

Throughout this issue of GOURMET INSIDER ® and on, retailers offer insight on what has allowed them to successfully sell a host of items from cutlery to kitchen electrics, and even socks. Yes. Socks.

Art and Martha Nading, owners of Greensboro, NC-based The Extra Ingredient, have added a boost to their bottom line sales with a line of, what they termed, “fancy” socks. The initial success has led the Nadings to expand their selection of footwear. (Read more about this in an upcoming web exclusive story on

While footwear might not be everyone’s cup of tea, others such as Pam Gabriel of Tyler, TX-based Sweet Gourmet brought in watches for Easter — they, too, were a hot item. The socks and watches, while admittedly unusual in the setting of a gourmet housewares store, shows a willingness for some retailers to take a chance with products that are outside their core assortments. In addition to strong sell-through, unique products also create a buzz and drive store traffic.

Within core categories, retailers that spoke with Gourmet Insider for this issue shared success stories about how they augmented assortments of cutlery and kitchen electrics to meet specific needs of their customers. Nancy Schneider of Edwardsville, IL-based The Chef’s Shoppe tailored her knife selection to hunters and butchers, once she found out that was a top trend in her area. And Ginger Cobl of The Cupboard, based in Decatur, AL, said that she puts a heavy emphasis on tomato knives for her customers who enjoy fried green tomatoes, naturally.

Taylor Erkkinen, the owner of The Brooklyn Kitchen, shared how she eliminated several well-known branded kitchen electrics along with upscale coffeemakers since, as she said, there’s a specialty coffee shop on every corner in Brooklyn. Waffle makers are among the top sellers in her store, as her Millennial customer base will often impulsively want to make waffles at home, and need to quickly purchase a unit.

Listening to customers and paying attention to the trends in your own community may force you to bring in a product that’s a bit different, change merchandising tactics or even throw out an old business model in order to grow into something more successful. There is no universal blueprint and no one-size-fits-all way of doing business.

As Penny Klinedinst, the second owner of Sioux Falls, SD-based Plum’s Cooking, told me recently when we were discussing some of the changes she made for her business, “If you want to do something, do it. If you’re passionate about it, you will be successful. Worry about the rest later.”

Whatever is needed to move forward, remember that in between those stacks of product is your personality. Your heart and soul and passion. As much as independent gourmet stores can be the same, those big personalities make each and every one vastly different.

So, throw out the blueprints and create your own best path to success.

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