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Get Out Of The Box

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During the past year, I’ve had so many wonderful, in-depth conversations with our Gourmet Insiders. Whether it’s calls or texts on my cell phone — lovingly referred to as “The Batphone” — or via e-mail, I enjoy and appreciate the fact that when there’s a hot topic to be discussed, retailers reach out and share their thoughts and insights.

Recently, Laura Havlek, owner of Sonoma, CA-based Sign Of The Bear, and I had one such conversation. She e-mailed me after seeing some store photos in GOURMET INSIDER® and wanted to chat about inventory management. It was an eye opening conversation and one that I felt needed to be shared.

Laura mentioned that she has seen photos of some stores in our issues during the past few months and has eyed some inventory that went stale for her years prior. While acknowledging that different items sell differently depending on location, she did emphasize that some of these products were not only stale, but they were also old.

However, Laura had a solution to this problem and one that she uses in her store. She emphasized that retailers need to use their eyes — and their sales reports — prior to the holiday season instead of after.

Products that have grown stale should be re-merchandised creatively, which could give the shoppers a fresh look at the same item and, possibly, lead to a purchase. But, she suggests, don’t wait for a post-Christmas clearance sale. This not only liquidates merchandise, but also clears shelf space to increase the volume of top sellers or new items that will be introduced during the first part of the New Year. This advice could alter how you think about inventory not only during the holidays, but also during the entire year. You may have to re-think marketing strategies or merchandising opportunities. It also forces retailers to break outside the box and could lead to additional opportunities for success.

Speaking of getting outside the box, The Kitchen Engine in Spokane, WA, literally took their selection of coffeemakers out of their boxes in an effort to generate more sales. The coffee lab and scientific efforts of Nicole Frickle and her husband, Eric, crossed my desk a few weeks back. In speaking with Nicole (see story page 20), she said that developing a coffee lab was vital to her store successfully selling products in the coffee segment. With so many different and pricey machines in her assortment, she wanted to make sure her staff was well-educated about each product and that her customers had enough confidence to make a purchase.

The result? Sales quadrupled.

The efforts of Laura Havlek and Nicole Frickle again demonstrate the best elements of the gourmet housewares industry. The ability to think differently, take a chance and not be tied to the planograms from corporate headquarters provides each retailer an opportunity to meet the specific needs of their customers. It’s also why independent retailers need to communicate and share ideas in an ever-changing retail environment. As we begin 2017, force yourself to think outside the box. Your customers will thank you. And your bottom line may reap the benefits as well.


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