In my last column, which was written right before the anticipated 2020 Inspired Home Show, I spoke about complacency. The independent gourmet housewares industry had spent years fighting battles — succession; online retailers; showrooming; convenience shopping; MAP pricing; selling to several generations at once; value shoppers. You name it, there was a retailer in this industry that was fighting it.
Unfortunately, none of us knew that we would all soon be fighting an all-out war. No one was able to anticipate what was about to happen to our world, our way of life and our businesses. But all of you reacted and respond- ed with such poise, grace and grit. While some had to close down completely, whether due to optics or government rules, nothing seemed to be able to dampen the spirit of this industry. Those that were able to stay open began offering curbside pickup and local delivery or allowing customers to shop via FaceTime.
Others that couldn’t remain open moved their cooking classes to an online format. Some recommitted themselves to their online business and beefed up website selection. Some retailers without online stores started them. There were Facebook Live shopping events, online garage sales to reduce what would have been sale inventory, contests for customers — even vendors kicking in with online demonstrations developed specifically for each retailer.
Speaking of vendors, they, too, came to the aid of this industry in a big way. Whether it was reducing inventory orders, creating marketing packages, or allowing retailers to receive some sort of compensation via a vendor’s own online sales channel, many of them showed the independent market just how important it is.
The solutions seemed only as endless as the imagination. There were no laurels to rest on, no “but we always do it this way,” to fall back on. There wasn’t any time for dragging feet — there was only time for action. And I know I speak for the whole team when I say that we always believed in each and every one of you, but now are in awe of you, too.
As we at GOURMET INSIDER® watched all of this happening, we knew that we had to be both proactive and reactive alongside the industry we love. But, with a new issue looming, we were struggling with how to proceed. How could we call retailers — people who have become our friends and family — and ask them what was selling? How could we speak about market trends when the market was, for lack of a better word, in flux? So, just like you have all had to change some — if not all — aspects of your business, we changed ours, too.
Welcome to the Gourmet Insider pandemic response issue. Through the constant communications we’ve had with so many of you during this time, we packed the magazine with everything that may help kick-start business again. A playbook, if you will, for lessons learned, big ideas and tips and tricks. Just because this pandemic may be easing, does not mean some of these tactics couldn’t be the next thing to move the needle for your business. People will eventually want to shop again. They will want the experience they were missing. But now, they may also expect to be catered to the way they were when times were tough.
The issue also contains information about moving ahead. We spoke to both the HTI and GC Buying Groups, retailers and experts about what the ramp up is predicted to be like. We dug deep to find experts that are forecasting what housewares sales will look like after the pandemic, as well as what food and cooking trends will stick. We want to ensure this industry is ready to bounce back strong.
Those things I said about complacency — there is not one of you out there that fits that bill anymore. All of you stepped up to find your sweet spot, your ‘normal’ in a time that was clearly not and in doing so, you re-committed yourself to your customers. And many of them re-committed themselves to you, through the purchase of gift cards, online shopping and a real desire to support their local businesses.
It’s been a tough year for many. And for many, it will continue to be a tough year. But after a storm, there is always a bit of sunshine. It’s time to turn your face towards the sun and move forward into this brave new world.