HTI Buying Group, which is marking its 20th anniversary this year, has seen its share of changes in the independent gourmet housewares channel through its tenure in the industry. It has helped members through booming economies, downturns, changes in consumer spending patterns, web-based purchasing and the evolution of Amazon.
KC Lapiana, president of HTI Buying Group, recently spoke to executive managing editor, Emily Cappiello, about the evolution of the group, some of its biggest successes and what the future holds for its members.
GOURMET INSIDER: What sparked Bob Coviello to start the group 20 years ago?
KL: Bob Coviello was a well-accomplished retailer with major market experience running a multiple store operation. His vision for HTI was to provide a solid foundation of educational values to the membership. He understood the need to level the playing field against big box purchasing advantages.
GI: How has the buying group evolved in the last 20 years?
KL: Since it’s inception, HTI was based on first hand industry knowledge and few technical skills or solutions. What HTI started 20 years ago is now in a museum — what the housewares industry was 20 years ago is also in that same museum. The evolution of HTI has been based on the needs of our members. As the industry and our members evolve, we at HTI Buying Group will move in sync with them by providing programs that will increase business. Education continues to be the cornerstone of the HTI platform. HTI Buying Group is owned and operated by a retailer for retailers.
GI: What has been some of the biggest successes for the group?
KL: HTI’s success is measured by the members. We feel this every time they apply a specific program or apply our educational programming and have experienced measurable and positive successes to their businesses. HTI continues to see the need and desire from our membership to continue to bring educational opportunities to both retailers and vendors.
GI: What challenges have made it difficult for the industry though the last 20 years?
KL: The change in consumer behavior, their buying habits and the growth of e-commerce, and they continue to be the biggest challenge facing our brick and mortar Stores. HTI is dedicated to finding solutions to meet the evolving challenges in retail. The importance of being part of HTI is to continue to provide opportunities to work with vendors and retailers on relationships and programs that elevate the success of brick and mortar retailers.
GI: What’s next for HTI?
KL: Our next evolution is to provide resources for members to survive the changes in the industry. Digital will continue to grow, and retailers will need to address and pair this growth with an omnichannel and digital strategy. Stores will need to adapt to provide customers more opportunities to purchase their products. Brick and mortar stores are not dying — they are evolving. The stores that embrace the evolution will be successful. HTI provides resources for our members to survive by offering proprietary marketing, promotion and analytic tools for them. HTI is working on finding more solutions and providing a platform for our members to utilize.