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Major Milestones: New Consumer Patterns Drive Registry Evolution

It was once practice to register for housewares as a bride and groom were setting out to create a new life together. From new kitchen tools to cookware sets and China place settings that were anticipated to be used during holidays and special family gatherings, registering was a rite of passage, reserved for those who were taking their lives to the next level.

Now, however, it isn’t just marriage that has consumers looking to register for new housewares and home décor items. Many are tying the knot later in life, blending products found in both households, while filling in necessary holes in assortment. Some are getting divorced and are looking for help to start over. And others still are graduating and are gearing up for a life independent of their parents. Each of these consumers are turning to registries to help them prepare for their next major life event. Instead of the shift hindering the registry sector, it has, in fact, presented new opportunities for the independent housewares channel.

“We do registry for new homes and graduations as well as bridal and gift registries. We also have wish lists for people who are looking to outfit a new kitchen whether it’s a remodel or they’re moving or downsizing,” said Alicia Cahill, owner of The Kitchen Chick in Galveston, TX.

Cahill said that part of the service she offers is individual attention, which is a benefit to those registering at the store. She explained that she requires an appointment and she walks the store with the individual or couple registering.

“I take that time to figure out their specific needs. Sometimes we have people who are coming in and combining households. Then we have people that come in and already know what they want,” she said.

Part of the reason Cahill prefers an appointment is that once she gets a sense of their style, she can further assist the registry process by showing product that isn’t in the store as well.

“After I realize what they’re looking for, I can show them other options that are available. Maybe they would like another color or there are other products in the same line they may be interested in. I take out all of the books and let them look through them in order to get a broader scope of products,” she said.

However, what’s available may differ by timing and season, said Carol Schroeder, co-owner of Madison, WI-based Orange Tree Imports. To combat this, she discusses the event timeline with her registrants.

“I often tell people not to register for an event too early in case of a stock change or in case a product or line is discontinued,” she said.

While Schroeder encourages registrants to make sure they have all the basics they are going to need in order to outfit a new kitchen, she also discusses making gift registry special for both the gift-giver and receiver.

“We try to get people to pick more unique gifts for their registry. For example, with Polish Pottery, the pieces are all different. This makes the person giving the gift feel as they are giving a gift with personal flair. And the person getting the gift can use it thoughtfully,” she said.

Keep It Simple

When it comes to best practices for any kind of registry, both Cahill and Schroeder explained that keeping things as simple and easy for the recipient as well as the purchaser are the keys to their registry successes.

Cahill said that one of her best practices is to keep a list of what was purchased from the registry and who purchased it. That way, the registered person or couple can just get a print-out after the event and don’t have to worry about keeping track of gifts.

As for her registry program, she keeps printed copies in the store for browsers and then has updated lists on the store’s website in PDF form. This allowed her to get into the registry business without having to make a lofty time and financial investment.

“Registries don’t have to be fancy and interactive. Purchasers just want to see what’s on the list and how much things cost, so they can evaluate where they are with their budgets,” she said.

Cahill said this practice has also helped with last minute purchases for a wedding or housewarming. Galveston, she noted, is a destination area where many people from other places choose to get married. She said that having the hard copies available in the store have allowed purchasers to come to town and purchase off the registry quickly, without having to worry about bringing it with them while traveling.

“I’m local and we can make sure the gift is wrapped and delivered, or they know they can come in and get something without having to worry about it beforehand. Because we are a destination, we encourage that and our registrants know that there will be people who won’t want to purchase online,” she said.

Schroeder, too, makes it easy for those purchasing the gifts. After the purchase is made and a few products have accumulated, she gives the registrant a call to let them know there are gifts available for them.

“They let us know if they want us to wait or if they are going to come down to pick them up. It makes it easy and convenient for everyone, and really highlights the personal service and attention we give,” she said.

And, she said, keeping it personal is something that stays top-of-mind with the staff when it comes to registry development. Schroeder said that even though registrants get individual attention from the staff at Orange Tree Imports, she still looks for ways to make the process easier on those registering. To this, she said that the staff has put together a list of some basic necessities that people should consider when looking to outfit a new home.

“We selected our Top 10 registry items. We think that will help people when it comes down to decision making,” she said.

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