While certainly a workhouse in and out of the kitchen, the apron has recently gained fashion icon status among the culinary crowd. The textile has also become in vogue again, as home cooks and bakers snap and share their latest creations on Instagram, oftentimes wearing fashion-forward aprons. Vendors are paying close attention to colors, patterns and designs, ensuring there are options that suit a variety of personalities and home décor styles. Kids, too, have gotten in on the action, with vendors adding kid-size aprons, often matching the adult ones.
As the trend is continuing to grow in reach, independent gourmet kitchenware shop owners have embraced the opportunity to stock more aprons. They have been greeted by increased sales in the category as a reward.
“When I look at the numbers on dishtowels, cloths, mitts and aprons, kitchen textiles is a big category for us. Aprons have especially become so popular, it’s interesting because they have become a fashion must-have now. I certainly have the utilitarian butcher-style aprons on hand, which I’ve stocked for years, but now I have a whole different section devoted to the more ‘girly’ ones. Anything that has a ruffle sells really well,” said Martha Nading, co-owner, The Extra Ingredient in Greensboro, SC.
And that’s not to say that textiles as a broader category is necessarily driven by aprons, but the recent success many retailers have seen in sales can be traced back to this fun accessory.
“Overall, textiles is definitely a good category for us,” said Melissa Turpin, co-owner, Honeycomb Kitchen Shop in Rogers, AR. “In quantity, it makes up about 15% of our business. If you compare the sales, you have to sell a lot of aprons to match the price of one nice piece of cast iron. But, I really believe every kitchen store needs a good selection of textiles. Our apron selection is large. It is a great category for us even outside of the fourth quarter.”
Meanwhile, at Claremont, CA-based The Hens’ Kitchen Shoppe, store owner Mary O’Brien, commented that she, too, has found the sweet spot with her textiles assortment. She explained that being able to provide a sizeable balance of utilitarian offerings with those that also have a bit of wit and whimsy to them have been one of the keys to her sales success.
Textiles, especially aprons, are such an expression of one’s personality as well. In the case of The Hens’ Kitchen Shoppe, aprons have also been a boon in the gifting segment. This is augmented by the fact that they are merchandised in real life.
“Our customers love our aprons. We have a variety from England that are very popular and we even wear one as our store uniform,” she said.
And, said O’Brien, the demand for aprons has also spurred sales of other textiles that follow the same vain.
“We can’t keep our dishtowels, dishcloths and scrubbies in stock, as well as a variety of printed towels with funny, almost snarky, sayings that customers love— and laugh over. Textiles are always a good price point and when paired with an olive wood spoon, colorful spatula, or hand soap, they make a thoughtful, sweet gift,” O’Brien said.
However, with such a wide array of options within the textiles category, knowing just what your customers are looking for is key to a successful textile program. For example, Nading commented that designs that feature dogs and/or cats are a huge seller and can be merchandised throughout the store, mixed in with other pet-related goods that the store stocks. Kids aprons have also been trending in her store, something she said is influenced by a shared commitment in the culinary world in teaching and encouraging children how to cook, bake and enjoy food.
Turpin too, has been doing her best to keep kids aprons in stock, as her customers are drawn to them more often.
“Kids aprons are very popular. With the help of the Food Network channel airing kids cooking shows, there are more young ones getting involved in the kitchen, which we love. A huge trend for us are matching kid/adult aprons and are happy to see more vendors are offering them,” she said.
O’Brien also closely watches her customers’ tastes and carefully curates her selection of textiles to create a balance inspired by her customers, the store’s style and patterns, colors and styles that are making the rounds in social media.
“We try to keep abreast of what influencers are talking about so we can keep current. We’re seeing a more updated modern farmhouse style. Still neutral, but some are wanting to add little pops of color here and there. Being a boutique style kitchen shop, our customers are typically purchasing for gifts, but always manage to find a little something for themselves, too,” she said.
Another point retailers agreed on is that when it comes to any textiles, or any category for that matter, recognizing untapped areas of interest that may be worth an investment and what may need to be cut, is also crucial.
For Turpin, since opening in 2017, she has learned that fabric tablecloths are just something her customers don’t ask about enough and has since removed them from her store’s inventory.
Meanwhile at The Extra Ingredient, Nading explained that placemats have become a boon for her bottom line.
“Placemats are so popular here, thanks to the popularity of indoor/outdoor dining. We carry a variety of materials and styles to suit different tastes. They are good solution for those looking to set a more casual dining table,” she said.
Another trend she noted for entertaining is the growing popularity of paper cocktail napkins, paper plates and complementary accessories that can help a consumer build a festive, yet more practical table and boost a sale.
“Anything with a funny saying will sell. They are the best add-on sale,” she said.