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Personal Shopper

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The best part of being at the International Home + Housewares Show is the opportunity to reconnect with so many of our gourmet insiders. From the HTI and Gourmet Catalog Buying Group member meetings, to vendor parties and just running into folks on the show floor, I felt as if I was always waving to one of you.

Sitting through numerous meetings and educational sessions in Chicago, there was a constant question coming from retailers; “How do we best serve our customers?” No matter the topic, the conversation would continually find its way back to the issue of customer service.

Perhaps the best story I heard was from Karen and Brad Hughes, who just recently opened Artichoke in Over-the-Rhine, OH. The couple wanted to build community excitement about the store and introduce the brand prior to opening. They rented out a vacant store and held a pop-up shop on the weekends throughout the holiday season. However, on New Year’s Day, Brad got a call from a customer looking to make a repeat visit. They went to the pop-up location, realized the store was empty and called Brad. So, he did what anyone would do on New Year’s Day — he opened the store for her.

The ongoing challenge for gourmet housewares store owners is meeting the individual need of each customer who walks through their doors, or those who call during a national holiday.

As a Millennial, I usually know what I want to buy, where to buy it, the size and color of the item, and of course, whether it can be easily cleaned. Most times, I find an overly exuberant sales associate to be a distraction to my shopping experience.

But during a recent unexpected shopping adventure to a national chain for some new cutlery, I needed some help. After spending a few minutes hunting for a new knife, I tracked down a sales person to seek some assistance. While a purchase was made, I left the store that day with a dull feeling about my overall shopping experience.

Coincidentally, the topics of customer service and cutlery are featured in this issue of GOURMET INSIDER®. Retailers discussed the importance of educating their customers about cutlery. Letting them hold the product, making sure they have the right accessories, using the proper cutting boards and, in some cases, providing them with knife sharpening services are all cited as keys to successfully selling the category.

Retailers, such as Liana Ottaviani of Fante’s Kitchen Shop, discuss the importance of properly sharpening knives with customers when they make a purchase. Duck Soup’s Louise Mawhinney allows her customers to bring their own knives to her knife skills classes. Paul Ayo of E’s Kitchen always has potatoes in his demo kitchen so customers can test cutlery before making a purchase.

Independent gourmet store owners constantly have the opportunity to make every purchase an experience for their customers.

That experience is what makes a new customer become a repeat customer and what makes a repeat customer bring in new potential customers. And that’s good for business.


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