In The Kitchen’s KC Lapiana Discusses Diversifying Product Mix

During the last several years, the independent gourmet channel has faced increased competition from online shopping channels and big box stores. This has required store owners to re-think and re-shape their business models. These changes have ranged from shifting marketing dollars to digital platforms and offering in-store experiences to entice customers.

However, KC Lapiana, president of HTI Buying Group and owner of Pittsburgh, PA-based In The Kitchen, told GOURMET INSIDER® in a recent interview that while ways of doing things have changed, product mix has to evolve with it. And, she doesn’t mean just more current gadgets or cookware with the latest technology.

“I used to be able to count on my top five categories, but when those sales slow, what can I replace it with? Retailers will look at new categories like pet, gift and travel. Five years from now, people who differentiate themselves will survive. When they zig, you have to zag. Retailers that want to make it will have to sit down and ask themselves what they can do differently,” she said.

The mix, she said, is able to complement the hard line offerings that gourmet housewares retailers already have without having to make a heavy investment in refrigeration units, like for meats and cheeses, or do research on wine sales/wine clubs (and all the laws that come with them) or apply for liquor licenses. Additionally, many vendors in the housewares arena, like Dexas and French Bull, already have offerings in pet, gift and travel, which allows for retailers to simply add lines without having to get to know a new company and new sales rep.

“Retailers have to start thinking about what these things mean to their customer, they have to begin moving in this fashion in order to pick up new customers and bring in older ones,” she said. “You have to get creative to get shoppers in the store and it’s not just by having a sale. You have to sit down and ask yourself what you can do differently.”