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Taking Stock

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It’s inventory time — a time to assess what sold through, what’s left on the shelves and what the shopping priorities need to be along the winter trade show circuit.

Nobody among independent kitchenware retailers can be faulted for their focus on product supply this time of year. The push for product, as it should, drives new-year’s resolutions by these merchants to reset their stores with the most compelling and productive selections.

It can be an exciting quest, a virtual clean slate full of potential. It can also be exhausting, requiring storeowners to juggle the need to be on hand to run small businesses with the need to be on the road perhaps more then they’d like to replenish those businesses.

Beyond product, this is also a time to take stock of a store’s whole operation, from staffing and customer service to promotion and technology. None is any more or less vital in today’s complicated retail environment. They are priorities 1A, 1B, 1C and 1D, and not necessarily in that order.

The resistance to anything that threatens to commoditize an independent retail business is integral to the endless fight for relevance pledged by proprietors in this channel long before Walmart, Bed Bath & Beyond and Amazon came along.

The unprecedented speed of competitive change today has forced many storeowners outside of their traditional comfort zones to keep from falling further behind the instigators of such disruption. Investments in time and resources required for promising new enterprises such as digital marketing and commerce platforms, however, can’t come at the expense of personal service touches needed to distinguish even the most progressive local cook shop from online marketplaces or the nearest big box.

Entrepreneur Samantha Fagan and her mother, Carolyn, embraced this necessity when they opened Culinary Square a couple of years ago in the once-neglected River Street section of downtown Troy, NY, near Albany, now enjoying a trendy urban revival (see story page 28).

Fagan is focused devoutly on understanding and serving the neighborhood’s growing population of young adults on an almost granular basis. She is succeeding by providing these newbie foodies with basic cooking tools, cocktail accessories and guidance aligned precisely to the flavors and experiences emanating from the burgeoning restaurant and bar scene along River Street.

Culinary Square is presented as a vital community hub, bringing together goods, services and residents up and down the neighborhood. Fagan channels her competitive and creative energy into such programs as a home-to-store cookbook club as well as partnerships with local restaurants to steer clear of chain and online retailers and keep traffic flowing into her store.

Old school meets new school.

The Culinary Square story, like those of others GOURMET INSIDER® will look to chronicle in the coming year, affirm the important place for the locally authentic, independent storefront in today’s complicated retailing environment.

That’s something for new and veteran retailers alike to take stock in as they venture out to replenish their businesses in 2018.


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