Time to take stock

Housewares retailers should consider diversifying outside the kitchen and dining room into homeware and giſtware, says retail consultant Caroline Rowell And now there is a plethora of TV cooking shows,

covering many skill levels. The dishes created on air are inspiring but the programmes never focus on the equipment being used. In fact, if analysed, it’s a narrow selection of skillets, baking trays and knives, which hardly encourages viewers to build up their own housewares armoury. TV series that are focused on homes are a good indication of trends. Whether it’s a selling, buying or remodelling show, the kitchen is highlighted as an entertaining area. Participants will profess to loving cooking - but what they really mean is that they like entertaining, and their requirement is for the kitchen to be a place to prepare food whilst being part of their dinner party or family gathering - not where they can put their sous vide or copper saucepan collection.

“ It’s an exciting time for retailers who are able to adapt their


t struck me that this year’s trade shows were the result of the growing shiſt away from the traditional housewares marketplace – and

that it’s time to acknowledge that such changes are not purely down to the internet. The market has evolved in some fundamental

ways but I believe those changes are opening up opportunities for reactive retailers.

Why should you change? Whether it’s down to customers’ busy lifestyles, shorter attention spans, or ability to shop online, the retail environment is quite simply not as linear as it once was. Department stores? There are too many doing the same thing on a long lead time, which prevents them from reacting to sudden trends and customer moods. Plus, cookware nowadays is made to such a

quality standard that is doesn’t need replacing so often. In the 1990s, we were selling yellow, red or British Racing green pans, as customers looked to co-ordinate them with their kitchens. Today, stainless steel or hard anodised does not go out of fashion, and few people can afford to update Le Creuset colours every time they redecorate. So retailers cannot rely on replacement business.

October/November 2018

product ranges and in-store

presentation ” Lack of space is another factor. Housing stock is

low and new builds are smaller than they once were. With less storage space, families have to select what they value and want to give room to. Their choice tends to be items that are personal to them and contribute to their style, such as wall art or ceramics in family living areas - not 12-plus dinner place settings and glassware ‘for best’.

How to change Own the room, not just the activity. The kitchen is now the hub of the home, where families congregate to eat, watch TV and socialise with friends. Retailers now have an entire room to buy for.

• Repeat business: Diversifying across more home- related product areas gives your customers more reasons to come back. We know getting them across the threshold is a feat, so make sure they don’t regret it: retain your expertise but give them

additional, loosely related product areas to continue shopping.

• Stock turn: Decorative pieces are more transient than before and as such will need rotating through the business. This creates a dynamic environment, reasons for continued visits, and also drives stock turn and cash flow.

• Engage with your customers: Broadening your product mix will increase the time spent by customers in your store, which will provide many more opportunities for you to engage with them. Exploit your retail passion and capitalise on the trend against online anonymity and towards more meaningful relationships. (This is something that multiples simply do not do.)

• Gifting: To focus primarily on Christmas is to ignore Birthday, Get Well, Congratulations or Cheer Up gifts. Customers want functionality in their gifts but paired with indulgence - and it’s not the biggest leap to offer candles or decorative accessories as part of a theme, be it colour, seasonal or scent.

• Self treating: Shopping may not be the leisure activity it once was, but it remains a ‘feel good’ exercise and this offers up excellent opportunities. If we’re brutally honest, few of us who would consider a Julienne Peeler as a treat. But I’m sure we would all agree that there’s something rather pleasing about taking home a small item that we’ve picked up unexpectedly which enhances our home. By looking at your budget, with gifts in mind, you will be able mix lifestyle lines such as enamelware and vases into cookware displays. Thankfully, there are many customers who love to truly cook and who value product expertise. And those customers are actually more open-minded now to product mixes - as long as the ranges flow and make sense. Your job as a retailer is to challenge their expectations without startling them.

It’s an exciting time for retailers who are able to adapt their product ranges and in-store presentation. Understanding why or how the market changes have come about is helpful, and to some extent can be prescriptive of your new range. Your opportunity is to be there with products that support your customers’ lifestyle aspirations.

• Caroline Rowell is the director of Invicta Retail Consultancy. She has 23 years of buying experience with key high street retailers including Fenwick, House of Fraser and Heal’s.

• Caroline’s contact details are: Mobile: 07958 712805 Email: TW: @invictaretai | 41

talking trade

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