Today's specialty food market is vibrant and growing, and it's an opportunity for housewares retailers to grow their business, said Ron Tanner of the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade (NASFT). Tanner joined with two specialty food retailers to present, "Specialty Foods and Housewares: Crafting a Winning Combination," during the 2007 International Home & Housewares Show.
The retailers are Laurie Semon of Olive's Gourmet Grocer in Long Beach, CA, and Willard Doxey from A Southern Season in Chapel Hill, NC. Semon and Doxey told how combining specialty food and housewares has created an additional and steady customer base.
Based on research performed by Specialty Food Magazine and NASFT, Tanner said that today's young specialty food consumer is typically between the ages of 18 and 24, affluent and active. This consumer likes to experiment with recipes and purchases organic foods on a regular basis.
The group is primarily purchasing coffee/tea, olive oil, cheese, and chocolate. They mainly purchase specialty food for the taste, although, "A good majority are also interested in food quality, and their overall health," Tanner said.
More than 88 percent of all specialty food consumers purchase food through a supermarket, while 49 percent purchase through a specialty food store and 29 percent through a deli. They exercise regularly, watch public television, and attend the theater, and they are more likely to travel for pleasure, including adventure travel or exotic vacations.
In short, they are the ideal customer for the retailer who is looking to build a strong and sustaining base that will repeatedly buy specialty foods and housewares. "These consumers choose specialty foods as part of their lifestyle, and they can be loyal customers for years," Tanner said.
Semon is a former Whole Foods executive who opened a specialty grocery store, Olives Gourmet Grocer, nearly two years ago. The store's neighborhood, only a few blocks from the beach, is a community where people walk to nearby businesses.
The store prides itself in providing specialty fresh food with the friendliness of a neighborhood grocer. Within a few months, Semon and her co-owner, Erin O'Hagan, were looking to increase their product offerings, and they decided upon housewares because it was an easy fit, Semon said.
"We added items that were practical and that went with the food that we were selling, such as pepper mills to go with specialty pepper." Within a year, they had built enough business to open a housewares store several doors away from the food shop.
"We opened the housewares store purely out of the need to add more space," Semon said. "But we have found that our customers want us to help them in both areas: food and housewares. It's a natural fit."
Doxey is part of a large and established regional retailer, A Southern Season, which has combined specialty foods and housewares to create a multi million dollar business in Chapel Hill. The 59,000 square foot, $25 million store grew from a one person coffee roastery.
It features specialty coffee and tea, a full service wine bar, a House and Home department, a floral market, a cooking school and culinary lessons. A part of the store's success, said Doxey, is the careful placement of housewares.
"We aim to capture the consumer and to provide them with everything they need when they shop," he said. "The key is correct product placement. For example, we place tea makers next to the tea selection and stemware next to the wine. The housewares always appear as shoppers interact with the food that we offer."
An additional aspect of the store's success, said Doxey, is frequent in store events that showcase both the food and housewares, such as a knife demonstration and sharpening class, using some of the gourmet foods the store offers. "There is something happening with food and housewares at the store every day," said Doxey.
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