|Sixty-four percent of kitchen gadgets are purchased on impulse, according to Riedel Market Group's research.|
Retailers of all stripes are looking for products that make shoppers open their wallets.
The answer may be kitchen gadgets.
Kitchen gadgets, those hand-held devices that hold the promise of making kitchen prep easier and, dare we say more fun, are often priced under $25, which helps consumers make impulsive buying decisions.
In TGR's State of the Industry Survey 2016, retailers noted that consumers are showrooming — price checking with a smart phone or tablet in-store and buying the item online — and the practice is commonplace. Bigger ticket items, such as cookware and small kitchen electrics, are more likely to cause shoppers to showroom. More and more retailers are pricing at the manufacturer's minimum advertised price, or MAP, so in most cases, there is little or no price difference.
How consumers are shopping, and shopping for kitchen gadgets, are changing; 64 percent of kitchen gadget are purchased on impulse, according to Riedel Marketing Group's (RMG) "Kitchen Gadget and Tool Market Tracker" released earlier this year.
Mary Liz Curtin, owner of Leon & Lulu, a destination home store in Clawson, Mich., includes kitchen tools in her store's diverse mix that includes furniture, specialty food and clothing. Located in a former theater and roller skating rink, the store has a fun and unique vibe. "We sell about 55 categories, but what we really sell is happiness," Curtin said at The Gourmet Retailer's 2016 Gourmet Insights seminar at Las Vegas Market.
Housewares is a secondary category for Leon & Lulu. "We do a lot with Fred & Friends (the Lifetime Brands line of whimsical kitchen gadgets and housewares tools). We do a lot with interesting items that are fun," she explains. "My rule is that it all has to work. If your spatula is shaped like a dinosaur, it still has to flip an egg. It has to earn its place in the drawer."
When it comes to kitchen gadgets, impulse purchases are the rule, not the exception, at Leon & Lulu.
"What I noticed is that the lady who walks into my store didn't even know she wanted one when she came into the store," says Curtin. Among the store's best sellers are a flower stem trimmer and red wine stain remover. These customers, mostly women, return to rebuy multiples of these "life-changing items" as gifts for their friends and family.
"We have found the housewares business to be surprisingly successful for us," she adds.
DIY and sustained interest in healthy eating have driven demand for some kitchen categories. Teresa Adams-Tomka, owner of Kitchen Collage in Des Moines, Iowa, says home preserving is popular in her community, and as a result, the store does a good business with home canning tools. "We have a farmers' market that is enormous," she says. The area, she adds, has a long tradition based on farming, but home canning know-how may have skipped a generation or two. And to make summer's bounty last, customers want to learn how to can or freeze.
"If you want fresh tasting fruits in the winter — you have to be fast and efficient," she advises.
The store stocks the Kilner jars, oversized stockpots, jelly bags and accessories and handy gadgets, such cherry pitters and apple peelers.
When summer's bounty is readily available at the farmers' market, roadside stands and gardens, the store stocks a variety of spirializers — from Paderno World Cuisine, Oxo and Helen Chin. "If people are kind of wavering, we want to make sure they get right one. We've done classes on spiralizers on how to use them, and how to use them more consistently," she says.
Adams-Tomka is a fan of, and has sold a lot of, the Paderno countertop unit — especially for slicing and spiralizing a mountain of produce. "The idea that you would hold a pencil sharpener to do four pounds of carrots is unfathomable. Most people don't have the dexterity to use those," she says, referring to the hand-held spiralizers.
Spiralizers are also popular at The Happy Cook in Charlottesville, Va. Like Kitchen Collage, the store is located in an area with a thriving farmers' market and has a clientele that is interested in healthy eating, explains Monique Moshier, owner. She stocks spiralizers from Paderno and recently added models from Oxo and Progressive. "Spiralizers are crazy popular," she says. In her store, Moshier and her staff demo how easy and fast one can spiralize vegetables using a countertop model. "People don't realize how easy it is to use. And they're amazed how fast it works," she says.
Spiralizers also are popular sellers at Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium in Brandon, Fla. Dave West, who owns the store with his wife Karen, says spiral cutters, both handheld and tabletop models, have been selling "extremely well." Another big seller for the Wests is the Chef'n Kale and Herb Stripper.
An add-on sale for the spiralizer is a safety glove. "Much like with a mandoline, we try to sell a glove with them," says Adams-Tomka. "If at any given moment, you are distracted, that's an expensive walk-in to the ER if you cut yourself really bad," adding that it is worth the $14-$20 investment.
Bartending essentials — twist spoons, strainers, muddlers — are also on the rise, thanks to the growing interest in home cocktailing.
At In the Kitchen in Pittsburgh, barware has been selling well for more than a year, and to maximize traffic and sell-through, barware was moved to the front of the store. DIY cocktail tools are attracting shoppers in the 25-45 age range, says KC Lapiana, owner.
"Last year if you would have asked me how many Hawthorne Strainers I've sold in the past year, maybe one a year," she says. "Now they sell like crazy.
"People are getting into it. They want to look like the bartender — have all his goodies to recreate this experience when they're entertaining at home," says Lapiana. Twist spoons, muddlers, copper cocktail shakers, and on the serveware side, the copper mugs for the Moscow Mules. The store sells two of Picnic Time's travel cocktail sets that include all the bar tools and glassware.
"It goes back to that authenticity to recreating those experiences at home with friends and family," says Lapiana.
Kathleen Taggart, director of Draeger's Home department at Draeger's Market, in San Mateo, Calif., has seen sustained demand for kitchen gadgets in recent years. "Our cooks' tools business is very strong. It has remained strong throughout the recession and throughout tough economic times. And I love it. If you need a grapefruit spoon, you are probably not going to take the time to get on the internet."
And since Draeger's Markets are full-service grocery stores, there's also opportunity to cross-merchandise gadgets in the produce department.
Kale strippers and spiralizers may be tools of the moment, but at Draeger's Markets three locations with home departments, Taggart and her team are sure to stock the basics, such as 4-ounce ramekins, kitchen twine, spatulas, graters and so forth.
"It gives me great pride when people come in and say, 'Oh my gosh. Your selection is better than Sur La Table.'"
Taggart looks at it as her "buying responsibility" to stock kitchen essentials. "If we are missing it, they're going to be annoyed. A lot of the cook's tools is the basics."
Farberware Bowl Huggers
Good Grips Countertop Spiralizer
Adjustable Oil Pourer
"Historically, most consumers made the final decision on the brand and item to buy while they were in the store after looking at the store's assortment of products," says A.J. Riedel, senior partner at RMG, a research firm based in Phoenix. "Today, an increasing number of shoppers decide which kitchen gadget they are going to buy before they go to the store."
A Connected Society
Product reviews are influencing buying decisions. From Q4 2014 to Q4 2015, the percent of people who based their purchase decision on product reviews more than doubled from 9 to 20 percent, says Riedel.
The takeaway for kitchen gadget retailers, she says, is to stock products that are "buzzworthy," or gadgets home cooks will want to recommend to friends and family and write rave reviews about.
Market Tracker reports provide essential insight into the what, where, why and how of Americans' food prep product buying decisions.