The Road Ahead
Last month we published Part 1 of this viewpoint, checking
the pulse of some leading independents who continued to
grow and thrive over the past few years. Here are more
thoughts they shared with us on the year ahead:
Minneapolis, Minn.-based Kitchen Window moved to new digs
in 2010, from a 10,500-square-foot location to a two-story
18,000-square-foot location designed to fit the cookware and
culinary store’s growing retail, classroom and storage demands.
Doug Huemoeller, owner and president, explained that now,
with a year in the new location, his goal is to continue to
focus on operating under a new business model
– one which developed from the enhanced
offerings resulting from the move.
“We are working to refine and improve
our options and improve our services to customers
now that we have more services available,” he said. “We
made so many changes last year, expanding the school,
changing the way we address retail.”
Huemoeller said the move drew phenomenal
response and sales growth of 35 to 40 percent.
“From that standpoint, I don’t have
many complaints overall,” he
remarked on the present
“I think the
consumer climate has been super positive. People are happy
and excited to take cooking classes and seem energetic about
Out on the West Coast, Sign of the Bear owners Laura and
Stephen Havlek have run their business for nearly 20 years
on Sonoma Square in California (the store opened in 1972).
“These are huge trends that are reshaping retail in America,”
she noted. “The desire for technology speaks to this –
imagining how to make your customers’ world work better.”
She continued, “One of the challenges of a transparent
economy is clutter and one of the benefits an independent
retailer can offer is a filter. So much of what has delivered
our growth is finding new products and keeping things
fresh for our customers. In order to be effective, we have
to be looking for innovation and new products. Far and
away the most effective use of our time is the days we
spend at the Gourmet Catalog beginning-of-year meeting,
AmericasMart and the Housewares show in Chicago.”
Havlek said that two important trends pushing retail, at
all levels, are the demand for both reach and relevance.
“I think we are in a very dynamic time in the way that
people value goods and services, and the way we maintain reach and relevance. I view that as a huge thing for
independent retail,” she said. “We are definitely seeing a
new awareness of how people make purchasing decisions.
Americans’ buying practices have been rewritten in a very
good way in the last 20 months.”
In the bigger picture, Havlek looks to projects such as The
Giving Pledge, noting that she believes it speaks well to
where America is headed. The Giving Pledge is an effort
to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America
to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the
philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their
choice either during their lifetime or after their death.
She concluded, “It illustrates how those who have been
more fortunate can help people, their communities and
their economies. Hard times help to develop new models
that work. Sometimes that’s what you need to have a
catalytic move to a good new order.”
And so it goes in the world of independent retailing.
Cheers to 2011 and Happy New Year!