By Micah Cheek
Jill Foucré, Owner of Marcel’s Culinary Experience, has a tried-and-true strategy for last-minute gift sales. She has arranged the front of her store to be accessible to customers running in for a quick hostess gift or holiday item. “We do a ton of walking in and not knowing what [they’re] looking for,” says Foucré. “We have an array of products that cover an array of price points. If you come in and say, ‘I want to do something super special,’ we can cover that too.”
Marcel’s specializes in arranging little collections of two or three items arranged by theme. A food product like artisan dried pasta or a spice blend can make a nice centerpiece for some small items. “I love really great quality food products, [like] a really nice olive oil. Not so much a bottle of wine, but something I would cook with. Something you wouldn’t buy for yourself,” says Foucré. “We also have things like salt boxes – we’ll do that with a nice salt, or a mill. We have a lot of cocktail accessories, and we’ve got some really fantastic bitters that we can build into a cocktail thing.”
For folks who don’t know what they are looking for, Foucré recommends having some go-to items to recommend. “One of the things we always tell our staff is, ‘Always have three or four things in mind.’ I don’t want the staff there hemming and hawing. Because we carry a lot of local artists and food, we really try to be unique,” says Foucré. Handmade or unusual items are good suggestions, because it lowers the chance of the gift receiver getting multiples of the same gift. Handmade serveware has that individual look, and also makes itself a handy container for other items. “We carry a lot of different ceramic bowls – some of them are dipping dishes, some of them are ice cream bowl-sized – and we do tons of stuff with those. We’ll take a bowl, we’ll put in maybe a salt or herb blend and an olive oil, or something like that. Those tend to be very popular,” says Foucré. “The vessel will be part of what they bought. It they’re doing a baking thing, a glass bowl becomes part of the gift.” Bowls from ceramic companies like Carmel Ceramica can make a statement. Inspired by the beautiful gardens seen over Carmel, their porcelain Flower Garden collection has a hand-carved design and is safe for use in both dishwashers and microwaves.
Having a range of seasonal items available is an easy way to supply this need during the holiday season. “I love seasonal things. I love the things that you put away and bring out again,” says Foucré. “We generally have a very good selection of seasonal home décor things.” Even seasonal items aren’t needed, something printed with a statement shows that the consumer put some thought into what the receiver likes. “We have a lot of kitchen towels that aren’t seasonal,” says Foucré. “ellembee, they do towels with saying on them, and we sell literally hundreds of those. When you’re going to your book group and want to bring a little something, they’re great and a little irreverent.”
Candles on their own can seem like bland gifts, but a little something extra can make them special. “We sell a lot of scented candles in jars. We have them from a company called Lasco, Detroit Rose, we have a lot of different kinds that are great for hostess gifts,” says Foucré. “They can be a standalone, and we have a lot of fun matches we can sell them. Skeem [Design] sells some pretty matches in jars, we almost always will sell them.” Skeem Designs has matches in multiple colors and designs, packaged in tins and jars with different symbols and sayings on them. Some sets even have lines of poetry printed on the individual match sticks.
The Prodigio is a stunning cookbook and tablet stand made of beautiful acacia wood with a tempered glass plate to guard against common kitchen splatters. The Prodigio can be angled perfectly to function in either portrait or landscape position, while the glass protects treasured books and recipes. The Prodigio is part of Picnic Time’s Heritage Collection product line, which was developed in partnership with Chef Fabio Viviani. Inspired by Viviani’s rustic, gourmet cooking style, this premier line of products features items that both assist the home chef during cooking, and add style to the presentation.
by Lorrie Baumann
Kitchens used to be spaces defined by the color of their cubical steel appliances. But over the past few decades, they have evolved from quasi-industrial work spaces for the assembly line production of meals into gathering places for the entire family. As they’ve become living spaces rather than just working spaces, they’ve also become a setting in which the home cook can demonstrate good taste in a multitude of ways and add warmth to the space without turning on the oven.
Now, kitchens can be beautiful, worthy of being seen by anyone invited into the home. Thus, the continuing popularity of the open plan kitchen.
As kitchens have opened out, so have the opportunities for you, as you continue to redefine your store to meet the changing needs of customers with an evolving sense of the role they want their kitchens to play in their lives. You’ve become the place they come to gather the things they need to help them enjoy their time in their kitchens. You don’t just help them feed their families; you also help them feed their souls.
The marketplace has a lot of help for you as you figure out how to do this, and many of the vendors who displayed their products at this summer’s Las Vegas Market have ideas for you to consider.
Ganz, a giftware company established in 1950, is offering a Kitchen Clock that features serving utensils and eating utensils to mark the hours. It retails for about $75. The same company offers a variety of decorative plaques, many inspirational and spiritual, but the line also includes some sassy spark. For instance: “The Woman’s Guide to Love & Lasting Relationships,” which advises that it’s good to find a man who makes you laugh, a man with a good job who can cook, a man who is honest, a man who will pamper with gifts, a man who is awesome in bed and then to make sure that these five men never meet.
Timeless By Design‘s Friendship Recipe plaque calls for “2 Cups of Trust, 2 Cups of Mutual Respect” and other ingredients listed on a faux cork board. The model number for this item is 13501, and the same company offers plaques featuring silverware pieces and is featuring a new Spanish line.
Melrose International has a farmhouse collection that features sculptural pieces made of metal to help home cooks create “farm to fork” ambiance in their own homes. Model 66335 GY/BR is a wire basket in a pig design, and 70728 is a metal basket that holds two mason jars. Model 70047 is a 6-inch tall by 11.5-inch wide container suggesting a pig that would work as either a serving tray or platter, and model 70268 is a two-piece set of metal pig platters that retails for about $39.
P. Graham Dunn celebrates its mission-driven family heritage and small family farmers with its range of inspirational and aspirational wood plaques that are handcrafted in the U.S. The Farmer’s Market box, which hangs on the wall, is model PNL0595 and retails for around $30, while the plaque that reads simply “Farmers Market” is new to the collection.
Designs Combined Inc., which has been importing home décor and seasonal products since 2005, offers a line of signs made from corrugated galvanized in that make a definitive farmhouse kitchen statement. Model HK453 reads “Market,” HK454 reads “Kitchen,” and JE577 reads “Organic.” Model JJ213 is a cute ceramic set of salt and pepper shakers in the form of hatching eggs, and MP403 is a ceramic sugar and creamer set decorated with a cow image in relief.
From RAZ Imports, Inc, model 3857244 is a 10-inch set of pig bookends that would be cute for the cookbook shelf, and 3857236 is a 50-inch tall sign reading “Welcome to the Farmers Market” that the company says is a top seller. Model 3810234 is an 8-1/2-inch-tall set of ceramic dancing chef pigs.
burton + BURTON, known mostly for its balloons and party supplies, has jumped into the farm to table spirit with model 1821138, which is a ceramic oval tray that reads “Farm to Table/Table to Soul” and 9732492, its Decor Milk Jug, which retails for $44.
NY NOW has announced the winners of its annual best new products awards competition. The best new product awards recognize and celebrate the extraordinary product offerings from exhibitors across NY NOW, and each of the winning products stood out among hundreds of entries that showcased the leading trends in home, lifestyle and gift.
“NY NOW is the place for many buyers to discover the newest products for their stores, and these awards recognize 10 outstanding products from across the Market,” said Randi Mohr, Group Show Director, NY NOW and Vice President, Emerald Expositions. “This year’s best new product awards winners truly push the envelope delivering superior, stunning and on-trend products in a variety of categories.”
Award winners are:
- Accent on Design®: The Cheese Knife from W&P Design LLC
- Home Furnishings + Textiles: Carly the Cow from Dots by Donna
- Tabletop + Gourmet Housewares: Ripple Menorah from Alex Marshall Studios
- Baby + Child: CB EAT from Chewbeads
- Gift: Gratitude Glass Jars from Gratitude Glass Jars
- Personal Accessories: Birthday Celebration Bracelets from Lucky Feather
- Personal Care + Wellness: Soaking Salt Gift Box from Bee & You
- Artisan Resource®: Hanna Feather Purse from Rarity Handbags
- Handmade® Designer Maker: The Sendak Artist Roll from Peg and Awl
- Handmade Global Design: Felt + Leather Backpack from MULXIPLY
Molly & Drew, known for its beer bread mixes, has created on-trend gift sets with its Mug Cake Kits, which each contain one mug and one cake mix.
The recipient just adds water, stirs and microwaves for a single serving mug cake in 90 seconds.
The company also offers single-serve packets of mug cake mixes that will cross-merchandise with the mugs you’re already carrying too. They come in four flavors: Ooey-Gooey Chocolate, the company’s best-seller; Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel; Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake; and Chocolate Candy Cane.
The mug and mix gift sets retail for $10, and the single serving mixes retail for around $4 apiece.