What does no more gratuitous gift-buying mean for homewares?

Anyone involved in retail knows just how hard it is to maintain sales at the moment. Now more than ever, every little bit helps and offering relevant and related products to supplement your homewares offer could be one way of increasing sales by driving up your average transaction value.

But what is a gift and how can they relate to homewares? I think this is a really important thing to understand/appreciate. When I first started in retail, anything bought as a gift was presented on the shelf as such; be it in a special box, the packaging incorporated a ribbon or indeed at certain times of year the product would say Happy Mother’s day or similar. However, I think the market has moved on and retailers can‘t afford to stock items with such limited appeal that they can only be sold in the run up to a specific event. More and more, customers want to make sure that whatever they buy is going to be useful for the recipient, so whilst that doesn’t stop it being nice as well, the days of gratuitous gifting are definitely declining. I would suggest that for someone starting up a small business, buying them a shredder could easily be seen by the recipient as a very welcome gift.

So with this in mind what type of ‘gift’ products would be relevant to stock in a homewares shop?

If you take my example of the shredder and the shift away from gratuitous gifting, then the products you already sell that could be considered as a gift will be significant - and will depend on your customers and their reasons for purchasing. Talking to your customers to find out what they are looking for is a great way of being able to put forward ‘ideal gift suggestions’ for them to introduce ideas, then follow up by showing them around the shop to find these products.

I would suggest your starting point is to think about the seasonal opportunities which can create different focusses for you: Valentines, Mother’s Day, Easter and Father’s Day are the obvious ones and give you a great reason to create fresh window and front of store displays to highlight gift ideas with strong and striking POS.

We know that weddings are another great gifting opportunity for kitchen, cook and homewares - so make sure you have plans for suitable displays during April and May when the wedding season really starts to kick in. This is perfect to fit in between Easter and starts to highlight products for ‘Fathers’ in mid-May in the run into Father’s Day. Then we are into the summer with bbq’s and picnics. So as you can see you can create a plan for the whole year and by putting together these displays, you are starting to highlight gifting ideas which will make your customers’ lives easier and hopefully encourage new customers to shop with you too.

This type of planning works for all product areas so get creative about how you are using your existing product types. But what else can you add from linked product areas? Well my specialist area is stationery and cards so I am going to make some suggestions that may or may not work for you, but I hope you will find them useful food for thought.

For me, stationery is a great fit because the bulk of design-led and gift stationery purchasers are female, as are card purchasers. But there are lots of other types of gifts that can add real strength to your card offer.

Card publishers often include stationery in their product offer because both product areas are paper-based, which means they understand the mediums being used. Their card designs will reproduce well on stationery and if the subject matter is relevant, they should sell well too. 

Some card publishers offer other gift formats too, so retailers can stock whole ranges which create strong impactful displays when merchandised together. They can really change the way your shop looks. I have included a number of examples here to illustrate the breadth of styles and genres available so regardless of your type of customer there are likely to be products to suit them. 

Berni Parker’s heart-warming and massively popular range Ladies Who Love Life the co ordinating range of products is broad from a small gift like a magnetic bookmark retailing for £1.99, through small gift and stationery items with retail prices up to £4.99 and then larger gift items like mugs, glasses and cushions retailing from £10.00 -£24.99.

Hannah Dale’s A Dog's Life started life as a card range featuring different dog breeds, all individually depicted in watercolour. These are now supported by a broad range of other products featuring these designs from keyrings to the 'A Dog's Life' gift book and now there is a pet’s range too with pet beds and coats launching in January 2018. 

These co-ordinated displays are particularly suited to independent retailers who can group the range of products across departments. There are financial and practical benefits here too because as retailers you are only dealing with one supplier for multiple product types which makes it much easier to manage stock levels and to reach minimum order or carriage paid order values on smaller repeat orders.

If you are thinking of introducing other product categories into your shop you want to know they have a good chance of success and the space instore is being well used so your money is not wasted. 

Here are 10 things to consider before stocking new homewares products to help ensure the range will be popular with your customers:

  1. Is the product relevant for your customers? 

  2. Does the new brand reflect the same qualities as your shop?

  3. Are the retail price points right for your business?

  4. Do you have space to display this range?

  5. Do you have the right fixtures to display this type of product effectively?

  6. If having considered these points you still feel you want to go ahead, then you need to know that the supplier will allow you to place a small initial order, so you can run a trial.

  7. Ask them to recommend a range of best sellers for you to test

  8. Confirm with them the best time of year to do this trial so if it is successful you are able to have a full range instore for the peak sales period.

  9. Check whether your local competitors are stocking a similar range and make sure your offer is distinct, different and better.

  10. Be clear that you know how you are going to make sure your customers know you have this new range in stock.