HOUSTON -- Rice Epicurean Markets has debuted a new format for cookware and small appliances aimed to capture dollars from shoppers who go to department stores and specialty shops for these items.
The 3,000-square-foot Kitchen Works kitchenware department is centrally located in a new 43,000-square-foot Rice Epicurean Market that opened several weeks ago in Champions Forest Plaza here.
The format offers "quality and convenience with one-stop shopping," said Gary Friedlander, president of Rice Food Markets, which operates a total of 24 stores under various banners.
The upscale section, which contains a broad selection of some 2,000 items in cookware, cutlery, kitchen countertop appliances, glassware, pottery and giftware, will appeal to Houston's upper-income shoppers who live in the Northwest section of the city.
Kitchen Works signifies that Rice Epicurean has "entered a different arena, with our competition [in kitchenware] now coming from Dillard's, Foley's department stores and Williams Sonoma," said Scott Silverman, Epicurean's vice president for specialty food and wine.
The Kitchen Works product mix fits the store's customer profile -- those about 45 years old who have middle to upper income levels, added Silverman.
The extensive kitchen gadgets assortment includes more than 100 varieties of wooden spoons alone, some imported from Portugal, Scandinavia and Poland. In cutlery, there is the Wusthof-Trident brand from Germany that retails from $32 to $119. The store plans to occasionally run a 20% to 40% off sale on the line, bringing retails down to $25.60 to $95.20. The section also carries J.A. Henckels knives.
The department's profit margins range from 10% on some electrical appliances to 50% or more for certain gadgets and open stock cookware, according to the retailer.
Gadget prices range from $1.75 for a wooden spoon and reach $20 for a heavy plastic cheese grater from Switzerland. In the cookware segment, which includes the Calphalon line, Allclad cooking products are priced from $29.99 for a 7-inch fry pan to $150 for six-piece sets. Other individual Allclad pieces carry high price tags from $100 to $400. The 600 stockkeeping units in potholders and aprons retail from $4.99 to $12.99.
The appliance mix features mixers, blenders, bread machines and pressure cookers. The section also displays giftware such as hand-painted pottery and ceramics and decorative serveware platters from Italy, which are priced between $100 and $150. Glassware retails begin at $14.95 for a set of six wine glasses and go as high as $40 to $50 per stem for crystal.
Kitchen Works' fixturing draws shoppers' attention with white fixtures contrasted against gray floor tiles and decor accented in black and purple. An overhead white metal sculptured superstructure encloses the whole Kitchen Works department in a store-within-a-store format.
Cookware, bakeware, mitts and aprons are displayed on metro shelving, gadgets are J-hooked on flat slat walls, and cutlery is merchandised in a glass showcase.
Track and spot lighting, suspended from the overhead sculpture, highlights product offerings. A large metal range hood hangs from the ceiling over the stove and cook top used by chefs in cooking demos. There are several cooking sessions run in the department each week.
During the cooking demos items of the Kitchen Works department like bread machines, knives, tabletop appliances, gadgets and other housewares are used.
"Conducting the demos in Kitchen Works as opposed to the traditional industry approach of near produce, deli or meat cases, draws customers closer to kitchenware items. Customers are exposed to lines hardly ever found in grocery stores, and usually exclusively available only at specialty gourmet shops and department stores," said Silverman.
Store chefs or those from area restaurants run the cooking events. The retailer hands out recipes and displays cookware used in the demos at the workstation. A 6-foot-long cookbook island fixture in the department holds 150 titles. Books are priced from $10.95 to $50.
In addition to basic offerings of small kitchen appliances, Rice plans to create mass displays of some appliances at major holidays, with 20 mixers or 20 pressure cookers. "Sometimes we'll have blenders out with margarita glasses, margarita salt and mixers," Silverman said. Appliance prices go up to $300 for a large mixer. The chain will highlight the Kitchen Works department and the brands merchandised in the section in ads for the new Epicurean outlet.