Sunday, November 30, 2014

What's the Best Gift You Ever Got?

What’s the best gift you ever got? Many of us get very emotional when asked that question. Often the answer is very heartfelt – our children, or a favorite trip. On a lighter side, if it’s not jewelry or a motorcycle, it was probably something that you ate that tasted absolutely so good that you couldn’t stop talking about it. When I was small, my father gave me ten pounds of pistachios that I remember as one of the best gifts (after my children) that I’ve ever gotten!

Think Maryland crab cakes with so little filling that all you taste is a a hint of old bay seasoning and lots of lump crab meat. You don’t have to be in Maryland to get some. You can order them from Faidley’s and taste a real Maryland crab cake anywhere in the country. Think Smith Island Cake, located on Smith Island with 14 layers of hand made, not too sweet, pumpkin with all natural cream cheese icing that when warmed up just melts in your mouth. It too can be ordered on line and shipped to you frozen. As retailers, we’ve all read studies that prove time and time again, that families are closer when they dine together. Food is the center of every single important life celebration! Reasons enough for us to figure that a gift of food is just the best!

In recent years, salt in every flavor and in every color and in every type of packaging has become a great gift idea. Consider one of hundreds of varieties of olive oil or balsamic vinegars. Like wine pairings, pair cheese, pair oils, pair mustards, pair olives, even pair chocolate. So, the question I’ve wondered about is why great food retailers don’t pick up on this fabulous opportunity to build gifts of food at the holidays, or everyday to include birthdays, anniversaries, and even just a thank you gift of food.

Catalog companies have - Zingerman’s, Stonewall Kitchen, Gourmet Edible Gifts, and even William Sonoma. So, why haven’t the big retail food chains looked into how they can offer food as gifts? Plagued by the ever present sales per payroll hour goals, even the biggest retailers in the world can’t find ways to build a gift basket program in their stores that’s efficient, beautiful and profitable. What a shame. This is the perfect way to sell an item that just can’t be price checked! It’s a way to build loyalty and distinguish yourself in the marketplace.

There are few who have that we should highlight! H.E.B. Central Market, for instance. All things Texan. Texas home grown, home made, local products are fabulous gift baskets that can be bought premade with Texas wines, Texas BBQ sauces, salsas, and even Tito’s homemade vodka. Gift baskets of Ruby Red Texas grown grapefruit and citrus items are a favorite of customers and are often sent out of state in Texas by H.E.B.

Whole Foods has. Gluten free, sugar free, dairy free, antibiotic free. Whole Foods gifts of food can be purchased in store and on line. In making gift baskets, Whole Foods adds the retail charge of every item it puts in a gift basket to the price of the basket, along with a labor charge of at least $10.00 and then rounds to the nearest 9’s with a minimum of $15.99 or greater. This is a great margin enhancer and drives traffic. Drives up the average basket size and produces truly incremental sales.

So, why are retailers resistant? Most don’t have someone on staff that can make something beautiful and unique. Most feel they have enough on their plates at the holidays to keep them very busy and won’t take the time to devote to this added complexity. Food retail can’t think far enough ahead of the major holiday times to order the baskets or containers they will need or in overcrowded stores don’t have the space to a lot to this effort.

What a shame. They are missing a true opportunity to build incremental sales, margin, and loyalty. I beg you, reconsider your position! When we think about what we can give our friends and family – that is the “perfect” holiday gift, we all fall into the traditional and conservative routine around gift cards, a bottle of wine, gloves, a wool scarf or cashmere socks. I urge you to be a little more creative and give gifts of food! Your gift of food - something that you like or love or make yourself will be remembered as one of the best gifts ever because it means so much to you, and comes with a story that will mean so much when received.

Happy Holidays!