By Micah Cheek
In any business, markets shift and tastes change. Navigating these ebbs and flows is what makes a business stand the test of time. Nancy Herring, Co-Owner of Now We’re Cooking in Albuquerque, New Mexico is in the process of shifting the kitchenware store’s stock and style of business to suit customers’ new needs.
The biggest change Herring has seen is a shift away from cooking classes. “Our cooking class response has really dropped off. I think they’ve decided to spend their money somewhere else,” says Herring. Recently, she has had more success with education groups and weight loss communities that will set aside time to come in and watch a suite of demonstrations. Working with outside organizations also takes some of the administrative work off Herring’s shoulders. “They handle all the advertising and signup,” she adds.
Another changing factor is purchasing habits. Large single-item investments have given way to smaller purchases. “You’ll hear people look at a big piece of cookware and say, ‘That’s too expensive,’ but then they’ll buy that same amount in smaller stuff. I think people have been exercising caution for a while,” says Herring. Now, a large part of Now We’re Cooking’s sales are smaller accessory items. “We have always maintained our integrity as a kitchen store, not a gift and kitchen store. We have some pretty things, ceramics and things, but we don’t go heavy into that,” Herring adds. Lots of entertaining kitchen accessories now are now on display at checkout, and some of Now We’re Cooking’s specific sections, like the baking area, have leaned more in that direction. “We sell a tremendous amount of cookie cutters.”
Because customers are feeling more cautious about higher cost options, Herring keeps cookware for regular use in the break room, and shows customers the wear and tear the pans sustain from regular use. “We’ll show them what their cookware looks like after it’s been used for a while. We’ve been using this for the last five years or whatever, and this is what it looks like,” says Herring. “It’s bigger sizes than I would use at home, but we have an example of every brand we sell. And I think people like to see what they’re thinking about.”
As Herring has been reshaping her business model, she has moved to a new space to suit the new needs of her store. “About two and a half years ago, we moved to this location,” says Herring. “Better layout, better light, it was definitely time for a move. The new store is much prettier than the old store was.” When the store updated its location, the space allowed her to make changes to her previous layout that made everything easier to navigate. “We have rows and rows of Metro shelving,” says Herring. “None of them match. I’ve got old Metro, new Metro, black and white. You don’t notice, you just see what’s on it.”
There are corners dedicated to knives, linens sections and a full gadget wall as well. The only part of the store that regularly changes is three-wheeled shelving units to be moved to make space for classes, and the first row of shelves, which are altered for seasonal items. “We don’t move everything around. I know you’re supposed to keep it fresh for people, but customers know where everything is. Christmas time, we move a lot of things around the front, and bring in a few more things.”
Herring is always on the lookout for what is next for the industry. From her perspective, focusing on color and adaptations of the classics are the way forward. “Everybody’s talking about what’s new. There’s new colors, new adaptations, but we haven’t seen a brand new product,” says Herring. “I remember when bread makers came out! In terms of a new category, we’re not seeing it. It’s back to basics and color. Hot pink mixers and bright Microplanes.”