By Piritta Törrö, International Marketing & Business Development
World of Its Own
Michelle Hespe meets the owners of Kookpunt in the Netherlands after they became one of five Global Honorees in the Global Innovation Awards (gia), which is run by the International Housewares Association (IHA) at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago every March.
In 1959, the largest cooking store in the Netherlands began its life as a family-run knife-sharpening business in a 12 square-meter, two-floor space. It was called ‘de stad solingen’ (which translates as City of Solingen). Today, Kookpunt is a retail giant, covering an astounding 4000 square meters in various interconnected buildings. In 1986, Kookpunt went through a large growth spurt, launching cooking classes with top-ranking chefs at the helm in its own cooking theater. More recent additions include a: lunch bar; specialized section for professional chefs; library containing more than 3,000 cookbooks; food market attracting around 800 customers a day; and trade fairs, auctions and fundraising dinners where all proceeds are donated to designated charities with roots in cooking and the kitchen. Kookpunt has become a world of its own, in both a bricks and mortar sense, and now online as well, where customers can shop, watch YouTube videos of demonstrations and cook-offs, get involved in the community via social media, and of course keep an eye on new products sourced from around the world.
Ton van der Kolk and Ria Schipper – owners of Kookpunt – know how to get word of their business out to the world, and they make a stir while doing it. Four times a year, the company orchestrates a large marketing promotion, linked to a direct mail advertising campaign to 15,000 customers and general advertising to 250,000 – 500,000 potential customers. The company is highly active on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and it reaches its customers every two weeks through emailed newsletters and press releases sent out via various media outlets. Kookpunt also lends many of their latest products to magazines for photo shoots, to TV and film production companies, and they have regular food and beverage columns to further boost their exposure.
Ton and Ria are big believers in that cross-channel thinking is becoming increasingly important in such a competitive global retail market. “That is the reason we use iPads in the physical store for customers to use,” explains Ria. “This allows customers to view the ‘long tail’ of our range of products in the online store.”
The highly trained and customer-friendly staff is largely responsible for the high level of service for which Kookpunt is renowned. “Every person who walks through the front door is immediately captivated by the overwhelming range of products,” says Ria. “But its also our staff that keep them coming back.” Ria also stresses that the company prides itself on service that is just as great and thorough, online. “We also like to see this exceptional level of service in our web store,” she says. “Our product expert takes care of every layer of the web store, giving an option for reading tips and tricks. Perhaps even more importantly, it allows customers to approach the expert directly.”
As well as having all the well-known product groups online, the Kookpunt web store gives each product group its own virtual shop-window. “It is comparable with a physical shop-window, showing things that are not to be missed,” explains Ria. “For instance, the latest trends and gadgets, the latest specials and the most relevant brands. In our line of trade, with such an abundance of product innovation, we believe in the importance of surprising our customers this way all the time.”
Quick and easy navigation via brands (displayed by logos) also plays an important role online. “We believe the modern-day consumer is increasingly more visually inspired, and for that reason we prefer the navigation method using logos rather than run-on type,” says Ria. “This method is also followed through within our detailed product pages, which utilize striking qualitative illustrations. And for further details, visitors may click on ‘more information’ tab.”
The food market that Kookpunt organizes has been a huge success and continually draws more people to the store. “During these markets, suppliers come to Kookpunt to let the public taste, try and enjoy the best of food, such as cakes, wine, cheese, assorted sliced cold meat, meat products, fish, and vegetables,” says Ria. “Through organizing many professional classes, such as barista classes, preparing wild game, pasta making and cutting techniques, and producing trendy video clips on YouTube such as the Blender Battle or the BBQ Challenge, we really get people involved.”
Ton and Ria never stop thinking of new ways to extend into other areas of society, such as taking part in the Route du Nord: a dazzling, summer art route of various exhibitions; concerts, festivities and literary presentations; organizing food-related activities for charities. “We are always trying to add something new to people’s shopping experience. We also have special events with a theme every month like Food and Fit in January and Holiday on Ice in July.”
It is the company’s meticulous attention to detail, the dedication to offering the best possible service from knowledgeable staff, and their focus on continually expanding on their business and reputation, that impressed the judges of gia in Chicago.
The judging panel that selected the five global honorees this year, from a pool of 23 contenders from 22 countries, consisted of seven editors and publishers of home and housewares trade publications from around the world and four expert jurors, all specializing in different facets of retail such as visual merchandising, branding and business development.
“We really had no idea that we were going to win at gia in Chicago, so the announcement was a big surprise,” says Ria. “I was even teased the day before, for saying that I was going to prepare a speech! Becoming a gia Global Honoree makes us so proud, and we see it as recognition for our hard work over the years. We see it as like winning an Oscar® for our kind of shops! That is how we congratulated our staff – on being the best of the best.”
The couple have had media exposure in newspapers and some TV exposure since their win, and are planning on a larger celebratory event in September or October in combination with the World food event that is taking place in Rotterdam. “The reactions of people reading or hearing about it are warming,” Ria says modestly.
Kookpunt have come a long way since their inception as a store sharpening knives, and they enjoy sharing their knowledge and experience with others. When asked what their advice would be for other retailers aspiring to be a gia winner, they keep the recipe for success simple: “Before you enter gia, know your own business and make sure your concept is solid.”
Check out more photos of Kookpunt and our other gia Global Honorees on our Facebook page!
For more information about the gia (Global Innovation Award) program, the co-sponsors, or participating in 2013-2014, contact Piritta Törrö at email@example.com. Additional information on the gia program is also available online at www.housewares.org/gia.
For more information about the International Home + Housewares Show and to pre-register for the 2014 Show, taking place in Chicago on March 15-18, 2014, please visit www.housewares.org.