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Weighing in on Kitchen Scales.

There are as many reasons to buy a kitchen scale as there are kitchen scales. Well, okay, I might be exaggerating slightly. Still, the consumer shopping for a kitchen scale has distinct needs that must be met with this particular kitchen tool. Whether it's for baking or dieting or even recipe development, kitchen scales serve a multitude of purposes.

Weighing InManufacturers and retailers tell us the best-selling kitchen scales are digital, no doubt because consumers like quick and accurate information on what they are weighing.

"Digital is where it's at," Maryann Samsa, owner of Portland, Ore.-based Kitchen Kaboodle told us. "And dry/wet conversion scales are number one in consumer interest."

Kitchen Kaboodle usually merchandises its kitchen scales near baking accessories. The scales are displayed together on shelves with back stock in cupboards because they have a high theft quotient.

A basic presentation should consist of an average of four scales with a blend of both mechanical and digital options, providing both well-rounded price points and various attributes.

"I do sell quite a lot of scales in a year's time, approximately $60,000," Samsa continued. "The styles that sell best for me are scales designed for baking needs and basic kitchen weighing, not so much large-volume 20+ pound varieties. My primary source is Salter and has been for years. I now do a few Escali, and am looking at Typhoon for retro-gift look scales."

Laura Havlek at Sign of the Bear in Sonoma, Calif., said she serves two categories of consumers for kitchen scale sales -- dieters and bakers.

"Dieters have two seasons," she explained. "Just after Christmas, and just before swimsuit season. These customers mostly want inexpensive products. Then there are the bakers who want a scale that re-zeroes automatically for additional ingredients, and ease of reading matters."

Havlek sees pricing limited to three categories with customers shopping for fun and lively product at a $30.00 retail range and technical/sleek function-driven in the $50 range. The third range, between $9.99 and $19.99, is the price point her customers find most palatable.

Kitchen scales used to be a specialty item with high price tags and a small group of users. But that image is changing as this previously obscure category is being fueled by a healthy-eating trend and pushed further by bakers (and their cookbooks) who have discovered that kitchen scales are a time- and recipe-saver in the kitchen. In addition, better visibility of the product, more attractive prices, and consumer-friendly packaging are certainly helping sales.

"We always have a selection. Our fanciest now is probably one from CIA and then we have some from various gadget suppliers like Harold Import and NorPro," Terry Monroe, owner of Murphy's Department Store in Stillwater, Okla., said. "We have seen a nice selection from Escali and a colorful retro scale from another supplier."

Monroe continued, "Most of our customers are generally looking for something functional and inexpensive. And they want one that you can adjust for the weight of the container. So far, we have not had much demand for good-looking ones that can be left out or things with the really advanced features."

At Kitchen Window in Minneapolis, Minn., high-tech kitchen scales are grabbing the attention of customers.

"We do sell quite a few scales. Most of them are sold to customers who are into baking. Old-school scales were inexpensive spring scales that were used for dieters. Now, many of our customers are purchasing scales because they are much faster than using traditional measuring cups and far more accurate," president and general manager Doug Huemoeller explained. "We carry mostly Escali and Salter scales. Our most popular scale is the aquatronic style. The concept is really much simpler than the box describes."

Prices in the last 10 years have drifted down to the benefit of all consumers. A consumer can buy a really good digital scale from $40 to $70 depending upon the weight capacity they want or the degree of style they expect to have in their home. There are great new manufacturing advancements that have brought together glass, stainless steel, silicone and aluminum in a marriage of both style and function which has created a category with great growth potential. Products are also becoming more consumer-friendly with a high level of complex measurements combined with easy-to-use and easy-to-read digital display management. Manufacturers are also making sure today's kitchen scales are hygienic with many new scales incorporating removable, washable platforms.

"I think the consumer base for kitchen scales is growing every year as the category gets increased product exposure in virtually every housewares chain. I believe that many consumers are seeing this product now as the useful kitchen tool that it really is," one manufacturer told us. "Whether you are baking and need fine measurement or just trying to portion out food for a healthier family diet, the kitchen food scale is the answer." Timing is EverythingRetailers agree the two best selling seasons for kitchen scales are fourth and first quarters. Ironically, fourth-quarter sales feed the drive for first-quarter sales. During the fourth quarter, consumers are looking for scales to help them with holiday baking, and then post-holiday consumers hit the store for kitchen scales to help them lose weight.

"Our prime sales times are the fourth and first quarter," Samsa agreed. "Diet scales are pretty inexpensive but I do sell a lot through the first quarter and throughout the year. And while they may not be our highest dollar item, they sell in volume."

Monroe agreed, "Our experience is that our best scale customers are dieters who are trying to control portions. We do have a number of customers who mention starting a diet or wanting certain scale characteristics that allow them to prepare a certain weight of food for portions to conform to a diet recipe."

An interesting side note to most retailers' business was "alternative" uses for kitchen scales, uses you probably don't want to market. It also explains the propensity for theft, which is a concern retailers stocking these specialty items do need to consider.

"I also suspect that we occasionally sell to drug-related customers as we have had a customer that smilingly refused to tell us why they wanted a scale that measured in grams," Monroe joked. "You probably don't want to encourage people to stock scales for that particular customer, though."

Havlek explained that they resorted to putting signage on their kitchen scale display noting the scales are not suitable for measuring fractions of a gram. She said it's helped deter theft.

Huemoeller echoed these sentiments, "Unfortunately, like Laura, we keep all of our scales in a locked acrylic case. Clearly, the most intelligent people on the planet are not the corner drug dealers. If that was the case, they would know not to steal a scale that was accurate to plus or minus 2 grams. The only thing better than when they purchase or steal one, is when they have to return it because it is not 'working right.' Thus, pre-qualifying your customer to find them the correct scale is very important."

Heavyweight SalesBuilding your kitchen scale category into a heavy-hitting model in your store can be accomplished with staff training, cross-promotion, merchandising and demonstration.

For Kitchen Kaboodle, inventory is the key to success. Samsa goes far beyond the basic presentation of four scales and provides her customers with a range of at least a dozen.

"We've just been successful without much promotion. I believe it's because of the selection -- there aren't many places where you can find the variety of kitchen scales that we offer," she explained. "I have over a dozen different selections at any given time. And now with the color varieties, we probably have more than that so we are able to solve all our customers' needs."

Samsa also stocks products with a range of price points ($14.95 to $129.00), and uses shelf-talkers to explain each product's capacity and functions. During the holiday season, she includes kitchen scales in all baking promotions and advertising.

As with other products, Samsa believes the most important factor in selling kitchen scales is stocking lines that are high-quality and accurate. For that, she relies on sales representatives she can trust, who are well-versed and educated on the line. Then, of course, she tests the products herself.

"I need to be able to assure our customers that these are the best products available," she explained. "Our customers take our research as their best recommendation."

Sign of the Bear keeps their focus on cross-merchandising. During the fourth quarter, sales geared toward bakers are increasing as new wet equivalent technology is making life easier in the kitchen.

"It's great to include kitchen scales with these features along with the baking displays and explain to customers that they can flip back and forth between the liquid and dry measurements," Stephen Havlek said. "Bakeware is a strong category for us, so scales and measurement tools are selling more across the board as a result . . . thermometers and measuring devices in general are up 100 percent."

KC Lapiana of In the Kitchen in Wexford, Pa., does a brisk business in the kitchen scales category, inspiring customers to purchase by using a scale in everyday activities. "We use them in our store when we weigh our coffee beans for sale. This usually piques customers' interest when they see our use of them in our food department as well," she explained.

So, whether it's swimsuit season or time for a baking display, kitchen scales fit nicely into displays and cross-merchandising promotions. Play to your customers' emotions with merchandising themes that showcase how kitchen scales can provide a measurable improvement in their lives.

If you would like to comment or send us your feedback on this feature, please send e-mail to: mmoran@gourmetretailer.com

Consumer HandoutThe following consumer handout was designed to answer your customers' questions about kitchen scales, help define which products would best suit them, or for use as a shelf-talker.

How to Select a Kitchen ScaleWhen selecting a scale, there are certain things to keep in mind in order to find the weighing device that best suits you. Here are some useful scale terms to know:Capacity -- This is the maximum weight that the scale can accommodate at one time. The heaviest item that you might place on the scale should determine what capacity you need. For example, a scale with an 18-oz./500-g capacity would be suitable for weighing small items that weigh less than 500g. This would often be termed a "diet scale" due to its small capacity. Most kitchen scales offer capacities of 18 oz. - 2 lbs., with digital scales offering capacities of 5 lbs., 11 lbs. and 22 lbs. Accuracy -- Accuracy is also identified as Resolution or Readability. A scale's accuracy is really its ability to reliably produce an accurate weight. However, in today's world of terminology, accuracy for many has come to mean the smallest increment of weight that the scale displays (display accuracy). It could actually be better termed "resolution." A scale with accuracy resolution of ⅛ ounce means that the scale counts up (or displays its measurements) in increments of ⅛, 2/8, ⅜ . . . and so on. Another scale may have an accuracy resolution of ? ounce, meaning it would count up by fractions like: ?, ?, ?, etc. Therefore, you would never see the display show 1.4 or something in decimal points. Accuracy and capacity are the two most important specs for selecting a scale. They will also play a big role in how much the scale will cost. Therefore, you should select a scale based on the measurement needs you require. Weighing Platform -- The size of the scale's weighing platform is another consideration. You want to have a large enough tray area to hold most of your ingredients -- it's okay if some of it hangs over the side as long as it is balanced and centered on the platform. Also, your sample should never rest against anything other than the scale's weighing tray, otherwise your readout will be inaccurate.Tare -- Tare is used to reset the scale to zero. This can be used to weigh items using a container that you set on the scale. To use the Tare function, place the container or tray (tare item) on the scale and press the Tare button. Your scale should go to zero, allowing you to now add items to the container and only see the weight of those items within it (net weight). It's really an Add & Weigh function in an electronic scale. Calibration -- Calibration is the process of adjusting a scale's precision using known weights (calibration weights). Calibration should only be performed if your scale is not weighing properly. Though most mechanical kitchen scales have a reset wheel, true calibration really only applies to commercial "for trade" scales. After calibration, the scale should display the exact weight that is placed on the tray (within a certain tolerance), and also revert to zero when removing any weight. Some scales do not offer calibration (such as most postal scales). Typically, a scale calibrates at two points: zero and at the end of its span (span calibration). Calibration Certificate -- A Calibration Certificate is a certified document provided by a local Weights and Measures authority which provides proof of calibration along with information about when/where the calibration was performed, and with what weights. This service must be performed within the state that you will be using your scale. Calibration Certification is required for scales which are used to sell goods based on weight. If you are selling goods with your scale, it must be Legal for Trade and have calibration performed regularly.Legal for Trade / NTEP Approved -- If you will be selling goods based off of weight with a scale, it must be Legal for Trade. This status is given to scales that meet certain guidelines and restrictions mandated by the Department of Weights and Measures. This helps insure that consumers are protected against overcharge.
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Title Annotation:market demand
Author:Moran, Michelle
Publication:Gourmet Retailer
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Words:2332
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