When Didriks opened its first store in Cambridge, Mass., in 2004, the retailer was focused on selling outdoor furniture.
But after quickly realizing the season selling furniture used outside homes in the Bay State was short, the company expanded its assortment with the addition of tableware.
That decision proved to be a wise one for Didriks. Today, with locations in the Massachusetts towns of Belmont and Newton Lower Falls, the company’s stores include both its retail brands. Didriks is focused on selling home furnishings and tableware while its sister store Local Root carries a selection of kitchenware products.
Recently, Didriks owner Jonathan Henke spoke with Kitchenware Today about the company’s evolution over the past 17 years and the challenges the pandemic presented over the prior 12 months.
KITCHENWARE TODAY: What are some of the key points in Didriks growth and evolution over the past 17 years.
JONATHAN HENKE: Right out of the gate in 2004 we began working to build our website, which has been an important component of our business. In many ways, the evolution of our business has been an ongoing process to find the balance between people who were coming into our store and those who were finding us online and using our website. While we started with outdoor furniture, we quickly expanded our assortment to include items that went on top of the table. This included products such as linens, dinnerware and other tabletop products. That eventually led us to add a selection of kitchenware products and focused on items at the higher-end.
KWT: What was the opportunity you saw when adding tableware to the store’s product assortment?
JH: We had the tables and chairs and realized it would be a good idea to sell the products that go on top. Our first assortment was placemats from Chilewich. They were a young company at the time and they are now one of our core brands.
KWT: In dinnerware and kitchenware what sets Didriks apart from other retailers?
JH: What sets us apart is our focus on high-quality products. In dinnerware, our focus is offering our customers an assortment that can be used every day but it is something nicer. We’re not super expensive either. We want to offer collections that from the standpoint of price are in reach for a lot of people. The better quality products allow people to have a dinnerware set they can use all the time since most are no longer interested in having a second or third set of dinnerware.
KWT: What steps has Didriks taken to meet the challenges presented by the pandemic?
JH: The good news for us is that our e-commerce platform was up and running for years and was well organized. One of the things we did early on was shift our store staff to our online operations. Our focus early on was on the products we had in stock as well as expanding our online presence. That allowed us to keep everyone working. We also made enhancements to our customer-facing features and gave our point-of-sale system a big upgrade. This allowed us to make the transaction process faster and allow for contactless payments. Enhancing our point-of-sale was something that we have had on our wish list and we will carry forward many of those changes.
KWT: What have been some of your keys to success over the years?
JH: I look back to 2015 when so many were talking about omni-channel. In reality that was something we were doing since we launched in 2004 and really kept us in the forefront for many years. This allowed us to have our e-commerce and brick-and-mortar divisions work well together.
KWT: What are some big changes you have seen with how consumers buy products?
JH: E-commerce changes all the time and today people are not only looking at our site and the sites of other retailers but also checking out products on the websites of manufacturers as well. Consumers today have the option of buying direct from product suppliers. Even though the playing field has changed, there is still a great deal of value in manufacturers and retailers working together.
KWT: What does the future hold for Didriks?
JH: It’s definitely an interesting and exciting time. While I don’t have a crystal ball, we continue to work to strengthen our online and in-store teams. It will be interesting to see how things continue to evolve over time given all that is going on in the world. We will continue working to find new brands to work with, build new relationships and continue working on promoting the business.