Stonewall Kitchen: Ingredients for Success
Since Stonewall Kitchen dropped its first consumer catalog in 1999, the Maine-based specialty foods and kitchen accessories merchant has increased its average order value by 210 percent and its housefile by — brace yourself — 1,275 percent.
Meanwhile, clients of its wholesale channel — which provides 50 percent of the company’s overall revenue — include veritable giants of the retail world such as Crate and Barrel, Marshall Field’s and L.L. Bean.
Perhaps more impressive is that Stonewall Kitchen manages to maintain a catalog staff totaling only five and an e-commerce staff of three. “Just a matter of hard work,” is how Joan Walsh, catalog manager, describes the company’s growth — an understatement, to be sure.
Although this relatively new catalog is not yet profitable, its rapid growth and savvy business practices already are turning some heads in the business.
From Market to Mainstream
Stonewall Kitchen was started in 1991 by Jonathan King and Jim Stott, who at the time were selling homemade jams from a table at a Maine farmer’s market. One day a customer bought everything the pair had on the table and sold it to a gourmet food store in Portsmouth, NH.
King and Stott saw an opportunity to start a wholesale business, and they pursued it, going to trade shows and selling first to small and then progressively larger high-end specialty stores such as Whole Foods and Bread and Circus.
Stonewall’s wholesaling provided most of its sales until 1995, by which time the company had built a sizeable client roster. King and Stott wanted to increase profit margins on manufactured goods, and that year they opened the company’s first retail store near its headquarters in York, ME.
The venture’s success inspired King, now company president, to expand the retail division with a catalog. And in the fall of 1999, the first Stonewall Kitchen book mailed to 300,000 people gathered from lists brokered through Millard Group. Encouraged by the mailing’s initial results, Walsh, who came on board in 1999, and her staff boosted specific aspects of the business, such as the following: