During the pandemic – when most restaurants shut their doors – many discovered cooking, both out of necessity and as a new hobby to fill the time during the long months of sheltering in place. Now, with the rising cost of eating out, many consumers are again prioritizing home-cooked meals – including affluent audiences. We dove into the data for upscale kitchenware retailers Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma in order to better understand the foot traffic trends among higher-income cooking enthusiasts.
Like many retailers at the onset of the pandemic, Sur La Table struggled as foot traffic faltered, and the brand was forced to file for bankruptcy protection in 2020. But with restrictions on social gatherings being a thing of the past, Sur La Table’s cooking classes and kitchenware are in high demand. Following new store openings in 2022, Sur La Table has opened a host of new locations in 2023, including one slated to open this month.
Also impacted by pandemic restrictions, Williams Sonoma – another upscale kitchenware brand – continues to rightsize its footprint, which could be contributing to the growing crowds in the company’s remaining stores. For most months in 2023 so far, both Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table have experienced year-over-year (YoY) visits per venue growth – indicating that demand for both retailers is high. This metric also shows that – in the case of Sur La Table – new stores are not cannibalizing existing visits but rather driving elevated traffic to the chain. In the case of Williams Sonoma, increasing visits per venue suggests that as some locations close, foot traffic consolidates to the remaining stores – increasing efficiency and ROI for the brand.
And in a further testament to this segment’s current strength, YoY visits per venue for both of these retailers outperformed the wider fine dining category. Perhaps restaurant menu inflation is leading some upscale diners to swap at least a few fine dining visits with home-cooked meals – and demand for equipment and tableware that replicates fine dining at home could be driving visits to these upscale kitchenware retailers.
Diving deeper into the demographic characteristics of Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma’s visitors provides further indication that traffic from higher-income segments is on the rise. Trade area analysis of Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma’s locations in H1 2023 revealed that a larger share of higher-income consumers made up the brands’ captured markets compared to H1 2022.
In H1 2023, the median household income (HHI) of Sur La Table’s captured market was $109.4K compared to $108.1K the previous year. Meanwhile, the median HHI of Williams Sonoma’s captured market increased from $99.9K in H1 2022 to $101.0K in H1 2023. This suggests that more affluent consumers – who typically have more discretionary dollars to spend – are visiting Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma and that these retailers are likely benefitting from an influx of high-value traffic.
A Cooking Community
As demand for meals at home grows, aspiring cooks are seeking out opportunities to hone their skills. Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma offer cooking classes and recipe book signings that add an experiential element to stores alongside shopping for kitchenware essentials. These events allow Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma venues to fill a multi-purpose role as retail and community hubs and likely boost the amount of time visitors spend in-store.
In H1 2023, the median visitor dwell time at Sur La Table rose to 38 minutes – up from 33 minutes the year before. At Williams Sonoma, visitor dwell time increased from 30 minutes in H1 2022 to 33 minutes in H1 2023. This suggests that consumers see these retailers as a resource on their home food-prep journeys and that the growing demand for essential kitchen tools and chef skills is driving longer visits to the stores.
The Last Dish
Making meals at home is a necessity for some and a hobby for others. In both cases, upscale kitchenware stores like Sur La Table and Williams Sonoma offer consumers the tools and training to enhance meal prep and find greater enjoyment in at-home dining. Going into the second half of 2023, both brands appear poised to maintain elevated visits as they continue to drive high-value foot traffic and extended stays.
For updates and more data-driven foot traffic insights, visit Placer.ai.