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At Everything But the Kitchen Sink, There's Always Room for Home Textiles

Kitchen SinkHOCKESSIN, DEL. - Just as its name implies, there is product a plenty at longtime upscale home furnishings and gift store Everything But the Kitchen Sink.
     The family-owned store, which celebrated its 35th anniversary five months ago, began as a gift shop selling "little fun things" within a 400-square-foot space. Today, it occupies more than 15,000 square feet at the same address stocked with "just about everything but the kitchen sink," Suzanne Edgar, manager, told HTT.
     "Because of the store's name, we could include anything we wanted," continued Edgar, who works for owner Missy Lickle.
     For example, when Lickle's daughter decided to open a children's wares business, she set up shop at Everything But the Kitchen Sink in a section of the store. Since then, she opted out of the business. But her children's department remains.
     More recently, another unexpected assortment - women's jackets, jewelry, and scarves - has been added in response to customer demand, which has increased in the area since a neighboring store selling those items shut down.
     But home furnishings and decor, Edgar noted, form the crux of Everything But the Kitchen Sink's business.
     Home textiles make up roughly about a quarter of sales, she added, representing "a very important part of our business."
     Lickle and her husband, Dan, originally planned to open a cheese shop and bought the historic property - an old train depot and its storage shed -- where The Kitchen Sink - the store's nickname - still stands today. "A very old

Kitchen SinkEverything But the Kitchen Sink has a broad merchandise mix, but home is at the heart of the assortment.
building," as described by Edgar, the site started out as a railroad dumping area "where the trains came in, wedged up their coal cars to the second floor of the building, and then dumped the coal into big bins. Now each of those bins is a part of the store."
     But Missy was bent on opening her own gift shop, too. So all together, Everything But the Kitchen Sink grand opened with its neighbor, The Rat Trap cheese shop - which today is a restaurant called The Backburner - in early April 1977.
     Over the years, the couple has conducted careful and thoughtful restoration to the structure.
     The one-store shop worked its way into different business segments over time. While it always had bath, luxury bedding joined the merchandise mix more than 20 years ago. The segment experienced a continued increase in sales, prompting the retailer to give it a more pronounced presence on the selling floor.
     "We made an addition, and within that created a much bigger bedding and bath linens area," Edgar explained.
     The Kitchen Sink prides itself in not being a department store. "Instead we'd rather have people just come and Kitchen Sinkwander," Edgar explained, so the store does not carry a lot of breadth of product in some areas, including bedding and bath.
     The store special orders "a high amount of bedding," Edgar said. "We stock certain things, and then feature samples of others. If the customer likes it, we order it."
     Monogramming on all linens - bedding, bath, table and kitchen - is a special service The Kitchen Sink offers in home textiles.
     The core bedding in-stocks belong to a handful of vendors, including Matouk, Sferra Bros., Abyss, and Pine Cone Hill, as well as some others. The list is longer for rotating vendors pitching new fashion and seasonal collections in the categories.
     The 200-plus square-foot bedding section features one display bed plus plenty of racks and shelving of sheeting, top of bed, bath towels and robes.
     Even with its compact offering, bedding and bath collectively comprise about 20% of sales.
     The pricing strategy for bedding and bath items leans toward the luxury side since The Kitchen Sink's customer for these goods tend to be the more affluent and established 45-plus year-old female shopper.
     "People around here who want nice bedding come to us, and that is who we serve in this category," Edgar said. "You can go to [the discount department store chains] to buy cheap bedding."
     To spur sales and give aspirational shoppers an opportunity to sample better goods at more relaxed price points, The Kitchen Sink every spring hosts an annual "Bed and Bath Promotional Event."
Kitchen Sink     Kitchen textiles and table linens account for 5% of total retail sales for The Kitchen Sink.
     "We have a full kitchen and that is probably our biggest business overall," Edgar said. "We have kitchen gadgets, cookware, small electrics, and we sell a fair amount of kitchen textiles and table linens."
     It also helps the kitchen textiles and table linens categories that The Kitchen Sink has "almost no real competition for at least 20 minutes from here," Edgar noted.
     The vendor list in these categories is longer and more varied to include a broader array of prices, including Le Jacquard, Karen Lee Ballard, Patricia Spratt, Garnier Thiebaut, Tag and many others.
     "You can't have just expensive product and expect to survive, especially in this economy," Edgar said. "Everything has been hit by this recession, right across the board, so people are not entertaining as much, which means they don't need new table linens as much. Or they might ask themselves if they can spend on an expensive one. That's why in kitchen and table linens, we offer a range of prices."
     A wider price range, she added, is more inclusive to younger shoppers.
     Add to that both bridal and baby registries, and "we hope our brides will continue to shop with us for years to come."

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