Stonewall Kitchen's Web Site Focuses on Retention

Specialty food retailer and wholesaler Stonewall Kitchen has begun a five-phase upgrade to make its Web site an all-purpose resource for cooks and increase customer retention as a result.

“We want to be a place where people feel comfortable coming back to us for information, not just Stonewall Kitchen products, but about cooking in general, tips, advice, recipes and an interactive place,” said Ingrid Claesson, e-commerce manager at Stonewall Kitchen, York, ME. Claesson was hired in July by the company's new e-commerce division.

The relaunch represents the first of a five-phase upgrade over the next nine months that will include instant messaging, a recipe share program and an expanded culinary glossary.

The company sent e-mails to 6,500 addresses last month to announce the site's relaunch. The 10-year-old company sends “product-of-the-month” e-mails to its database of roughly that size each month, offering a 10 percent discount on items that contain a shared ingredient.

Stonewall operates three stores in Maine, one in Portsmouth, NH, and one that opened in Newton, MA, in December.

While Stonewall's e-mails are text-only, it plans to produce HTML e-mails in the next month.

“Once we get the recipe interactive portion of the site done, then we'll create a list of people who are especially interested in the recipes and e-mail them specific e-mails to their area of interest,” Claesson said.

Claesson declined to reveal how much Stonewall's site — — generated in sales last year. However, she said sales generated online, which were up more than 400 percent from 1999, were less than 10 percent of overall sales.

Stonewall dropped its first-ever winter catalog last month to about 100,000 mailboxes. Three more drops of that book — totaling 400,000 books — are planned through March. The cataloger expects to drop more than 1 million books this year.

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