Asian Garden betting on the lure of authenticity

Filed under: Retail |

A National Restaurant Association study found that diners respond better to an ethic restaurant with sophisticated cultural cues in décor and atmosphere, and if servers are able to speak the language of the country where the cuisine is from.

That’s what owners of Asian Garden & Bar, 1747 S. 8th St., hope will help them bring in customers.

The restaurant, which opened May 12, offers food from three countries. Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine is prepared by cooks who specialize in foods from each region.

Owner Narayan Shrestha, a native of Nepal who has lived in the United States for 11 years, said he wants to add Thai food to the menu and is looking for a cook.

According to the National Restaurant Association, three of five owners of eating and drinking businesses are women or minorities, but less than half the employees of all U.S. firms are women and minorities. About one-quarter of eating and drinking businesses are owned by women, 15 percent by Asians, 8 percent by Hispanics and 4 percent by African-Americans.

Easy meal industry continues to grow

The meal prep industry continues to grow, adding 197 stores across the United States since the beginning of the year.

The greatest growth came from independent stores, which added 58 locations, Dream Dinners added 30 stores. Entrée Vous added 14 stores, and My Girlfriend’s Kitchen added 12 stores.

Clothing bests computers in online sales

For the first time, clothing has topped computers in online sales, according to the first part of The State of Retailing Online 2007, the 10th annual Shop.org study conducted by Forrester Research Inc.

The study found that the apparel, accessories and footwear category reached $18.3 billion in 2006 and is expected to hit $22.1 billion in 2007.

This year, 10 percent of all clothing sales are expected to happen online.

Computer hardware and software fell to second place last year with $17.2 billion, followed by sales of automobiles and auto parts ($16.7 billion) and home furnishings ($10 billion).

The increase in apparel and accessories category might be because of an influx of new companies and liberal delivery policies, such as free shipping on returns and exchanges.

Apparel and accessories retailers integrated new technologies into their sites, including rich imaging, where customers can zoom and rotate merchandise or see the item in different colors before buying.

Retailers believe that helps ease hesitation and doubt about purchasing apparel online.

Setbacks to online sales hurting bottom lines

Even as online sales continue to rise, many online retailers appear to be missing the consumer mark by not providing customers with enough options or information.

According to a study from JupiterResearch, 45 percent of online retailers fail to present shipping policies in their online shopping carts, undermining the role that information has with consumer purchasing behavior.

While 78 percent of online retailers accept coupons at checkout, only 13 percent take advantage of the opportunity to increase the average order value by messaging about the amounts needed to qualify for additional offers.

Jupiter also found that only 58 percent of online retailers list their return policy in the shopping cart, even though 39 percent of online shoppers don’t make online purchases because they think returns will be a hassle.

In addition, only 53 percent of retailers list their return policy on the checkout pages after the shopping cart.

Only 28 percent of online retailers offer live chat, text chat or click-to-call at the shopping cart and checkout stage, even though offering these functions could alleviate the concerns of the 27 percent of online non-buyers who don’t make purchases because they can’t speak to a person.

Only 55 percent of retailers provide toll-free telephone numbers clearly during at checkout.

Cold Stone Creamery, Kahala merge

Ice cream chain franchisor Cold Stone Creamery and multibrand fast-food franchisor Kahala Corp. are merging to become a holding company.

Under the name Kahala Cold Stone, the company’s 13 brands, including Blimpie, Ranch 1, Taco Time and Great Steak & Potato Co., are expected to generate sales of more than $1.1 billion from about 4,600 retail locations run by more than 3,000 franchisees in 15 countries.

Kahala founder and CEO Kevin Blackwell will be chairman of Kahala Cold Stone, and Doug Ducey, former chairman and CEO of Cold Stone Creamery will be CFO.

Joan Johnson covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.