W&P President Kate Lubenesky talks about the evolution of a modern kitchen brand

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This week on the Modern Retail podcast, W&P president Kate Lubenesky explained how the company has evolved and grown. “We had great growth in 2020 and 2021,” she said.

W&P first launched 10 years ago with its first product: a cocktail shaker inspired by a mason jar. Today the company has grown a lot, with hundreds of different products including mugs, cutting boards, cocktail kits and ziplock bag alternatives. “We really honed our point of view to be equal parts function and design,” Lubenesky said. With this, W&P has understood exactly what its brand voice is; “We don’t want to be everything to everyone…we really only focus on kitchen products.”

Lubenesky joined the company in early 2020, just before the pandemic hit. It hails from mainstays of kitchen products like Oxo. “When I walked in the door, we were really at this fantastic inflection point as a business where we had this great product portfolio that was really starting to click and buzz in the marketplaces and with our retailers, like Crate and Barrel, Sur La Table, William Sonoma and all these wonderful food retailers,” she said.But then, of course, the coronavirus spread around the world and changed everyone’s plans.

Despite everything, W&P was able to change course and continue to grow. Many wholesalers, including independent gift shops and department stores like Nordstrom, had to drop their partnership with W&P in early 2020. But other sales channels have begun to grow. The brand’s Amazon sales, for example, have exploded. Additionally, W&P’s corporate gifting revenues have skyrocketed.

“Having this really healthy platform — and balance — allowed us to thrive in 2020,” Lubenesky said.

Now the company is focusing on growing even more. This includes creating more wholesale partnerships – if, of course, retailers are a good fit. And there is also always product expansion.

“We’re really focused on product development and innovating and inventing new categories that consumers aren’t even aware of and need,” Lubenesky said.

Here are some highlights from the conversation, which have been lightly edited for clarity.

Being omnichannel has positioned W&P for growth
“Because we’re omnichannel, we had a very healthy and robust Amazon business, we have a great direct-to-consumer business, we have a great corporate gifts business. The case has come [in 2020], this is coming from different places than we expected in February 2020. But because there were pockets of opportunity; Everybody’s stuck at home, everybody’s on a Zoom call, so all of a sudden the corporate giveaways blew up and [brands] began sending products to gift employees who are now distant in a way to engage them. The Amazon business – people shopped at home and bought everything on Amazon. So it went through the roof. So having this really healthy platform – and a balance – allowed us to really thrive in 2020, just in different ways than we expected.

Tiptoe in TikTok
“We were a bit slow to access TikTok. I would say we really focused on Instagram – this community, we’ve built it over the years. [With] TikTok, I think you really have to be authentic on this platform; taking photos of highly staged props does not work. It’s very hard, it’s very fast. And so we just started last year [building] our content there. But we wanted to wait and make sure we did it in a way that didn’t feel cumbersome. It’s a younger generation, it’s a faster generation. I have three boys who are obsessed with TikTok, and they speak completely different languages. They make jokes – they have like a vernacular – [and] I’m like, ‘what?’ But they all know what they’re talking about. So we didn’t want to come to this platform and look like we weren’t there. But there are some amazing food trends happening on TikTok… And so we’re really monitoring and leaning into that as a platform, especially [with] Instagram is becoming a more difficult source of acquisition.

The rise of corporate gifts
“[Corporate gifting has] really far away from pens, gifts and swag that way. I think brands, from a sustainability perspective, don’t want to distribute things that are thrown away. They want to distribute products bearing their name, which correspond to what they want people to think of their brand. So if you get a cheap disposable pen, I don’t think you’ll have that sincere, lasting feeling about the brand – and say “ah I love that company that gave me that shitty pen”. But if you get a tumbler with the brand name on it – but you fall in love with that tumbler – you also fall in love with the brand that gave it to you. You get a little more heart-sharing. So I think this category has really grown in a way to make sure that what they offer with their name is something that the consumers they offer it to will love and come back. “


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