As grocers head into the new year on the heels of a successful retail holiday season, many are asking how they will remain relevant in the highly competitive housewares landscape in 2018.
Staying on trend and offering a compelling assortment of fairly priced, strategically merchandised products will be critical to success. Style, color and healthy lifestyle-
inspired items add to a winning equation.
There are billions in business at stake. The recently released International Housewares Association (IHA) 2017 State of the Industry Report puts the global housewares industry at $355.4 billion. The U.S. share of that business is just over $87 billion for 2016, the most recent year that numbers are available.
What is grocery’s piece of the pie? Supermarkets come in at 8.5% of all U.S. housewares sales, or about $6.8 billion, ranking fourth among U.S. channels behind mass, department store and specialty stores, according to Rosemont, Ill.-based IHA.
“Although we do not have specific numbers for 2017 as yet, reports are that housewares were a strong driver for supermarkets and all channels in what is shaping up to be the most successful retail holiday since 2011,” says Debbie Teschke of the IHA. “Multicooker/pressure cookers have been widely reported to be a best-seller in electrics, and other categories such as kitchen gadgets, cookware and cutlery have been noted as strong performers as well.”
Touting a Wellness Mantra
From innovations in cast-iron cookware to vegetable ricers and spiralizers to all things hydration-related, many of today’s top housewares trends are designed to streamline healthy living and eating.
A look at Amazon’s best-sellers in kitchen utensils and gadgets in January speaks to America’s obsession with a healthier lifestyle. Among the top 20 items were multiple digital kitchen scales, as well as vegetable spiralizers/slicers for making veggie pasta and spaghetti for low-carb, paleo and gluten-free meals.
Traditional supermarkets, mega retailers and big-box stores are also vying for a share of the health-focused housewares market.
Last month, Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart’s website invited shoppers to “Power Your Healthy Resolutions” and “Say Hello to Healthier Cooking” by spotlighting products including cast-iron cookware, salad dressing shakers, juice extractors, salad spinners and spiralizers.
Meanwhile, supercenter pioneer Meijer Inc. recently touted a “Healthy Body, Healthy Mind” wellness mantra on its recent holiday website campaign, along with featured products such as blenders, juicers, vitamins and more.
Target Inc. was also inspired to urge online shoppers to “Start the Year Fresh” and get a “Healthy Fix” from its kitchen and dining department with featured links to juicers and blenders and a hydration station.
Health and Wellness Made Easy
On the supplier side, housewares companies are launching a host of new products to meet the growing demand for health and wellness made easy.
“Our newest products are developed with the food channel in mind, and they follow major food trends,” says Steve Campise, division president of kitchenware for Lifetime Brands Inc. in Garden City, N.Y. “These products include vegetable tools that offer ease of preparation, encourage healthy eating and make entertaining easier.”
For example, Lifetime offers a new tool that helps consumers turn cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes and squash into healthy, grain-free “rice” at home. Other tools for healthful meal preparation—including peelers, colanders and salad spinners—are among Lifetime’s best-selling items in supermarkets.
“Today, there is a growing interest from consumers in cooking freshly prepared meals, but few have the time to do it,” says Joseph Christian of Gibson Overseas Inc. in Commerce, Calif. “Gibson’s new Weight Watchers line was created to offer a variety of items that assist consumers to live a more healthful life.”
Gibson worked with the Weight Watchers team to design a range of convenience-based products to make healthier cooking easier. Of particular interest to grocers, the line includes a full range of tools and gadgets, open-stock frying pans, and to-go lunch containers that offer prep, cook and store solutions focused on health.
“Gibson is always working with and discussing new ideas with our grocery partners,” says Christian. “These discussions lead us to believe that 2018 will see increased interest in on-the-go hydration and coffee and tea categories, as well as continual strong performance for seasonal opportunities.”
Indeed, hydration is such a hot topic that the IHA is devoting an entire session to the category during its annual International Home + Housewares Show in March. Some 60 vendors featuring products from water bottles to filtration systems and sparkling water makers will showcase their wares in a “Trending Today Preview” prior to the show.
Pricing, Product and Placement
“Having a successful supermarket program is largely about having products that are attractive and meet an immediate need to prepare or cook food,” says Christian. “This, along with proper pricing, is a great way to capitalize on impulse buys as customers are walking the aisles.”
Teschke of IHA agrees. “Today’s consumer has so many options for purchasing housewares that food merchants must take care to price appropriately,” she says. “It is not always necessary for supermarkets to be a price leader, and the high margins of housewares allow for a certain amount of price flexibility; but supermarkets may lose the trust or interest of their customers by pricing above market.”
After pricing, experts concur that the primary sales driver for housewares in grocery is in-store placement. “Many housewares purchases in supermarkets are not planned, so having the appropriate housewares items associated with the grocery item they may be used to prepare can spur purchase,” says Teschke.
Merchandising housewares and kitchenware as part of a “story” or user experience is also key to capturing shopper attention and sales. “Retailers who reach the consumer at their point of interest will always fare better than those who lump them together,” says Tom Mirabile, EVP global trend and design for Lifetime Brands Inc. “An artisanal cheese counter flanked by gorgeous handmade boards, serving implements and even wine accoutrements helps the consumer imagine an enhanced experience as they explore their culinary passions.”
With consumers predicted to spend more time in their homes in 2018, retailers would be wise to carry a curated assortment of fundamental life products such as coffee/espresso makers, tea makers and toaster ovens. Industry experts also foresee products that make post-hosting cleanup easier as a thriving category in 2018.
At Lifetime, appealing to the home entertaining-minded consumer is top of mind. “The grocery channel has become a place where consumers go for new ideas on creating entertainment and interaction around food,” says Mirabile.
While cooking and baking was traditionally done in advance of the arrival of guests, Mirabile sees today’s consumer as hungry for social interaction throughout the meal preparation experience.
“The modern entertainer engages friends and family to participate in the preparation and presentation of food,” he says. “This has expanded interest in serving boards of all materials, barware and cocktail products, and even everyday kitchen tools which demonstrate as much design aesthetics as performance.”
Utility and Convenience
Just as consumers crave convenience from their supermarket food and beverage purchases, they also desire the tools that make food preparation as easy and successful as possible.
“We are working on a lot of exciting new programs that revolve around the idea of less work, less mess, faster cleanup and multifunction,” says Mirabile.
“It’s exciting to see the grocery channel embrace this consumer-centric ideal of multifunction and real-life needs of saving time [and] space and superior ease of use. You can expect to see the supermarket channel feature assortments that rival the best specialty stores in the not-too-distant future.”
Lifetime also forecasts growing momentum in the cutlery category across the grocery channel. While traditional supermarket merchandising tools such as floor displays, power panels and clip strips still serve a purpose, Campise of Lifetime sees these tried-and-true methods benefiting from the addition of more sophisticated vehicles, such as trend tables and permanent fixtures. “One of our most successful merchandising displays is a wood produce fixture in the produce area featuring our Farberware Fresh gadgets,” he says.
The latest Winsight Live with Supermarket Guru Phil Lempert explores Benjamin Lorr’s book, “The Secret Life of Groceries,” which offers a humorous look at the industry with a dark edge; what Ahold’s vision for FreshDirect is after acquiring the rival; how an online farmers market is helping consumers and farms stay connected; how 7-Eleven plans to reach net zero emissions by 2050; how Costco’s journey through the pandemic has differed from other retailers; and more.