ROSEMONT, Ill.–The housewares category is surviving, and could end up thriving, because of ever-rapid changes in consumer behavior and at retail resulting from the economic downturn, according to Ken Harris, CEO of research firm Kantar Retail Americas Consulting.
Speaking at the International Housewares Association’s Chief Housewares Executive Supersession (CHESS) here yesterday, Harris said the shaky U.S. economy—in particular with gasoline prices, which he predicted will rise to $5 a gallon—has made consumers more frugal. While this has affected home furnishings overall, its impact on housewares has been less than in other categories. “People will replace their housewares and when they do, they will go with quality products over price-driven products,” Harris said. This has made housewares stable in comparison to other home categories, he said.
The critical changes at retail include the growing impact of online retail sites. Harris projected that the online channel will grow its share of overall consumer purchases from about 8 percent today to more than 40 percent by 2020—and could lead to greater growth for housewares.
“Housewares is ideally suited for online,” he said. “There is relatively low consumer involvement and a high replenishment factor. Also, you have inconsistent availability of products at typic retail outlets, plus the ease of comparisons with online.”
Harris was one of the featured presenters at the CHESS conference, which took place from Oct. 4-5. In other presentations, Kip Tindell, chairman and CEO of The Container Store, spoke about the retailer’s company culture—centered on putting employees first and mutually beneficial relationships with vendors. Sima Dahl, president and CEO of Parlay Communications, spoke about the growing impact of social media on purchase decisions and consumer involvement with products.
Other CHESS sessions focused on worldwide sourcing, new approaches to selling and working with sales-representative organizations, updates on patents and consumer-product safety issues, and an overview of the global market.