Are we in a recession? The media, government and just about anyone you ask on Wall Street or Main Street say the American economy is in the midst of a serious economic slowdown.
But a walk around the annual International Housewares Show in Chicago last month could have many people thinking that the economy is running smooth and easy. In fact, optimism abounded. Many suppliers, ranging from such companies as Applica and Meyer to Haier and Emerson, among others, were eager to show a host of products they were introducing to the trade.
That is an unusual strategy during tough economic times, even during a show where what’s new is as important as anything. But, as executives at many of these companies pointed out, battening down the hatches is not sound marketing advice at this point in time for several reasons.
The first, they say, is that despite a dramatic downturn in the housing market, there is a belief that many consumers are still looking to upgrade the products in their kitchen and dining area, which remain the focal points of virtually every home. When times get tough, many consumers turn to nesting, which usually translates into more spending on housewares products.
Many add that despite strong demand, pressure must still be exerted on consumers to purchase housewares products, and there is no better way to get shoppers excited than to introduce products with more bells and whistles.
However, even as many of these new products are unveiled, a large number of suppliers say that they are paying special attention to their price points. Aware that consumers are more concerned about their pocketbooks than usual, suppliers say that presenting new items at lower prices can entice more people to consider purchasing the product.
Of course, retailers must do their part. New products are the lifeblood of any category, though they become even more important during slow economic times. Merchants must make sure that they stock a broad selection of popular items mixed with an interesting array of new items. Then, they must also ensure that their mix includes a variety of price points for new and old products.
Doing so will help verify the optimism visible in the aisles of the Housewares Show. Failure to take these steps will simply lead us down the wrong road.
Seth Mendelson is the editorial director of HFN. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .