By David Gill
Now that the housewares industry has weathered the economy’s perfect storm of the past two years, industry executives are in an optimistic mood as the International Home + Housewares Show gets set to open.
As executives have noted, bad economic times can be something of a boon to the market.
“The housewares industry historically has been able to sustain itself well during tough times and then rebound quickly as the economy renews,” said Phil Brandl, president of the International Housewares Association. “In part, this is because consumers look to housewares when they are spending more time at home and are being more cautious with their discretionary income overall.”
Looking ahead, projections about retail sales from market-research firms provide some reason to be optimistic. Retail Forward, the consulting firm, predicted that overall retail sales will increase by 2.7 percent this year, and will accelerate to growth rates of close to 4.5 percent annually in 2011 and beyond. This bodes well from the retail side, said Jeff Siegel, president and chief executive officer of Lifetime Brands, in a statement.
Siegel noted that retailers sliced deeply into their inventories during the recession, and have become more sophisticated in inventory management. This reaction is “very good for the future,” Siegel said. “Those (retailers) that have survived are much stronger than they were two years ago.”
Certain pockets of the housewares industry expect a particularly strong year in 2010.
“You’ll see floor care have one of its best years in the past decade,” said Jim Krzeminski, executive vice president of sales, marketing and product development for Bissell. “Not only do we believe that, but so does the retail community. They’re looking to expand the category, giving it more floor space and more advertising.”
The slimmed-down inventories at retail will present a challenge to vendors.
“Tight inventories will require that marketers plan and execute a tight program, but not to the extent that successes can’t be achieved,” said Mary Rodgers, director of marketing communications for Cuisinart and Waring. “Planning will continue to be an important factor in taking advantage of all retail opportunities and partnerships.”
Meeting this challenge will be among the strategies vendors will use to approach retailers at the show. Others include expanding their product offerings into non-traditional areas.
Bodum, for one, is planning its biggest small-electrics launch in the company’s history, with its new e-bodum line of electrics. “We like to surprise, to show people the best side of ourselves,” said Thomas Perez, the company’s president. “It gives us the opportunity to be a stronger vendor.” Bodum is planning to introduce more than 200 new items, Perez said.
Surprise is part of the strategy for simplehuman as well. Frank Yang, CEO, founder and design director of simplehuman, said the company will unveil more new trash cans than in the past “and will continue to surprise buyers with other functional, innovative products.”
The strategy for Outset will be to focus on branded products, said co-founder Jeff Norling. “We have four distinct brands in Outset: Kingsford, Tyler Florence and Guy Fieri,” Norling said. The company is also concentrating on “performing SKUs. In the past, we have had more patience with underperforming items with a long-term hope for some pretty unique items,” Norling said.
For Bissell, the strategy will be to shine the spotlight on the hotter areas in floor cleaning. “We’re touting the deep-cleaning category, which is ripe for expansion because it saves the consumers time and money,” Krzeminski said. “Steam cleaning is another category that is set to explode. You saw it gain ground in 2009, especially in homes with different floor surfaces.”
Given the apparent economic upturn, what vendors believe to be a stronger retail community and the new products that will be on offer, vendors have high hopes for the Housewares Show.
“Our expectations are the highest they have been in years,” said Rick Ensslen, vice president of marketing for Quickie Manufacturing Co. “From our entree into the direct-response arena to marketing collaborations being introduced at the show, Quickie is excited about its direction, its future and exhibiting at the Housewares Show.”
Manny Gaunaurd, president, Imusa, described the Housewares Show as the “premier venue for the U.S. market. it still gets a lot of participation, and many buyers said they are attending and are requesting appointments.”
At this year’s show, Imusa will “continue to enhance our opening price point lines.