By Allison Zisko
April’s New York Tabletop Show offered a few noteworthy design directions. Here, in no particular order, are some of the market influences that will guide the tabletop industry as the year advances:
At last, gold is the metal of choice. After many years of predictions about the precious metal moving to the forefront of assortments, gold appears to be enjoying its moment in the sun (or at least under the showroom spotlights). Gold, whether shiny or matte-finished, is being used to trim dinner plates and the rims of glassware. Flatware is either all gold or edged in gold. Both options are well received, according to vendors. Gold already has a competitor; the next big metal is said to be copper.
Beer-specific glassware has taken up where varietal-specific stemware left off a few seasons ago. Vendors have cleverly capitalized on growing consumer interest in craft and other specialty beers to develop entire collections designed to enhance the flavors and richness of Imported Pale Ales and other brews. Nearly every mid- to large-sized vendor showcased a beer glass collection, raising a previously ignored drink (at least in the tabletop world) to an art form.
Blue and white
You can’t go wrong with blue and white; it’s tried and true. And everybody’s doing it.
One would think that the average American has a sufficient number of mugs in his or her kitchen cabinet, but evidently there’s always room for one more. Mugs are a hot business right now; they make great impulse purchases and are highly giftable. Mugs in every shape, design, configuration and construction (including double-walled porcelain options) are flying off the shelves.
Evidence of the “hand of the artist”—even if a product is made by a machine—is growing increasingly popular. Rustic, handsculpted forms; out-of-round shapes; handpainted finishes—each of these design elements go hand-in-hand with the artisanal, farm-to-table food movement. Some restaurants are setting their tables with pottery-like pieces; this trend may spill over into the retail realm.
Candles fill the same role as mugs—they make great giftable items. They also expand a brand’s reach, and several tabletop makers launched scented candles this spring. What separates candles offered by some of the big brands in tabletop, as opposed to companies that strictly make candles, is the price. Tabletop-branded candles command prices that often start at $50 and go up from there.
Portugal, always a reliable source for ceramic and porcelain, is once again considered a good place to manufacture or import dinnerware. As the cost of doing business in China continues to rise, vendors are seeking more viable options. Portugal is one of them.
Luxury brands are looking outside the core tabletop categories to expand business and explore new channels of distribution. The options in crystal, porcelain and metal table and floor lamps and pendants continue to grow at each market as manufacturers experiment with new ways to display their craftsmanship and highlight the natural beauty of traditional tabletop materials.
High-quality, sophisticated packaging is increasingly important to an industry where giftware accounts for a considerable portion of business. Many manufacturers showed off their new and improved packaging as readily as they did new product. Packaging that tells a story, shows the product in use, and/or explains features and benefits is also key.
Classic design elements such as Greek keys, universal architectural elements such as planes and angles and literal interpretations such as city skylines are a growing design theme in tabletop.