Talking shop with… Perry Reynolds

The vice president of marketing and trade development for the International Housewares Association sees increased opportunities for housewares in the supermarket channel.

Grocery Headquarters: What is the state of the housewares industry?
Perry Reynolds: Based on our conversations with retailers and suppliers, we understand that the housewares segment seems to be holding its own with the consumer.

The supermarket industry has seen some benefit from the return to home-cooked meals, increased emphasis on healthful eating, a resurgence of home baking and home coffee brewing. The housewares products consumers use to prepare those foods are enjoying the same benefits.

The overall depressive effects of the economic downturn seem to be lifting somewhat and many home categories are emerging as leaders in the recovery. We have reports that bakeware is thriving. The National Coffee Association reported earlier this year that coffee consumption at home had risen 7%. Consumers tell us that home organization is on their minds as they spend more time at home.

In general, the outlook for housewares seems to be healthy.

How far can supermarket retailers go with the housewares category in terms of both selection and price? Are there limits to both?
The supermarkets we work with are telling us that the key to maximizing sales and profits is to tailor the housewares assortment to needs and the demographic of the customer.

The primary mission of the consumer when she visits the store is generally not buying  housewares products. But supermarkets have the unique opportunity to influence the consumer at the point of purchase and to save her a trip to another retailer if they have the products she is interested in using to prepare the foods she purchases. And the quality and price of those housewares offerings would only be limited by the income and/or the cooking skills of the customer.

Where does the housewares section fit in as per the merchandise mix and cross merchandising? How important is it to set up its own area or is cross-merchandising the key?
Successful retailers use both inline sections and cross merchandising to inspire customers to purchase appropriate food preparation tools. Many retailers also make good use of seasonal displays as an opportunity to integrate these products.

Of course, the greatest benefit of selling kitchenware and housewares products in a supermarket is the excellent gross margin contributions these products make. But in addition, many housewares brands are well known names to consumers and supermarket retailers who stock those brands enjoy the benefit in the consumer’s association with the quality of those brands.

How can IHA help in terms of its organization and its show?
As you know, the International House­wares Association (www.housewares.org) is a not- for-profit industry association and our mission is to support the buyers and sellers in the housewares and home goods industry. Our best known activity, the International Home + Housewares Show, held each March at McCormick Place in Chicago is a showcase for the industry and is well-attended by supermarket merchants. The show offers them access to more than 1,700 suppliers from around the world.

Presently, we are working on developing an industry white paper on the subject of best practices in supermarket housewares retailing. The idea was suggested by a merchant at a large regional supermarket chain.

It is our plan to gather input from both supermarket merchants and key supermarket suppliers. This input on rationale and best practices will be shared with the industry when it is completed in the spring of 2010.

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