Younger shoppers are prime targets for kitchen gadgets as they embrace the do-it-yourself trend.
By Nora Caley
When a category gets hot, responsive retailers do not hesitate to capitalize on ever-evolving consumer buying habits by adjusting their merchandising strategies. Industry observers say now is time to clear some shelf space for housewares.
“When organics became an issue, supermarkets found plenty of room for organics,” says Perry Reynolds, vice president, marketing and trade development for the International Housewares Association (IHA), based in Rosemont, Ill. “There is an opportunity for retailers of food to build their relationship with customers and to build their gross margins. Housewares offer significantly larger margins than food.”
Grocery chains that have gotten that message have expanded their bakeware, food storage and home décor sections. According to the IHA’s 2011 State of the Industry report, supermarkets accounted for 8.8% of housewares sales in 2010, up from 8.3% in 2009.
Cookware and bakeware, kitchen tools and accessories and cleaning products were among the top housewares subcategories in grocery, according to the report.
“The customer is quite willing to purchase her tools in the same place that she purchases her food,” Reynolds says. “There are still tremendous opportunities for the supermarket industry to take greater advantage of this.”
Jan A. Dornseif, president of Gartner Specialty Products, a division within Stillwater, Minn.-based Gartner Studios, says one way supermarkets can get the most out of the housewares category is to tap into the do-it-yourself trend, especially among younger shoppers. “We had a generation of kids that lost the in-the-kitchen experience with their parents,” she says of Millennials. “I think now because of these TV shows they are interested in getting in the kitchen. They watch cooking shows and they think, that’s not so hard, I can do that.”
Research from The NPD Group confirms that youthful confidence. According to the Chicago-based market research company’s Kitchen Audit 2011, 60% of homemakers aged 25 to 34 rated their cooking skills as very good, and 10% of this age group rated their cooking skills as excellent.
Less confident DIYers need not worry. Gartner offers educational videos that consumers can watch in the store. The latest video shows how to use the new Duff Cake Decorating Airbrush Machine to spray food-safe colors onto fondant. Gartner developed the Duff line of cake decorating products and pans with Food Network celebrity baker Duff Goldman, who appears in the video.
Dornseif says some grocery stores are breaking down the barriers between baking ingredients and bakeware. Usually baking items are merchandised parallel to the baking ingredients aisle, Dornseif says, but some grocery stores have pans and tools in a four-foot section within the baking aisle. “That’s where you see the biggest success,” she says.
Home cooks shopping the category might also be looking for an apron. Rodney Benson, president of Now Designs, based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, says textiles are a growing segment in housewares and aprons are especially popular. “It allows the grocery stores to add some nice color and even fashion into their assortment,” he says.
Benson says the textiles area has a good future in grocery because fashion changes, bringing new colors and fabrics. Now Designs recently introduced microfiber tea towels and dishcloths, and offers retailers an apron display that can fit into existing housewares sections. “As the trends change I think the grocery industry is interested in keeping abreast and taking advantage of fashion,” he says.
Donna Boehm, senior marketing manager for Cincinnati-based Candle-lite, agrees that the key to getting the most out of the housewares category is to offer assortments that change. While candles are considered an impulse item, they are also repeat purchases. Instead of stocking up and buying candles on one shopping trip, consumers come back and buy different candles as the seasons change.
For example, Boehm says, a shopper might buy a nine-ounce candle from Candle-lite’s Essential Elements line and enjoy the fragrance and burn quality so much that they return to the supermarket to buy the 14.75-ounce version, or buy multiple nine-ounce candles. “Also customers that know when their supermarket is going to run a BOGO or a 30% off promotion will wait for that, and they’ll take that opportunity to buy more,” she says.
Regardless of the state of the economy, Boehm says, people still want to make their homes warm and happy. Supermarkets have responded with better products. “The quality of the candles in the food channel has definitely improved. You’re basically getting higher quality candles with fragrance that will quickly scent a room, that is consistent and strong as the candle burns, in styles that look appealing to people looking for home décor.”
Keep them coming back
Other items, such as personal grooming products, also present opportunities for repeat purchases, says Steve Yde, director of marketing for Sterling, Ill.-based Wahl Clipper.
“Forty percent of men own clippers, and 20% are in the market to buy a new one,” he says. Some supermarkets don’t carry nose hair trimmers or beard trimmers because the majority of supermarket shoppers are women. That is a mistake, he says, noting that 50% of electric shavers are sold to women who are buying for men, 40% of hair clipper sales are to women, and 30% of beard trimmers are to women. “The husband makes a shopping list and says I need one of these, or she says, ‘Hey you need this.’”
Yde adds that over the past seven years, Wahl’s grocery business has tripled, and he predicts the growth will continue. “I see double-digit growth the next several years in this category,” he says.
Another opportunity in housewares is travel. David Strumeier, executive vice president of sales/marketing for the Travelocity division of Mizco, based in Avenel, N.J., says many people often have to fill a prescription before going out of town, so while they are waiting, they wander the store. “The supermarket should recognize the fact that the consumer that’s captive in their stores is not only coming in to buy a toothbrush holder made for travel for 99 cents or a travel size deodorant. What they’re looking for are practical products they can use on their trips, which satisfy a need,” he says.
Among those products are eye masks for sleep, gel masks, travel chargers, and other products in Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome line. Mizco plans to launch a series of foldable bags including a backpack, tote bag, and duffel bag. “What’s phenomenal is the supermarket is a great place for these because the price-points are fantastic and the products are very practical,” Strumeier says.
Other products for away from home, such as hydration items, are also seeing growth. Hank Roth, executive vice president of Cool Gear International, based in Plymouth, Mass., says their new Chillers, which are double wall plastic containers for iced drinks and coffee, are doing especially well. “We expect to sell 20 million units this year,” he says.
Roth says chillers and other bottles are often displayed near bottled water, in floor displays. Some stores display the chillers near kitchen gadgets or food storage items, which Cool Gear also manufactures.
He thinks supermarkets could get more out of the hydration segment, which has profit margins of 50%, if the stores devote four feet of permanent space. “It has to have a home and I think the best home is next to food storage,” he says. Cool Gear will introduce three more food storage brands at IHA’s International Home & Housewares Show in Chicago in March.