Positive Signs for Housewares Industry—NPD Group

The NPD Group, reports that US sales of non-electric housewares reached $5.6 billion in the 12 months ending September 2013. While this is a slight uptick (+0.5 percent) from the previous year, it is a noteworthy shift after years of sales declines for the industry.

“The apparent leveling of the housewares industry is great to see after being challenged by the economy and shifting consumer behavior for several years,” said Debra Mednick, executive director and home industry analyst, The NPD Group, Inc. “If last year, with 37 percent of annual sales coming from the fourth quarter, is any reflection of what is in store this year, there is real potential for the industry to see a positive finish to 2013. As we finish this holiday season, all eyes will be watching to see if the turnaround continued during this important time.”

Across cooking and prep categories, as well as tabletop products, sales performance over the last year has improved compared to the fourth quarter of 2012, including the two largest categories, cookware and dinnerware. One notable shift in purchasing behavior has been the increase in online sales, up 8 percent, now representing 15 percent of total non-electric housewares dollars.

“The increasing shift to online purchasing of items like cookware and dinnerware, which consumers typically prefer to see, touch, and feel in person, seems counter-intuitive. But, it comes as no surprise as more and more retailers, both brick & mortar and pureplay e-commerce, invest in their sites and work more closely with manufacturers to improve merchandising,” said Mednick.

“Online is expected to continue to grow, but, will also be used by many as a ‘showroom’. Selling online, if done right, provides consumers with comparative information that often leads to trading-up,” continued Mednick.

Nearly a third of housewares dollar sales moved through specialty stores in the 12 months ending September 2013, and mass merchants aren’t far behind. Both of these channels have experienced gains this year, but their performance in the fourth quarter of 2012 was not as positive. During the holiday shopping season of 2012, sales at department stores and warehouse clubs grew the most, but that growth has only continued through the year for warehouse clubs.

“Department stores are not the primary place consumers think of for non-electrics that they once were. Assortment and discounts draw today’s housewares consumer into a different kind of store,” said Mednick. “However, the holiday season, combined with the behavior shift occurring for these categories, may be an opportunity. Department stores, and retailers in general, should look to become a one-stop-shop, attracting housewares consumers while they are purchasing other items in their store, or on their website.

“At the end of the day, it’s about convenience and value,” concluded Mednick.

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