US sales of non-electric housewares reached $5.6 billion in the 12 months ending September 2013, according to a recent NPD Group report. While only a slight uptick (+0.5%) from the previous year, based on NPD research, the shift is noteworthy as it is the first increase after several 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 for The NPD Group, Inc. “If last year, with 37% 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%, now representing 15% 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.”
Nearly a third of housewares dollar sales moved through specialty stores in the 12 months ending September 2013, with mass merchants close behind. While both channels experienced gains in the categories this year, their performance Q4 2012 showed declines. During the 2012 holiday shopping season, sales at department stores and warehouse clubs grew the most, but only warehouse clubs maintained the growth throughout the year, according to the NPD report.
“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.