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Color Is Everywhere In Housewares, But Will It Sell?

Monday April 15th, 2013 - 11:27AM

Color, color everywhere.

That’s been a big story at first-half housewares trade shows, as the industry turns to a variety of bright and rich tones to awaken the marketplace.

It’s evident not just in tabletop and home décor, traditional color leaders in housewares. But also in such segments as basic kitchen electrics, kitchen tools, home comfort, even non-stick cookware interiors.

It’s an all-in move to bring color to the foreground to entice a new generation of consumers craving products that connect more intimately with their personalities and lifestyles.

Palette Potential

The big question: Can all this color sell?

Figuring out what colors people like and what they’ll actually buy has always been something of a crapshoot for a good part of the housewares industry.

Color waves have struck this industry in a big way before. Remember earth tones? Jewel tones? 

But most U.S. housewares marketers and merchants typically have played it safer with color, guided by belief that American consumers prefer more neutral styling and by justifiable concerns about costly leftovers when a color misses.

It does appear now, though, as global fashion gaps narrow and other consumer hardlines industries spice up their palettes, that more housewares developers are enthusiastically exploring how to break the black, white and stainless color barriers. 

The opportunity is inviting. But it needs to be implemented with informed, strategic discretion— not always easy for an industry that can be quick to play follow the leader when a trend starts to percolate.

Consumers pursue most housewares products, even those at seemingly disposable pricepoints, as investment purchases. Their choices generally are made with a longer-term commitment to styling, unlike the purchase of a shirt or a pair of sneakers that might be relegated to the back of the closet after one season at the top of the hot color list.

Understanding Color

Like retailers, consumers are wary of making regrettable, impulsive choices, despite their genuine attraction to colorful designs.

So with all the color that has been unleashed on the housewares business this year, asking what the hot colors are is not enough. It’s more important to understand why they might be hot and how they can be applied to generate sustained revenue.

Nothing is guaranteed, but the chances of long-term color success can increase with more detailed study of how the subtleties of color and tone interact with the consumer shopper psyche.

Cultivating Choice

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of Pantone Color Institute, recently said: “To create the ‘magic’ that ultimately leads to sales in the marketplace, colors for 2013 will need to coax and cajole, soothe or astonish, renew and replenish. At the same time, there will be the consumer’s expectation of practicality— what colors will have staying power and can be relied upon as a steadying influence in unsteady times.”

Pantone’s 2013 home product color projections present nine lifestyle themes that serve up variations derived from many basic color roots. That underscores the challenge for the housewares trade to identify, select and commit to the most productive tones in a business unforgiving to excess inventory.

Color choice is important to a new generation of consumers looking for more ways to express individuality. The new wave of color variety in housewares has painted a fresh, bright outlook for the industry.

Color, color everywhere: It is a big story. Cultivating the informed commitments needed for it to sell will be even bigger.

—peter Giannetti