College Registry Could Grow Housewares Opportunity

With the emergence of consumers adopting new lifestyle choices such as when or if they marry, have a baby, purchase their first home and similar milestones, the gift registry has evolved beyond a traditional bridal one. Instead, registries are popping up as a way to support and celebrate the various life moments a consumer is celebrating— with most of the focus surrounding the home.

“Much of the growth we are seeing is because the home, the kitchen is becoming more important. The purchase occasion surrounding that growth is changing as well. We are selling more during the holidays than bridal registry, as well as for so many other life moments. We should be doing a better job marketing to those moments,” said Joe Derochowski,NPD’s executive director and home industry analyst.

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There are a range of opportunities for the retail industry to market registries surrounding these life moments— beyond wedding— with college dorm registries being one of the most overlooked theme for housewares.

“Consumers are still apprehensive about a college registry, it just hasn’t evolved to a higher degree, however if we start educating parents earlier about all of the housewares a student will need, as well as budgeting, there is a good opportunity there for registry,” he said.

However, with parents and their kids busy focused on high school graduation, pre-college paperwork, tuition and the like, setting up their “home away from home” with the housewares they will need becomes a last minute focus. The key to tapping into this retail opportunity is for the industry to start talking to parents and their kids earlier.

To better understand this opportunity, HOMEWORLD BUSINESSâtapped Derochowski for further insight on how to better understand this registry opportunity, how retailers can develop it to make it a more profitable experience for their stores and their customers.

HomeWorld Business:As college registries become more relevant, how can retailers better capture registrants and their parents, ahead of the late summer rush?

Joe Derochowski:There is a need to start to market earlier— none of us are doing it to the degree we should. On the one hand, it is understandable. The items that currently are purchased earlier, within the home industry, are twin bed sheets. But, for the most part our back-to-college purchasing happens from the last week of July, through August and early September. It is my contention that we have to try to get into the consumer mind earlier.

We also need to create tactics and techniques to create conversations around needs between parents and their friends, and students and their friends— marketing with the goal of leveraging word of mouth marketing effectively.

Finally, for those students who live off-campus, we might want to start to speak to students as they end the year, to help them plan for next year— this effort could include a focus on advancing logistics and warehouse innovations.

HWB: What are some key marketing techniques retailers can take on to better improve their back to college opportunities?

JD:We need to better leverage the junior year college visit timeframe to help plant the seeds. What will the students need as they prepare for college, and how does it fit into the budget?

While the execution of a back-to-college registry would happen later, junior year would also be a good time to set up a registry. If the items are obvious, it becomes a natural thought process for the student and parent together— and won’t be competing with end-of-high school/graduation distractions. It might take several years for the concept of a back-to-college registry program to really take off, but with continued reinforcement among students and parents, gift-givers will welcome the option.