The last year saw the cookware industry plagued by the growing instability surrounding the tariffs implemented by the Trump Administration. However, there is belief among some vendors that 2020 will be the year manufacturers are able to move forward and the industry will right-side itself.
Implemented in 2018, the 10% tariff on raw materials is still impacting the cookware industry. The added tax on steel and aluminum goods seemingly changed the landscape of the cookware industry while simultaneously stunting innovation, especially with metal-based cookware. This led to stagnated sales during the last year. The Cookware Manufacturer’s Association noted that cookware saw an overall increase in sales of 2.5% during 2019.
“There’s been a lot of disruption going on within the cookware industry in the past year, and we believe we’ll continue to see the effects of this well into 2020 and beyond. From wholesale changes in upper management teams to factory closures to key brands suddenly ceasing to exist, combined with some shifts in strategy, I think we can rest assured that lots of change is to be expected in the years ahead,” said Jennifer Dalquist, evp/Nordic Ware.
Cookware companies found themselves in a holding pattern during 2019, many of which looked internally at strategies and processes to help thwart off potential losses. However, some cookware companies changed their plans altogether. Tramontina, which expanded its Wisconsin facility only two years ago, shuttered the plant in favor of moving its operations to Brazil. Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry (WAF) has chosen to bring production back to the U.S., allowing it to absorb some of the financial strife it would have incurred if the goods continued to be imported from China.
“Just like every other industry, tariff uncertainty constantly has an impact on our business. This applies to not only stainless but also proposed tariffs on aluminum as well,” said Jennifer Lucas Koenig, director of cookware, Groupe SEB USA.
“I think the biggest impact of the tariffs and all the noise around the tariff conversation has been over-reaction of purchasing of steel and thus some shortages in supply leading to longer lead times. I believe we will see more normalcy in 2020 and the market will begin to balance and find its footing,” said Bobby Griggs, vp/Heritage Steel cookware, which manufactures its cookware in the U.S.
Alex Wittner, svp/housewares business development at Gibson, noted that manufacturers should now be in the implementation state of mind when it comes to adjusting to tariffs and not still in the reaction phase.
“Tariffs in the U.S. have created a lot of uncertainty, but a lot of these fears are being assuaged as tariffs on stainless steel and carbon steel are being lifted and are more relaxed. We’re hopeful we’ve passed the worst of the tariff fallout. We’re being vigilant in adjusting pricing and working with our factories to find fair solutions, but a lot of these problems haven’t played out as much as we expected, fingers crossed. We’re optimistic about 2020, but taking it with an extra-large grain of salt,” he said.
For more on the cookware market, see the Cookware & Bakeware Report in the HomeWorld Business February 3 issue.