Figuring Out When The Ride Stops

Gauging trends remains an inexact science despite all the analytics and insights available to help vendors and retailers decide what’s hot and what’s not.

It often comes down to a risk-versus-reward guessing game to determine when along the trend cycle is the right time to jump into a category, the right time to jump off and, sometimes, the right time to stay even when the experts and POS data are advising you to bolt.

Decision Time

That dilemma confronts players along the housewares supply chain each year. And with the winter housewares show season in the rearview mirror, decision time looms for many regarding their buy-in to categories that could be nearing or even past peak.

Information and opinions might vary on which housewares categories that have earned and commanded the spotlight in recent years could be on the proceed-with-caution list. 

Juicers. Soda makers. Treat makers. Ceramic cookware. Cupcake accessories. Steam cleaners. Single-serve coffeemakers. Yes, even single-serve coffeemakers. And many others.

It happens to the best of categories. In some cases, they reach a point where swift competitive saturation common among the hottest products in this business erodes prices, margins and growth potential— often prematurely. In other cases, they’re just not hot anymore.

Post-Peak Advantage

No one is suggesting these and other categories facing similar situations should be banished from the retail shelves. Post-peak sales for such fast-rising products often settle at a considerable piece of business, likely to be divided among fewer marketers with the stomach to endure the downturn.

I recall a conversation several years ago with the CEO of a leading small appliance company that at the time was the market-share leader in two once-soaring specialty categories that had begun to dip. Noting how many opportunists that entered as the categories were rising were among the first to flee, the executive saw the advantage of a more dominant share of smaller, yet more stable, categories.

Both categories remain housewares basics today, and one of them re-emerged in recent years as among the hottest product trends. What’s old often becomes new again in this business.

Productive Basics

This is where leaders can separate from followers with increased efforts to sustain the upward momentum of a trend against downward pressure and a commitment to serve a category after it leaves the spotlight.

Nobody wants to be the last buggy whip maker. The beauty of the housewares business, though, is its ability to adapt hot items into productive long-term basics after the embers have been doused. 

Figuring out when to jump in, jump out or stay is anyone’s guess. But when trend experts and sales data tell you the ride is over, it might be starting all over again for someone.