Housewares Helping Virus-Wary Consumers Shelter At Home

NEW YORK— While Amazon and other big retailers have made it top priority in the near term to fill warehouses with medicine, food and household staples, home and housewares products are demonstrating high everyday significance with more people confined to their homes during the coronavirus crisis.

Such sheltering behavior is expected by some to continue to some degree long after the coronavirus crisis lifts.

A Wayfair spokesperson told HomeWorld Business home and housewares has been strong for Wayfair as its customers follow stay-at-home orders. On the weekend of March 21 and 22, kitchen and storage sales surged 50% year over year while small electrics sales doubled.

Home office sales on Wayfair have seen a major advance, with desk and office chair sales five times what they had been in the three months prior, the Wayfair spokesperson said. Items such as task-purposed stools and office sets also have seen significant sales gains, he added.

Target reported that from mid-March it experienced a strong surge in traffic and sales, with category mix heavily concentrated in the essentials and food/beverage categories. In the same timeframe, sales growth also emerged within the hardlines that support in-home activities, including home office and entertainment, while performance softened meaningfully in apparel/accessories.

Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for The NPD Group, said retail sales growth of small appliances during the week ending March 7 indicates a consumer focus on cooking and cleaning.

“This is likely to continue as these products offer assistance with living a socially distant and healthy lifestyle,” Cohen said.

The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) urged government officials to include home appliance production, distribution, retailing and servicing among “essential businesses” to maintain safe, sanitary and otherwise necessary operations of residences.

Joseph McGuire, AHAM president and CEO, said, “Home appliances, such as ranges and ovens, refrigerators, air cleaners, personal care products, humidifiers and floor care appliances are necessary and essential to the wellbeing and safety of people in their homes. This means that Americans need access to appliances, and to servicing, as needed, for these critical items.”

Holly Bohn, vp of Thinkspace Brands, a marketer of home and office workspace organizers, expects the work-from-home surge to create opportunities for home organization suppliers with diversified supply bases prepared to fulfill increasing demand.

“People are at home, they want to get organized and need a functional home office, so storage and office are actually strong,” Bohn said. “We’ve heard from retailers that some manufacturers have not been able to fill orders, and we were able to step in and get those retailers product for important times, such as back to school.”

A survey by Coresight Research reveals consumers believe changes in their behavior prompted by the coronavirus outbreak would extend beyond the pandemic. In the survey, conducted March 17 and 18 as restrictions to gatherings and movement were taking hold in the U.S., 47.4% of consumers said they expect to continue with changes to their shopping behaviors made during the outbreak even after it subsides, especially when it comes to more hygienic practices and a focus on health and wellness.

On the health and wellness appliance front, Katie Sotor, vp of humidifier supplier Crane, noted that the Center for Disease Control recommends use of humidifiers as one of the ways to relieve coronavirus symptoms, including nasal congestion, dry cough and sore throat.