Tabletop Industry Evolving With Rise Of Casual Consumer

The past 10 years have seen a number of major changes within the tableware industry, as brands and retailers have been forced to augment product assortments to meet the needs of a changing consumer base that today is more focused on entertaining and less on formalware.

Tableware suppliers that spoke with HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® noted that the changes seen over the past decade were driven by a host of macro issues ranging from the economic downturn, to new home designs and the expanded influence of younger consumers who preferred a more casual product style.

“Everyday dining has evolved into everyday entertainment, where experience, taste and good conversation are the drivers,” said Richard Brinkman, vp/sales and marketing, Homer Laughlin China. “Tabletop took a more secondary role to food prep, where the tools of preparation have moved center stage.”

As a result, developing elegant, quality product that will have lasting value in the consumer’s home without the fussiness has been the focus for suppliers. The key, suppliers said, is creating a lifestyle-based assortment that draws consumers into the experience.

“Comfort and ease of use have taken over from the stricter standards and etiquettes of previous generations,” said Ross Patterson, business director/tabletop, Robinson Home Products. “With younger generations, there is increasing focus on substance over appearance.”

The growth of casualization has diminished the need for formal dining, and many new home builds have nixed the dining room altogether, said Sherri Crisenbery, vp/Lenox.

She noted that new home designs feature larger kitchens with a built-in island or a place where a homeowner could place a buffet table for guests to congregate around while still being an integral part of food preparation. The kitchen today has become a place to gather, and for hosts or hostesses to mingle with their guests, whereas in the past, the cook would be isolated preparing the meal.

Consumers are also choosing design, utility driven home products first, purchasing performance oriented cookware, electrics and kitchen tools and gadgets before dinnerware. “She is buying a lot of things that makes dinner easy to make; all things that whip up a meal with no effort,” said Lester Gribetz, president of Lenox.

Being economically prudent also causes consumers to choose dinnerware that serves double duty in the home, collections that could be dressed up or down or that could go from oven to table, suppliers said. White and solid dinnerware has become a perfect blank slate for consumers that are looking to make the most out of a singular pattern purchase.

“One thing that has become quite apparent is the consumer taste has changed tremendously from being hungry for handpainted looks 10 to 12 years ago, for basic whites and solid looks,” noted Dar Molayem, svp, TTU.

“Today consumers want a more casual kitchen that is beautiful and durable. Consumers are looking for patterns and designs that easily transition from special occasions to everyday life,” said Sal Gabbay, CEO of Gibson.

For more on the tabletop industry’s evolution, see the January 18 issue of HOMEWORLD BUSINESS®. This issue also features a preview of winter gift markets and includes the annual On Design supplement, which highlights housewares design innovation.