When a shopper thinks of a place to buy housewares, supermarkets probably aren’t the first thing that comes to mind; big-box retailers or department stores likely are. For specialty kitchen/cooking tools, gadgets and kitchen appliances, gourmet or specialty retailers might come to mind as well.
But the supermarket channel is a major player in certain housewares categories. And housewares offer a high-margin opportunity that supermarkets can target and feature to benefit their bottom line.
Each year, HomeWorld Business publishes a list of the Top 100 Housewares Retailers, and in the September issue, 22 of the top 100 housewares retailers were identified as grocery/supermarket. This included major chains such as Kroger, Publix, Albertsons, Ahold and H-E-B, among others.
Based on HomeWorld’s data, the top 100 retailers accounted for approximately $97 billion in housewares sales in 2015, and supermarkets in the top 100 accounted for approximately 5.5 percent of this total. Eighteen of the 22 supermarkets listed increased their housewares sales in 2015.
Each year, the International Housewares Association, “the Home Authority” and sponsor of the annual International Home + Housewares Show, the world’s largest housewares-only fair, does a State of the Industry Report, covering 14 distribution channels and 18 product categories.
While the top two overall channels were identified as mass merchants/supercenters and specialty stores, supermarkets/food stores ranked seventh in total housewares sales with more than $5 billion, accounting for approximately 8 percent of the total housewares sales.
Based on the most recent data available, the top three housewares categories are Cook & Bakeware; Kitchen Tools & Accessories; and Tabletop, which combined accounted for approximately 43 percent of the total housewares sales.
Digging deeper into the category sales, supermarkets/food stores were in the top five channels for six of the 18 categories.
In Cook & Bakeware—the largest single category—supermarkets/food stores had more than $1 billion in sales to rank fifth behind mass merchants/supercenters, specialty stores, wholesalers and department stores.
In Kitchen Tools & Accessories—the second largest individual category—supermarkets/food stores ranked fourth, with more than $845 million in sales.
While supermarkets/food stores ranked sixth in Tabletop, they were still credited with $765 million in sales.
Supermarkets/food stores ranked second in two other categories—Cleaning Products & Stick Goods and Seasonal & Holiday Promotional Goods. They also ranked in the top five channels for the Bathroom & Personal Care category and for the Storage category.
Opportunities abound in several categories
The overall breadth of the housewares industry provides retailers with a number of opportunities to support trends and capture sales in cooking, cleaning, home organization and health.
As consumers have become more aware of the importance of healthy eating, opportunities for growth in food-related housewares, from preparation to storage, have increased. Celebrity chefs, cooking shows and the Food Network have shown consumers how to prepare healthier foods, regional and ethnic delicacies and fancy dishes to entertain in style. Busy and time-crunched consumers have learned about new tools and gadgets to make food preparation easier and how to prepare tasty meals using slow cookers and other techniques. New and improved storage containers preserve perishable food items, extending their freshness.
These are categories that supermarkets have been able to cross-merchandise to their customers. Many grocers have had success with product displays adjacent to the food or household item they support. Others have had success with stand-alone destinations with housewares products and programs complementing their other offerings.
Outside the kitchen, consumers say that an organized home is a top priority. Closet and home storage products, laundry products and cleaning products are all important to shoppers. New designs and new products have become an important feature and driving force in these categories.
One key merchandising advantage that supermarkets have over other channels is the frequency with which consumers shop them. This gives grocers a unique opportunity to capitalize on both cross-merchandising and impulse-buying opportunities to generate add-on sales. For those grocers, housewares products have proven to offer significantly greater profit than traditional food products.
The International Home + Housewares Show, to be held March 18–21 in Chicago, hosts 2,300 global exhibits and merchants from all major supermarket chains and many independents. Registration, at no charge prior to the show opening, is available at housewares.org.
A Q&A With Perry Reynolds, VP Of Global Trade Development For The International Housewares Association:
How is the kitchenware industry faring at present and how has the last year been for the industry?
Although we do not have access to specific sales data, our exhibitors tell us that they are hopeful that the financial recovery is finally leading to increased sales in most categories and that the strength of the housing market in the U.S. and elsewhere is a positive signal and that the Millennial generation—the next big wave of consumers—seems to be ready to buy and furnish homes. All are positive indicators of near-term sales growth.
On the kitchenware side, it appears to be all about innovation and brand. Those marketers who invest in innovation tend to have more durable brands and are enjoying both store placement and growth. As retailers jockey for differentiation, those more creative suppliers appear to have the edge.
Are you expecting to see growth in kitchenware at IH+HS Chicago this year in terms of exhibitors?
The show will be sold out this year, as it has been for the past several years. But among the 2,300 exhibitors we expect, buyers will find nearly 400 exhibitors new to the show. And those buyers wishing to get a headstart on what’s new should mark their calendars for 8 a.m. on Saturday morning before the show’s opening and visit the newly expanded New Exhibitor Preview, where 90 brand-new-to-the-show exhibitors will be offering a preview of their new kitchen solutions along with new exhibitors from the remainder of the show.
Which product categories in kitchenware are performing well?
Again, we do not have access to specific sales data, but there are many categories and sub-sectors that appear to thriving. Among them, to mention only a few, are pour-over coffee, water purification and infusing, kitchen organization, higher quality cutlery, spiralizing, canning and innovations in cookware and coatings.
What is new for kitchenware this year? Any new big exhibitors or returning exhibitors in tabletop or kitchen?
As mentioned earlier, there will likely be nearly 400 new exhibitors across all show categories, many of whom will be confirmed later. But a few to mention now include Koopman International, which will bring its already-established European design spirit to the U.S.; LAV branded glassware from Turkey; and Liddy Design from Australia with its fresh take on food prep and dining.
A comprehensive list of new and returning exhibitors is regularly updated at Housewares Connect 365; click on the New and Returning Exhibitor link just below the search box.
What do buyers want from a trade show today?
We spend significant time and energy meeting with buyers and assessing their needs. Our goal is to assist them in maximizing their success at the show. They praise our Housewares Connect 365 as both a meaningful show preparation tool as well as an easy year-round industry directory. They are also appreciative of the in-booth badge scanning devices we offer at no charge to exhibitors, since at the show’s conclusion, they receive a list of all the exhibitors they visited, thus giving a jumpstart to the followup process.
They also appreciate the education the show offers, although many of them prefer to enjoy the recorded versions that they can take in after the show. Each session is available almost immediately in audio, and videos are available just after the show concludes on housewares.org.
Any more highlights for the March show?
The show’s most exciting addition will certainly be a display that will illuminate the progress our industry has made in support of the “smart home” revolution. There will be experts on hand to answer questions, a major panel presentation on Sunday and a series of experts speaking each day in the show’s Innovation Theater.