Demographics and changing lifestyles are as important as color and design in hot-selling housewares.
For example, supermarket general merchandise buyers are adding smaller food storage containers to appeal to a growing population of older citizens, and those people living in smaller-unit households.
"Smaller-size food and utility storage containers have been a boost for plasticware. We carry these smaller sizes that appeal to the aging population and two-worker families," said Gary Schloss, vice president of general merchandise at Carr Gottstein Foods, Anchorage, Alaska.
Retailers are expanding into computer and office supplies to capitalize on the exploding home office market that has been fueled by more people working at home. It's estimated that 43.2 million individuals now work at home, according to a 1994 survey by LINK Resources, New York.
And security devices can now be found on supermarket shelves as some retailers are attempting to meet their customers' concerns over rising crime. "We've addressed today's concerns about personal safety by adding personal security devices at the front end with retails between $4.99 to $6.99," said Bill West, director of nonfood at Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio.
"The supermarket housewares customer profile we're trying to reach is the same as the mass merchandiser. Families that do the bulk of today's housewares sales are in the 18-to-35 age group with children," said Dick Swain, vice president of general merchandise at Associated
Wholesale Grocers, Kansas City, Kan.
This week more than 15,000 housewares buyers are expected to attend the International Housewares Show, which began yesterday and runs through Wednesday at McCormick Place in Chicago. Nearly 2,000 exhibitors will introduce the newest products in the $50.4 billion industry.
Here are the housewares product areas retailers and wholesalers will emphasize as they attempt to capture sales from the mass merchandisers and specialty stores.
Seaway Food Town
We've addressed today's concerns about personal safety by adding personal security devices at the front end with retails between $4.99 to $6.99. The security items emit a piercing sound or irritating gas and are merchandised on pegs at checkouts.
We've added 4-four Xerox office supply sections at 12 to 15 stores. The sections are in addition to the stationery, school, home and office area, with an expanded mix in computer and copy machine supplies, ink cartridges, copy paper, envelopes and other supplies all priced under $15.
We're getting good shopper acceptance from a new 4-foot section of smaller food storage containers. The smaller-size containers retail for under $5, and are well suited for those families with smaller, or single-member households.
Bed and toss pillows, framed pictures and towels at $5 to $6 price points also create excitement. We view this merchandise as another area of opportunity for growth. New styles and colors are very important in attracting the impulse shopper.
VP, general merchandise
Associated Wholesale Grocers
Kansas City, Kan.
The industry needs to change the perception revealed in past surveys that in the customers' mind the supermarket either carries inferior product, and/or is overpriced.
Today's shoppers know Wal-Mart and Kmart carry national brands that they feel comfortable with, and we need to give supermarket shoppers the same impression. We're going to feature more recognizable brand names like Rubbermaid and Ekco because it's more important than carrying import programs just to try to make a lot of gross. We'll target the supermarket housewares shopper with regular housewares goods featured in food ads and slip sheet supplements.
The supermarket housewares customer profile we're trying to reach is the same as the mass merchandiser. Families that do the bulk of today's housewares sales are in the 18 to 35 age group with children.
We're promoting one to two kitchen tools and gadgets, including ladles, spatulas and corkscrews, as an unadvertised manager's feature. We see sales triple on the promotional items over their normal movement during the promotion period. Signs alert shoppers to the power panel special of the month.
The gadgets also are cross-merchandised at 20% to 30% lower retails at areas like at the dairy case. This allows us to pull housewares business away from the discount and mass merchandise channels.
Each month new gadgets or kitchen tools are rotated on the 2-by-4-foot power panels, which hold 36 to 48 carded pieces. We try and use a regular Ekco line item from our gadgets department so that any unsold product after the promotion can be placed in that set.
VP, general merchandise
Carr Gottstein Foods
We're looking at more modern housewares designs in molded plastic utility stacking units, waste baskets, storage bins, trash cans and different shapes of food storage containers that attract today's consumer. These products are shifting to more of a high-tech look, and away from the old-fashioned round shapes.
Smaller-size food and utility storage containers have been a boost for plasticware. We carry these smaller sizes that appeal to the aging population and two worker families.
Bakeware, cookware, appliances and any type of kitchenware are still the hottest housewares categories with the most potential for us. These are the areas women, our predominant shopper, will think about when they have more disposable income.
assistant director, general merchandise, HBC
Jitney Jungle Stores of America
Kitchen gadgets and tools are fairly underdeveloped areas for us that will be giving increased attention. We'll be more targeted with limited stockkeeping units in upscale gadgets and tools under a $5 retail at selected stores. Most of our other gadgets and tools will be in a $2 to $3 price range.
Promotional plastics priced at $2 to $3 have been the most successful for us in competing against the mass merchandisers. We've done well with a couple of low-end plastics promotions in basic housewares.
general merchandise buyer
Randalls Food Markets
Gadgets have the most potential and it is still a growing category. It's a category that is constantly changing and needs fine-tuning by store demographics and customer needs.
We lowered retails on an upscale kitchen gadgets program by $3, with a top price of $9.99 to bring the products closer in price to our everyday gadgets. Although the better grade gadgets had performed well and boosted our gadgets sales overall by about 15%, the line failed to meet our expectations.
In housewares you must be willing to make less margin to compete, and instead go after the volume by merchandising items at reasonable price points. Today's customers are a little more price-conscious and want to see good value.
We're carrying bread makers priced at $99.99 to $129.99, and coffeemakers retailed to $89 at selected upscale communities. Sales have been positive. Coffeemakers and coffee mills are cross-merchandised at bulk coffees and tea bars at a group of affluent stores.
In kitchen appliances you must try and break new ground to attract sales. We've increased exposure to coffeemakers and coffee grinders at stores in affluent areas with traffic to support these appliances, and sales are growing at a gradual rate. The bread makers are displayed with ingredients and cookbooks in the baking aisle.
We've expanded our kitchen appliances selection with added coffee makers, irons, toasters, hand mixers and other items.