ROSEMONT, Ill. -- The U.S. housewares industry hit $54.8 billion in sales in 1997, up from $53.8 billion in 1996, according to the National Housewares Manufacturers Association, based here.
Consumers spent $560 per household on the category last year -- more than they spent on essential foods such as fruits and vegetables, or on education. Supermarkets, classified under the "middle five" retail formats, turned in flat sales of $3.2 billion in 1997.
These are just some of the findings of NHMA's 1998 State of the Industry report. Under the direction of the NHMA's Industry Education Committee, the report and two confidential benchmark surveys are a joint effort between the NHMA and Willard Bishop Consulting, a research consulting group in Barrington, Ill.
The reports are compiled from a broad range of external and internal data to reflect the "broadly based housewares industry," according to an official. Findings are based on member responses to the state-of-the-industry survey, combined with data from a U.S. government study on consumer expenditures.
Leading the category is electric housewares, which includes kitchenware and personal-care electrics, such as humidifiers, air purifiers and massagers. The category is the largest in housewares, posting more than $10 billion in retail sales in 1997.
However, solid growth in other categories resulted in electrics' share of the pie shrinking by one-third over the past four years, according to the report. Cookware/bakeware registered $7.6 billion in 1997 retail sales; tabletop accounted for $7.8 billion; and decorative accessories chipped in $6.5 billion. Space organizers, at $4.3 billion in sales, rounded out the top five categories, which comprised 63% of total housewares sales in 1997.
The remaining 37% is made up of cleaning products, furniture, kitchen tools and accessories, outdoor and hardware and personal-care non-electrics.
On the retail front, discount stores and supercenters achieved the strongest growth of any retail channel, accounting for one-third of U.S. housewares sales. Average net profits at publicly held NHMA companies increased almost twofold in 1997. Although fewer companies exported goods last year, exports rose to 13.8% from 8.2% of NHMA members' total sales in 1997.
The "big three" retail formats -- discount stores/supercenters, department stores and specialty stores -- rang up more than half of direct-to-retail sales.
Fueled by Wal-Mart's Supercenter expansion, the discount stores/supercenters generated three times the volume ($16.8 billion) of department stores, with $5.2 billion in sales; specialty stores were at $4.7 billion.
Together, the "middle five" retail channels, which in addition to supermarkets include hardware and home centers, warehouse clubs, drug stores and catalog showrooms, accounted for $14 billion in housewares sales.