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December 23, 2022

Celebrate Everything: The Next Chapter for the Housewares Business

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Final holiday sales results are starting to flow in with the calendar turning to 2023. These results will frame an important story about how the overall retailing business — and the housewares business in particular —  is faring against the latest gusts of economic and marketplace headwinds as the industry heads to winter trade markets in Dallas, Atlanta, Las Vegas, New York and Frankfurt before convening at The Inspired Home Show in early March.

We’ve already heard the stories of surging retail traffic numbers during the holiday period that did not equate to comparably surging retail sales revenue across the general merchandise landscape. It is an unusual scenario of consumers eager to get out and shop but wary of spending on discretionary items because of the higher costs of everyday living.

For a housewares industry that swung from unimaginable sales growth during pandemic lockdowns to an inevitable slowdown in the aftermath of such excess, the story plot has followed its main characters on a dramatic business journey from uncertainty to elation to letdown.

The end of this holiday season is quite the cliffhanger, leaving everyone to wonder how the next chapter of the story will unfold.

If there is a promising subplot to the overall softening of sales, it might be the all-out resurgence of at-home entertaining this holiday season after a false start to the full-scale return of such gatherings during a 2021 holiday period marked by the Omicron COVID surge. We should find out soon if and how much increased holiday entertaining activity provided a lift to such categories as kitchenware, tableware and barware.

The opportunity for the housewares business to ride the renewed at-home entertaining wave will continue after the ball drops in Times Square. The International Housewares Association’s recent 2023 At-Home Entertaining Survey revealed 82% of consumers expect to entertain in their homes at the same or increased frequency in the next year, while 35% expect to entertain in their homes more often or much more often.

Even if the home is not likely to fully relinquish its pandemic-heightened standing as a safe haven, it is solidifying its place as a re-imagined, inviting hub for gathering and celebrating. HomePage News recently released results and analysis of the 2023 IHA Occasions Survey, which affirms a strengthening connection between escalating consumer plans to celebrate key life moments, some of which were postponed during the pandemic, and demand for a wide range of housewares products for each occasion.

Springboard Futures’ Tom Mirabile, consumer trend forecaster for IHA and HomePage News, stresses the long-term customer loyalty and commensurate sales that can be extracted at a higher level from product development, marketing and merchandising tied to holidays and key life occasions. “Celebrate everything,” Mirabile often says in a straightforward advisory from which the post-pandemic housewares business can benefit.

Year-end retail sales tallies will tell only part of the story about how the houseware business navigated a challenging holiday season. The next chapter is always the most important chapter for a determined and innovative business that for generations has demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of whatever headwinds it encountered.

I, for one, can’t wait to see how the story unfolds. Until then, I can’t think of a better time to begin celebrating everything.

Have a healthy and happy new year.

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