The home and housewares business has been trying to pinpoint the “next normal” ever since the pandemic rattled the market like never before.
First came the unprecedented sales surge of 2020 inspired by homebound living. That was followed by a bumpy 2021 of continuing solid demand offset by supply chain snags and unrelenting virus variants that challenged year-over-year comparisons while keeping sales ahead of pre-pandemic levels. And then came 2022, which has seen COVID — while still a factor, especially as it slows Chinese production yet again — replaced as the prevailing concern by runaway inflation, sagging stock markets and other indicators of a slowing U.S. economy.
Next normal? To borrow from an industry colleague, perhaps it’s time we start calling it the “never normal.”
This is where the housewares business has a real advantage to capture consumers a little more apprehensive and selective in their discretionary spending.
History tells us the housewares business is one of the most even-keeled, slump-resistant retail businesses. Before the pandemic obliterated all sorts of sales norms, the housewares business was prone to neither steep sales inclines during economic booms nor steep declines during downturns. The value of the housewares business, which at its core balances essential utility with modest personal indulgence, is especially evident when consumer dollars are tighter and people are forgoing larger expenses.
History may no longer provide the surest navigational guidance in a marketplace now defined more than ever by its unpredictability than any sense of enduring normality. But it is encouraging to know that the steadiness of housewares replacement and upgrading remains foundational. That means housewares opportunity remains foundational for sellers and buyers who can overcome hurdles to curate in-stock selections marked by innovation, new features and authentic lifestyle benefits, among other marketable attributes that consumers will value more than the few extra dollars they might have to spend.
Here’s a key finding from the recent HomePage News 2022 Outlook Report measuring consumer housewares purchase intent: Within each of the 15 categories measured by the Outlook survey, nearly half or more of consumers surveyed said they plan to buy products in 2022. That indicates there is still plenty of runway left to sell a consumer base that seemingly went all-in with housewares the past two years. Such untapped demand likely is more discerning than it was during the height of the pandemic. It will require more than just having products in stock. It will require the right product backed by creative, compelling marketing and merchandising that clearly conveys differentiated value.
In the quest to determine what is normal in this uncertain business climate, one thing is certain: Few industries are as well-positioned as home and housewares.