Housewares Posts Selective Gains

April 15, 2010

Bad news for restaurants in this recession has meant selective good news for housewares sales in food, drug and mass channels lately.

Bad news for restaurants in this recession has meant selective good news for housewares sales in food, drug and mass channels lately. Because people eat and entertain more at home, they care more about the experience, focus more on saving time in food purchase and prep, and sometimes replenish certain kinds of cookware, appliances, gadgets, dinnerware, serving ware, glassware and paper and plastic products.

To save time, for example, the International Housewares Association released data that points to greater use of convenience foods such as precut fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as slow cookers to lessen hands-on time. Microwaves are in use more (about 30% of meals) and stove tops less (33% of meals) than in prior years (52% in 1985). 

"The movement back to our home has been about value," said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst, The NPD Group and author of the 24th Annual Report on Eating Patterns in America. "There has been a structural shift illuminated by the economy, not caused by the economy." Therefore, items bought such as dinnerware might be quality casual rather than formal, and the dinner table might be dressed with colorful accessories.

There's no evidence of recent upscaling in Nielsen data covering more than 1,100 different kinds of housewares items.

One sure sign of consumers' frugal nature is the 35.0% jump in dollar sales of canning and freezing supplies to $162.4 million in U.S. food, drug and mass merchandiser stores (including Walmart) during the 52 weeks ended February 20, 2010, shows Nielsen data.  This followed a 19.5% boost during the prior year.  Most of the gain occurred in freezer supplies, up 203.8% to $39.1 million. This reflects a recessionary trend to organize meals better, cook for several days or a week at a time, and ensure that portions of healthful foods are more consistently ready for reheating.

According to Nielsen, amateur chefs drove cooking/health and healing book sales to a 31% advance, during a year in which total book sales were down by 3%. "A hunger for knowledge had more than one million viewers tuning in to The Food Network during prime time and 11% of Internet surfers visiting food websites," the market research company stated.

The desire to eat and drink healthy, and to quell concerns about local water quality, led to a 17.1% increase in dollar sales of water filtration storage containers to $59.8 million in the latest 52 weeks. This followed a 32.4% gain during the prior year, said Nielsen, noting that all its data is for prepackaged, UPC-coded products only.

Juicer appliances also continued their multi-year growth streak. Their 18.5% dollar sales rise to $27.6 million in the most recent 52 weeks followed a 28.4% leap in the prior year, reported Nielsen.

On a larger scale, the nearly $1 billion cookware category has pushed forward for two straight years, with successive annual dollar sales gains of 2.1% and 2.5% to $977.2 million. Larger still, kitchen gadget sales bumped up by 0.9% to $2.63 billion during the latest 52 weeks, said Nielsen.