Shifts in the Home Marketplace, Some Segments Rebounding

Since the start of the recession, consumers have changed their shopping habits, including where they are shopping and why. According to The NPD Group, Inc., in 2009, the small appliance industry gained 1.4% in sales over 2008, and although the housewares industry is still seeing declines year over year, there are segments that are rebounding.

A Small Price to Pay

In some cases, if the price was right, consumers gravitated to a more specialized product.  In particular, it was a good year for the $9 pen hair trimmer and $19 specialty hairdryer with double-digit growth, and the $21 bath spa massager with triple-digit growth.  Several other niche products also demonstrated solid performance, doing better than expected in a tougher economic environment, as a result of the continued behavioral shift towards staying home and entertaining with family and friends.  Specialty kitchen appliances such as popcorn makers and fondue sets, experienced growth, and some specialty beverageware segments, like fine wine glasses and acrylic beverageware, also benefited from this trend.

"Consumers found value in these items and their relatively affordable price points ‑they consider it a small price to pay for those basic ‘wants' or home comforts that may have gone ignored at the height of the recession," said Peter Goldman, president of NPD's home division.

Dynamics of Digital and the Aging Population

On the flip side lies the continuing evolution of where and how consumers make purchases, positively impacting price-points and sales in many industries.  Online sales have reached all-time highs for most home segments, representing between 8 and 16% of fourth quarter (Oct. — Dec.) 2009 small appliance, and housewares dollars — in most cases, sales were up compared to a year ago.

In the small appliance and housewares industries, the average price of items purchased online was approximately double that of items purchased at brick-and-mortar stores in the fourth quarter.  Consumers are likely to shop online for premium-priced items, as it is a format that allows for easy feature and price comparisons and general product education. Over the past two years, prices dropped in the small appliance market overall, but the online shopping medium still managed to command a higher price point.

"These evolving consumer behaviors offer opportunity for the manufacturers and retailers who understand the current consumer mindset and the new consumer segments playing larger roles in the same home industries," ended Goldman.

Peter Goldman.  Home Industry Trends. The NPD Group.  12 Mar. 2010.  Web.  18 Mar. 2010.