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Consumer-centric approach is key to housewares success, says IHA

Authors of the IHA Market Watch said at a keynote session at the Inspired Home Show, that consumers are now prioritising wellness, but also value time, space, experience and responsibility.

The session incorporated data from the 2023 HomePage News Consumer Outlook Survey and the 2023 IHA Occasions Report, as well as a sneak peek at the 2023 IHA Market Watch report, due to be release in late March/early April.

Following record sales while the pandemic led many to stay at home, Peter Giannetti, editor-in-chief of HomePage News, said: “This industry is at a unique infection point, where it needs to speak a little louder and where it needs to try to win share. It can do so by understanding the consumer and driving innovation in product, marketing and merchandising.”

Leana Salamah, IHA vp, reflected on IHA’s consumer-centric approach over the last few years: “The emphasis in the coming year should be not so much on what we can create, but why we should create it. We should be asking ‘What need is it solving’ or ‘what viewpoint is it delivering on?’

“Positioning is also a huge piece of responding to consumer values. It doesn’t have to just be about new products. Sometimes taking something that already exists and repositioning it or thinking about how it fits into some of these pillars can be just as effective as wholesale new product development.”

The five pillars or driving forces that were the focus of the IHA Market Watch Survey 2023 were: time, space, experience, wellness and social responsibility.

Wellness emerged as the top pillar or driving force for consumers this year. 47% of respondents said wellness was most important to them at home. That was followed by time at 19%, experience (14%), space (11%) and responsibility (9%).

In terms of time, those most driven by it fall into the 25-44 year-old category. Joe Derochowski, vice president and home industry advisor for The NPD Group, commented: “There are so many challenges right now related to time that are ripe for smart home innovation.”

In fact the survey showed higher intent to buy smart home products in 2023 compared to 2022. Auto-cleaning features were top of the list (52%), detecting or ordering parts was at 51%, coordinating meal elements at 49%, detecting ingredients or suggesting recipes at 49% and counting calories at 47%.

Those prioritising space most were the 35-44 year-old category, with an income level of $50K or less. This opens up opportunities for storage and organization products, and affordable and versatile décor.

For experience, the housewares industry has much to offer for at-home entertainment as 35% plan to entertain at home more in the coming year, according to the Occasions survey. Joe explained that data so far in 2023 supports this trend as sales of products such as beer and cocktail items, fondue sets, popcorn makers, slow cookers and pie servers are particularly strong.

Social responsibility continues to be important to consumers in the home. It is reported to be most important to those aged 55 and older, which is surprising considering the attention younger people give to the environment. Leana said: “I think that begs the question, ‘How do we remove barriers to entry for them?’”

The panel agreed that home and housewares products could address more than one of the five pillars discussed. Tom Mirabile, principal of Springboard Futures, concluded: “Think of it as a checklist. The more pillars you can check off on any given item, the more you’re likely to sell.”

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