Gifts Today magazine

Housewares and giftware continue convergence

At this year’s International Home + Housewares Show, a panel of retailers and suppliers discuss how to take advantage of the housewares as giftware trend

As the retail and supplier communities search for ways to engage and inspire consumers, the convergence of housewares and giftware products will continue and likely increase in the years ahead, according to a panel of retailers and suppliers at the 2015 International Home + Housewares Show. The group spoke during the keynote presentation, “How Housewares and Giftware Are Coming Together…And Loving It” at noon today.

Owned and operated by the International Housewares Association (www.housewares.org), the Show is being held March 7-10 at McCormick Place, and features more than 2,100 exhibitors and over 60,000 total attendees from more than 125 countries.

The panel included gift retailer Mary Liz Curtin of Leon & LuLu; gift industry veteran and supplier Gary Schermann of Creative Co-Op; housewares designer Sid Ramnarace of Savora/Lifetime Brands, Inc.; and housewares retailer Martha Nading of The Extra Ingredient, Inc. Warren Shoulberg, editorial director of Gifts & Decorative Accessories and HFN, served as moderator. 

According to Shoulberg, the convergence of housewares and giftware is relatively new, but research from Gifts & Decorative Accessories indicates that stores that sell housewares are growing their gift businesses and vice versa.

“Anything you can wrap and put a bow on are gifts to us,” said Curtin. “Housewares fit that bill perfectly. They must be good-looking, well-designed, and if they're amusing, that’s even better.” Top sellers in her Detroit destination lifestyle store include interesting peelers, pot lids, dish towels, soaps and candles.

“Anything in my store can be a gift,” said Nading, who sells housewares, tabletop, giftware and gourmet foods in Greensboro, N. C. “But the large majority of housewares are more serious, and giftware allows us the opportunity to have some fun. And as a general rule, it gives us a better margin.”

There’s also been movement on the supplier side to elevate the design of traditional housewares products into products that feel more like a gift than a functional staple.

“For Lifetime Brands, there was an opportunity to go from simply offering commodity items -- my can opener broke and I need to buy a new one -- to offering items that people can have an emotional connection to. And that’s something special,” said Ramnarace. Lifetime’s Savora line offers everyday products with high-end, sophisticated design; the line's top seller is a stainless steel colander that many use as a table centerpiece.

Another contributing factor in the convergence of housewares and giftware is “the context is different now that it’s not just about cooking, it’s about entertaining,” said Ramnarace.
“We all want to cook,” agreed Nading, “but often times, what we really do is assemble it.” That opens the door for more and unique items to help prep and serve food and drinks, and decorative items for the kitchen, serving areas and tables.

There’s also the appearance of the kitchen itself, which has evolved from a utilitarian place to a social space. “If you look at the evolution of the kitchen environment, it’s really become another well-decorated piece of your home,” said Schermann. “it’s not just for the function....it’s not just the microwave, it’s not just the stove. People may not necessarily be cooking, but the kitchen is an integral part of entertaining and they want to decorate it appropriately.” Some of his company’s popular kitchen decor items include attractive under-the-counter lights, clocks and mirrors.

So how do retailers go about blending housewares products and giftware? Panelists agreed the answer is different for each retailer and the clientele that they serve, however the importance of telling stories with merchandising was a popular thread.

“Somehow you need to let your customer make a logical connection between what she’s seeing....to make everything in a grouping somehow work together,” said Curtin. “It’s got to have a story; it’s got to have a theme. You can occasionally throw in something as a pop for fun, but you've got to be careful or suddenly it starts to look like a garage sale.”

The shopping experience should be both entertaining and inspiring. For that reason, it’s beneficial that display cases, furniture and even store light fixtures are items that shoppers can envision in their homes -- and that are for sale.

Panelists agreed that the convergence of housewares and giftware will likely increase in the years to come, and that the most successful retailers and suppliers will be the ones who take advantage of the trend. 

“We're here in Chicago and I think Marshall Field said it best,” said Curtin. “There’s a very simple answer to success in this business: ‘Give the lady what she wants.’ And if we can figure out what she wants -- even if she doesn’t even know it yet -- whether it’s a potato peeler or a new sweater or a new sofa, then we're going to be more successful.”

The audio recording of the presentation will be available at http://www.housewares.org/kc/ed/15.aspx



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