As market season peaks with the upcoming International Home + Housewares Show, buyers are putting on their forecasting glasses and searching for the trends that will let them stock stores with merchandise consumers won’t be able to resist.
It is a tall task, from finding the right gadget to deciding whether to add a small electric appliance to the mix to wondering whether the latest Pantone color prediction will fly for their customer base.
Much of the art of buying comes with noticing what customers like—and independent retailers have the upper hand in that regard, thanks to being on the sales floor and interacting with customers in a way larger retailers cannot.
Dave West of Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium was planning his Housewares Show visit around certain product categories. “Hydration is done. But we are seeing a renewed interest in Sous Vide,” he said, adding that products made by Frieling and Vesta are hot. West also lists high-end multi-cookers, along with grilling and barbecue equipment as trending in his town of Brandon, Fla.
Caren McSherry, president of The Gourmet Warehouse in Vancouver, B.C., says she waits until the International Home + Housewares Show rather than try to predict trends. “The big players wait until this show to unveil the new color, and any new gadgets or must-haves will be on display then.” With more than 2,200 exhibitors coming from more than 50 countries (and with 400 new companies exhibiting for the first time) McSherry has a point.
Still buyers are always looking and listening. Martha Nading, owner of The Extra Ingredient in Greensboro, N.C., is seeing blue. “We sell a lot of tabletop and the colors showing up everywhere seemed to be a lot of blues, cobalt to light blue. I’m not sure what the Pantone color for this year is? Is it blue?” she said.
No, it is Living Coral, billed as “an animating and life-affirming coral hues with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge.”
Jodi West, a buyer for In The Kitchen in Pittsburgh, has noticed her customers asking for eco-friendly products. “That has been trending over the past few years and I feel that it is only going to grow,” she says pointing to her Millennial customer base, who she says is more interested in the sassy dishtowel than high-end cookware. “We have more of the Millennial generation being conscious of global warming. This generation is getting the short end of the stick with jobs, housing and the marriage rate. They are not ready to spend money on high-end cookware.”
But, she is on the look-out for “multi-functional, fashionable products,” like the multi-functional gadgets from Dreamfarm. “I’m planning on bringing in as many SKUs from that company that make sense for our store,” she said. Other trends she is tracking include gift and pet categories, as well as gourmet local foods and at home entertaining, with marble and bamboo trending for the 4th quarter.
As to merchandising trends, West said customers reacted to “Galen-tines day” this month. “It was a big hit and I think that will only grow,” she said. “In June, Pittsburgh hosts the annual pride parade and for a week or two we have pride-friendly displays as in rainbow aprons and other pride-friendly aesthetics.”
Retailers also point out that the growing trends of gourmet local foods and the specialty beverage movement, along with the accessories such as cocktail glasses, are a source of increased income.
“Consumables and the food and gift categories are growing,” says Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium’s Dave West, listing barware and artisan mixers and tonic waters as expanding categories. To that end, West uses cooking classes, food experiences, team building events and outdoor entertaining experiences as part of his merchandising strategy.
“Everything needs a story, something that says value, not price,” West says, adding “Though price is still king.”