IHA International Offices and Representatives: UK and Europe
On May 19, IHA representatives presented market reports from more than 10 countries in Europe and UK. These summaries of the top five trends in each region offered valuable insights about consumer preferences and economic factors impacting retail developments. Presenters also included contact information for category managers at individual retailers.
Mark Chapman, IHA’s UK office, outlined key retail opportunities and consumer purchasing trends.
- Diversification on the High Street – Upscale retailers such Sainsbury’s and Next increased their emphasis on branded housewares products.
- Ecommerce opportunities continue for small businesses operating out of a home or with a small team and warehousing. Suppliers should work with distributors to market to large stores; the UK market includes many established options. Lifestyle retailers are branching out with curated housewares offerings.
- Influencers offer a great way to introduce a product or brand. Suppliers should seek influencers with an engaged audience that fits your product or brand. Building an influencer campaign requires clear goals and objectives.
- Cooking and baking grew dramatically in 2020. Beyond daily necessity, meal preparation at home has continued as a lifestyle choice. Air fryers, bread makers and slow cookers have been very popular, as well as staple items such as graters and cookware.
- Home storage categories continue to grow, as consumers set upon home organization tasks and discovered few options for donations because charity/thrift shops remained closed. UK celebrity Stacey Solomon offers decluttering and organization advice on her new TV show.
IHA representative Pascal Glorieux summarized industry developments impacting retail in France and Belgium.
- Transportation costs and delivery time from China have affected all product categories, forcing buyers to find local products and brands with stock in Europe (outside the UK due to the Brexit). Suppliers with stock ready for immediate shipment have an opportunity. Current orders shipped from China will be delivered in 2022 and container costs rose dramatically.
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has become more important for buyers looking for new suppliers. Be aware that the ISO 26000 norm could be an obligation; buyers favor suppliers with standards in place. A “Made in USA” label will be an important advantage.
- Because of pandemic closures and the lack of tourism, hotels in the main French cities are renovating facilities. Also, Paris will host the 2024 Olympic Games, increasing opportunities in the HoReCa sector.
- Coffee roasters remained open during the lockdown and coffee consumption increased. Retailers and roasters are looking for products in this category.
- Alice Delice and Zôdio are consolidating their buying offices; their buyers now work on behalf of both branded stores. They are looking for goods manufactured outside of Asia—products with a compelling company story and strong identities.
Italy representative Tommaso Madotto presented market areas for attention.
- Demand for bakeware, cookware, kitchen tools and food preparation gadgets has grown because of the pandemic. Suppliers with quality products in these categories can find market potential.
- Because of growth in at-home meal preparation, the food storage category continues to see demand.
- The Italian market is dominated by smaller, family-owned retailers including several very appealing regionally based stores.
- Some brands are now entering Italy without using distributors and employ agencies.
- Many suppliers continue to rely on distributors to bring their product into Italy. Several distributors have been established in Italy for decades.
Chema Martinez Román, IHA Spain and Portugal representative, outlined conditions in these countries.
- Since Brexit, U.S. companies with warehouses in the UK must find alternatives in Europe. Spain is a competitive option for product to be shipped within Europe and is home to many logistics companies.
- Private label is growing, offering meaningful opportunities to companies for customizable products. This capability can be an essential requirement for large chain stores such as El Corte Inglés or Zara Home.
- Outdoor products are a growing category: tableware, on-the-go containers and water bottles. Unbreakable melamine-free tableware, or wood fiber/mixed with recyclable plastic products are in demand at hypermarkets and garden centers.
- Tourism is a key sector in Spain. Hotels and restaurants regularly renew their furniture, barware and tableware. The hospitality sector will recover after the pandemic, offering a great opportunity for suppliers.
- Apartments in Spain and Portugal are very small. Solutions for storage, organization and cleaning are always in demand.
Melina Meyer, IHA office for Germany, Austria, Switzerland described recent and long-term trends in these countries.
- Sustainability: Consumer demand continues to rise, along with the awareness of more ecological and resource-saving buying behavior. Increased online buying resulted in more packing materials and called attention to many issues: fair and humane production conditions, more energy-efficient and shorter transport, reusable and durable items, renewable raw materials/higher percentage of recycled materials and environmentally friendly materials, including compostable materials.
- Cocooning: After more than a year of pandemic-related restrictions, the “private habitat” remains the customer’s number one focus. Following the initial rediscovery of home cooking, “back to the roots” cooking remains prevalent. Demand for modern kitchen appliances and new kitchen accessories is still strong.
- Smart Home in all Areas: Smart home solutions and connected voice recognition-based systems are rapidly improving and prices dropping. Devices have become more “foolproof.” Such systems are becoming the new “must have” for an increasing number of German households across a broader age range. This includes connected and automated lighting solutions, intelligent robotic vacuums, smart locks and connected kitchen appliances. Products are sold not only in specialized electronics stores but also in DIY stores.
- Age-Appropriate Living and Housing Megatrend: Better health and medical advancement have led to a much higher life expectancy and an expanding aging population. This age group, often affluent, prefers to stay in their own homes without contracting outpatient care. With improving technology, non-digital aids including easy-to-use tools and smart home applications and equipment will appear in many homes.
- Digitalization/AI: Brick-and-mortar retailers in the inner cities have been hit hard by the pandemic. A group of dealers (the EK/servicegroup), the University of Duisburg and an IT startup, together with the federal state of NRW Ministry of Economic Affairs, have embarked upon the Artificial Intelligence in Retail for Product Placement Optimization (KIEPO) initiative. The project aims to optimize product placement and pricing at brick-and-mortar retail using AI. Ebbers, an innovative department store with a long history, has implemented this project in Warendorf, Germany.