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Housewares Report: Private Brands Head Home

Once a slow-growth category, retailers are thriving in the home goods space through own brands.

Bed Bath & Beyond has been dominating the private label news cycle with its ongoing launches of 10 new owned brands scheduled to hit shelves into the next fiscal year. The chain’s launched store brands covering bath, bedroom, kitchen tools and housewares, all aimed at revolutionizing how shoppers view the store and the category.

But it’s not just Bed Bath & Beyond looking to fuel the home goods category. Target reported in its first quarter report a record breaking 36%, year-over-year sales increase in its store brand sales, fueled largely by increases in home goods. That category was up 30% on the year.

Part of this success comes through continued new partnerships in the area including a Pillowfort store brand tie in with author Christian Robinson, offering more than 70 exclusive, limited-time goods. There’s a partnership with Jungalow on home goods in its Opalhouse line, an exclusive partnership with Levi’s that leverages the apparel company’s designs into a home collection, and a first-ever limited-time rollout with plant stylist Hilton Carter.

 “Because of our unique capabilities in product design, development and sourcing, our owned brand products offer an unbeatable combination of design, quality and value,” said Christina Hennington, EVP, chief growth officer, Target, during the Q1 analyst call. “These brands aren’t something that our guests pick up while they’re at Target, they’re a big reason why they shop at Target, which is why we continue to invest in them.”

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With Gap Home, Walmart launched a new home goods line featuring an exclusive collection designed by the famed apparel retailer. Additionally, Lowe’s has been putting a strong focus on shoppers reviving the home space, promoting its allen + roth, Project Source and Harbor Breeze store brands in curated programs selected by influential fashion stylists.

Big Lots has pivoted its assortment to the home, too, introducing what it said is its largest assortment of patio furniture accessories and more for the home ever. The retailer touts the Broyhill and Real Living brands.

Bed Bath & Beyond’s new lines so far include: Nestwell (bed and bath goods), Haven (primarily bath items), Our Table (kitchenware), Simply Essential (cross-category value products), Wild Sage (youth-inspired bed and home goods) and Squared Away (storage products).

The retailer has said it aims to triple the sales penetration of its private label from 10% to 30% over the next three years.

Dollar sales of non-electric kitchen tools for the 52-week period ended May 16, 2021, grew 21%, drinkware surged 20% and kitchen storage was ahead 12%, per IRI.

Sales Jump
According to data from The NPD Group, the housewares category saw a 25% spike in sales in 2020, fueled by a rise in cooking at home. “The housewares industry has been super hot,” said Joe Derochowski, home industry advisor at Port Washington, N.Y.-based NPD. “Consumers turned pandemic-driven boredom into an opportunity to experiment with cooking. We’re starting to see a bit of a decline versus a year ago, but sales are still up significantly versus 2019.”

IRI data shows that across all channels, dollar sales of non-electric kitchen tools for the 52-week period ended May 16, 2021, grew 21%, drinkware surged 20% and kitchen storage was ahead 12%.

And as consumers continue to be more adventurous with food prep at home, specific housewares segments are likely to see continued upside. Sales of bakeware were particularly strong during the pandemic — NPD data shows the segment with 44% year-over-year growth in the three months ending August 2020 — and consumers have shown a continued interest in baking at home.

In a 2019 podcast on cookware and bakeware trends, Erika Sirimanne, head of home and garden at London-based Euromonitor International, observed that consumers are focused on enjoying time spent at home, and are also craving simplicity, health and wellness at home. “This back-to-basics approach has stoked a demand for home baking,” said Sirimanne.

While the pandemic shaped the kinds of foods people served — for instance, sales of mini Bundt cakes pans soared when sharing foods became taboo — as consumers ease restrictions on gatherings, Derochowski advised retailers to stay tuned to subtle changes in how consumers are preparing and serving foods, and adapt their assortments to reflect those new trends.

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Jungalow for Target's Opalhouse store brand

While consumers will continue to be creative with their cooking, Leana Salamah, VP of marketing at the Chicago-based International Housewares Association (IHA), sees the biggest opportunity in the return of at-home entertaining.

“After 15 months of honing new cooking skills, consumers are ready to put them to use in gathering their families and friends back at their homes after this protracted separation,” said Salamah. “That represents an enormous opportunity for tableware, barware, textiles and prep-to-table items. In addition, it represents a major opportunity for kitchen electrics that facilitate gatherings — think raclettes and fast-cook pizza ovens.”

Sidebar: Mixing It Up
Home mixology is also on the rise. A recent consumer survey by Drizly, a Boston-based alcohol e-commerce platform, reveals that more than half of those polled said that they made more cocktails at home during the pandemic, and among those who did so, more than half plan to continue doing so in the future. Drizly’s data indicates that sales of mixers, bitters and other cocktail ingredients spiked dramatically on the platform since March 2020.

The category presents an additional opportunity for retailers. NPD data shows that beverageware blossomed during the pandemic, with sales of margarita glasses, martini glasses and pilsner/pub glasses up 191%, 59% and 29%, respectively, in the three months ending August 2020 versus the prior year.

“Barware and cocktails grew, especially things that allowed you to experiment.” Said NPD Group’s Joe Derochowski. “Highball tumblers and margarita glasses did tremendously well.”

Sidebar: Storage, Waste Top of Mind
A recent NPD survey indicated that reducing food waste is top of mind for consumers and interest in sustainable food storage products aimed at helping to reduce waste has been growing. Sales of vacuum sealers, for example, more than doubled in the three months ending August 2020, according to NPD.

IHA’s Leana Salamah is seeing more food storage options that are dishwasher- and microwave-safe, and that extend the life of fruits and vegetables. “Some even track expiration dates and include reheating instructions,” she said. “We are in for a great second half of 2021.”

Salamah added that outdoor living in general is huge right now, “and consumers have gotten really creative with ways to extend the use of their outdoor space beyond the traditional seasons. I’ve seen a lot of new grilling products coming out that make cleanup much easier and that facilitate nighttime grilling, lots of grill lights, and even utensils that light up.”

NPD’s Derochowski predicts that as people continue to entertain outdoors, housewares segments related to outdoor entertaining will present opportunities for retailers to capture even more housewares sales. “All the things related to outdoor entertaining, from décor to tabletop, are on the rise dramatically,” he said.

Supermarkets are seizing the opportunity for incremental high-margin impulse sales as consumers head outdoors. Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans Food Markets recently featured melamine serveware and outdoor lanterns, retailing from $89.99 to $59.99, on an endcap at the back of the store. The display featured an outdoor table and chairs set with coordinating dishware and table linens. 

Other chains have found different ways to send that message. Store-entrance displays at a ShopRite store, operated by a member of Keasbey, N.J.-based Wakefern Food, recently featured portable grills, skewers and plasticware, in addition to condiments and snacks.