Q&A: Housewares Offers Additional Opportunities to Boost Private Brand Mix

As retailers expand private label assortments in food, beverage and wellness, home products offers another chance to give consumers unique options in store and online.
Greg Sleter
Associate Publisher/Executive Editor
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Drew Barrymore Beautiful
A cutlery set from Walmart's Beautiful by Drew Barrymore collection.

As retailers across all channels of distribution work to expand private label assortments, the home and housewares category remains a focal point for many. The growth of store brand sales and expanded product development in recent years in consumables and wellness products is shifting to other product segments. And similar to CPG segments, retailers want to carry quality products that are unique and offer a good value. It’s not just about price anymore.

During the recent The Inspired Home Show in Chicago, B.J. Stein, division president of Lifetime Brands, one of the housewares industry’s largest suppliers, spoke with Store Brands about the private label activity he is seeing in housewares. 

While Lifetime offers a broad product selection of products under familiar housewares names, the company also works with retailers to develop private branded selections. Most notably, the company played a role in designing the cutlery and kitchen tools for Walmart’s proprietary Beautiful by Drew Barrymore collection.  

Stein shared his insights on trends and the motivating factors that are driving retailers today as they look to add new private branded products to their assortments.

STORE BRANDS: From the standpoint of private label, what are the current trends in housewares?

B.J. STEIN: Retailers are definitely looking for private label products in an effort to allow them to differentiate themselves from their competitors, whether that competition comes from brick-and-mortar stores or online retailers. We (Lifetime Brands) play in an interesting space. We sell a lot of branded products and supplement that with some private label offerings. This allows us to be strategic partners with a lot of our (retail) customers. We can talk with them about their full strategy and help identify gaps in their assortments.

SB: When working with retailers on their private label assortments, what role do they play in the product development process?

STEIN: We have a large industrial design team in the U.S. and overseas and different retailers work with different parts of our team. Certain retailers have their own internal design teams and we work closely with them to make sure we are completing their vision. There are also other retailers that want us to do the bulk of the work and get their approval before moving ahead with manufacturing. We are also focused on working with retailers on long term projects and not one-offs. Our focus is to help our customers develop product assortments that have longevity in their stores.

SB: Is there a trend in which brand retailers are highlighting when they go to market with new private label assortments in housewares?

STEIN: With most of the private label work I do with retailers, they are focused on using their own brands. There are not as many celebrity endorsements as we have seen in the past. While we have seen a few be highly successful over the past couple of years, I think they are harder and harder to find. And retailers are looking to reinforce their names and drive people to their stores. 

SB: Has the retail mindset about private label products evolved over time?

STEIN: Depending on the channel, we no longer think that a private label product or assortment will be less expensive than a similar national brand product. I was working with a higher-end retailer to develop a line of wine and bar products, and many of these items will have pricepoints equal to or higher than similar national brand products. Since items such as these are giftable or placed on wedding registries, retailers want to make sure the products are of good quality and priced properly. Additionally, retailers no longer want to put their names on products that are cheap. It’s more about value today than cost.

SB: Are there any categories within housewares that currently are more of a focus than others as retailers look to expand private label assortments?

STEIN: I don’t think so. Retailers are focused on creating products that are exclusive in an effort to give consumers products that they need.