State of the housewares industry

Over the last several years, the housewares industry has been in a significant state of change, creating opportunities for some and sending others running for cover. The continued retail consolidation, bankruptcy, and the overwhelming shift in the business to online sales have required supplies to rethink all aspects of their business. I’ll talk about E-commerce and the industry in more detail, from a later perspective.

Young, millennial consumers are also significantly changing the historic path to purchase requiring companies to find new avenues of reaching end consumers. Suppliers can’t rely on the retailers to tell their stories any longer. In many cases, the retailer battle to balance overhead for E-commerce and brick and mortar sales has significantly deteriorated the consumer experience at the point of sale. The shift this year has had an extreme impact on the industry with the Cookware Manufacturers Association reporting shipments for its membership down (-12.5%) through August. Metal Bakeware down (-19.6%), Kitchenware down (-18.8%) and total membership shipments down (-14.6%). “CMA August 2018 Metrics Report.”

Historically, during periods of retail consolidation, 1+1 never fully equals 2. The meaning of this, the business is never fully recovered in another key retailer. Key competitors often see their market share grow by 1% to 3% but the business is never fully recovered.

I have talked often with many of our key customers and explained that we have never operated in a dynamic industry that sees 10% or 15% growth in a given year like the tech industry. No one camps out or waits in line for the next big cookware introduction like we often see when new iPhones are released. The industry does not experience organic 5% to 10% growth due to market expansion. If we are up 1% to 3% or down (-1% to -3%) that is a normal year in our industry.

We also tend to see our industry perform better when the overall economy is a bit more challenged. We believe this historic trend is driven by consumers focus on home when disposable income is a bit harder to come by. The super-hot economy we find ourselves in currently creates more noise and competition from other factors competing for the consumer’s disposable dollar. When disposable income is more plentiful, consumers eat out more, the go on vacation, they buy cars, they buy new furniture and remodel their homes. Stay tuned to for a future post where we will tackle just what those unique opportunities look like and how to use them to capture market share and growth in these tumultuous but exciting days.

No matter, competitors in the housewares industry are left to grind it out year over year, locked in market share battles. If significant growth is going to come, companies must find new ways to take market share. I believe the current market presents many unique opportunities to capture that market share and grow.

S. Darrin Johnston is a C Suite Management Executive in the housewares industry.