Getting to know the housewares customer – Product Information

Getting to know the housewares customer – Product Information – Brief Article

Jennifer Kulpa

Our moms would be pleased. According to the premier installment of “Housewares Market Watch,” just released from the National Housewares Manufacturers Association, most of us are not going outside with wet heads, choosing instead to use a hair dryer. In the spring 2000 report, hair dryers blew away other housewares segments in terms of both household penetration and purchase rate during the last year.

Such is the information compiled via telephone interviews with 1,600 U.S. households nationwide during January and February 2000. The results were also weighted to ensure an ethnic balance similar to that existing in the actual U.S. population based on 1999 U.S. Census Bureau data. Future editions are expected annually for the next three years.

In general, the NHMA’s Market Watch data is useful for generating fact-based marketing information, benchmarking recent product performance, determining future product trends and providing insights as to customer demographic preferences and habits. “Housewares Market Watch is an important source of data to help industry decision-makers analyze consumer purchasing patterns for these 25 different housewares categories, with more categories to follow,” said Perry Reynolds, NHMA director of marketing and trade development. “Our goal is to cover 150 categories over the next 18 months.”

He added, “This information challenges retailers to assess how their own inventories compare to the most frequently purchased products. Manufacturers will want to look at their product lines in relationship to consumer purchasing trends.”

The 25 product categories surveyed in the spring 2000 issue are grouped as hair care electrics, personal care electrics, wellness, home healthcare and kitchen electrics. Their performance is compared using the following measurements: percent of households that own products in the category; percent of households that bought the product in the past year; past year purchases as a percent of household penetration; past year purchase incidence by household type (with children, without children or single-person households); and percent of gift purchases in the past year.

The household penetration measurement gives a snapshot of what’s stowed in America’s closets, cupboards and drawers. However, it does not indicate whether those items are being used or collecting dust. So while it gives an idea of what product categories consumers have participated in thus far, key emerging trends–that can represent dollars to the well-informed retailer-might be missed.

Not surprisingly, most U.S. households own a hairdryer (84 percent) and a toaster (71 percent), while just 1 percent call a hot wax hand spa their own. Among the top 10 items on this list, cooking and personal care are almost equally represented, with cooking items collectively garnering just 1 percent better penetration than personal care items taken together.

Further down the list, specialty-type housewares like coffee grinders, bread machines and water filtration have made it into around 20 percent of households. And items of recent popularity like calming pools, bath spas, sound therapy devices and aromatherapy machines fill in the lower tier, averaging 3 percent of households.

The past year purchase chart is a slightly better indication of current trends than household penetration, although it does not reveal purchase motivations. Here, the buys could have been made due to the lifespan of certain items, new product introduction, innovation or stronger advertising support.

Still blow dryers, curling irons, toasters and slow cookers topped the chart, although their percentages ranged from 29 to 12 percent this time. Some other interesting results include the fact that men’s electric shavers outsold women’s last year by a factor of four and massagers moved up from 10th to eighth place. The hot wax hand spa again finished last.

Perhaps the best way to identify emerging trends from this data is by examining the past year purchases as a percent of household penetration. This measurement highlights segments that are still generating single-digit penetration, but have experienced quick growth thanks to marketing buzz, consumer interest or faddish popularity.

Here is where the aromatherapy machines, calming pools and sound therapy machines top the list. In fact, more than half of the households owning aromatherapy machines, calming pools and sound machines acquired them within the past year. By comparison, less than one-fifth of the households purchasing electric skittles/griddles or hot rollers did so.

Here too, we see the health, wellness and personal pampering items, such as electric rotisseries, massagers, water filtration and, yes, even the hot wax hand spa, making it into the top 10. These are also indications of a strong economy for most upper- and upper-middle class Americans, who drive purchases of these types of products.

Lifestyle trends, such as hairstyles and diet, are also illustrated in this listing. The more casual parted-down-the-middle-and-flat hairstyle that has replaced the “Jennifer Anniston” on a growing number of ladies’ heads this spring, requires less elaborate styling, pushing curling irons down to No. 8 and hot rollers to the bottom of the list. The healthy-eating trend also pumped up recent sales of electric rotisseries, while slow cookers and deep fat fryers placed closer to the end.

Getting to know the consumer is not a new concept for retailers, who have long studied their customer demographics and are constantly revising merchandising and product selection in accordance with those results. The Market Watch charts further drill down that kind of information, dividing its respondent base into three types of households: without children, with children and single-person households.

Overall, households with children purchased more small electric appliances in the past year than any other household type. For instance, these larger households are more likely to have recently purchased toasters and deep fat fryers. But they are also major consumers of personal care products, such as hair dryers, curling irons, hot rollers, women’s shavers, manicure sets and massagers. These results indicate that moms–the drug store’s favorite customers–are driving small appliance purchases.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Lebhar-Friedman, Inc.

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