The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show

March 2–4, 2025 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show
March 2—4 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

The familiar strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” will soon be playing at high school graduation ceremonies in the U.S., which means millions of college-bound students (and their families) will be preparing for life away from home. It’s a pivotal life moment that requires a good amount of planning, patience and deep breaths. Not to mention home and housewares items to help ease the transition.

The bulk of these purchases are likely to come from students and their immediate families, but the 2024 International Housewares Association (IHA) Occasions Survey also identified important gifting opportunities in the months ahead.

College-Bound Trends

While many high school graduates will stay home while they start working or taking classes at a trade or community college, the number of students enrolling in college looks to be increasing.

More than 15 million undergraduate students enrolled in college in the 2023-2024 school year, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. That’s a 1.2% increase over the previous year, though the number hasn’t yet returned to pre-pandemic levels (around 16 million).

For those going away to college, a wide variety of housing options await them. Some universities are trying to compete by building new residence halls with air conditioning and in-room or shared bathrooms. Many are moving to suite-style living, though plenty of older, traditional dormitories with community bathrooms remain.

Summer Means Gifting Opportunities 

Most consumers expect to purchase home and housewares presents for college-bound students between July and September, according to the 2024 IHA Occasions Survey. The next busiest time period is expected to be between April and June.

Those purchases are likely to come from a number of different categories. Survey participants said they were most likely to purchase organization or home décor products as a gift (13%). That was followed closely by bedroom (11%), cleaning or home environment (11%), bathroom or personal care (10%) and kitchen (9%).

Still, 53% of respondents said they’re most likely to purchase a gift card over a specific gift. That number was highest for those 35-44 years old (60%) and those 45-64 years old (53%).

Class-Act Gift Ideas for College-Bound Students

While many consumers may be inclined to simply purchase a gift card, there is significant opportunity to sway them—or gain attention from other gift-giving consumers, as well as students and families themselves.

Creative marketing and merchandising will certainly be an important part of this. So, retailers and brands will want to make sure they’re engaging on social media, especially TikTok, which is crucial in reaching Gen Z and increasingly, Millennials.

Unique products that appeal to today’s teens will also make a difference. Sure, many students will be in the market for box fans and shower caddies. But items that put a creative spin on these must-haves will stand out, such as Koolatron’s fun retro Coca-Cola mini-fridge, which fits easily on a desk or shelf.

There’s plenty of room for non-traditional gifts as well. For instance, a portable blender like the Brookstone Portable Blender from Mon Chateau will appeal to on-the-go students hoping to eat healthy. Just another idea: this small, quiet air purifier (the Aether AIRPRO by Song tain Co.), which will make it easy to keep germs and allergens at bay.

Anything that saves space is still a premium, though today’s teens aren’t willing to sacrifice style when it comes to storage and organization. Consider items like Umbra’s Cup Smart Lamp (which contains clutter while also providing a reading lamp that won’t disturb a sleeping roommate) and these stacking bins by three by three, which feature playful patterns and modern color and design.


The 2024 HomePage News Occasions Report offers survey results and analysis for home and housewares retailers and brands surrounding key life moments, including engagements, bridal showers, weddings, home ownership, pet ownership, baby showers, college-bound students and retirements.