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

Returning to experiential activities this year has been the biggest change in consumers’ behavior and has had the greatest effect on housewares, according to Joe Derochowski, vice president and home industry advisor at The NPD Group, during the opening keynote of Connect FALL, a virtual event from the International Housewares Association.

More than 100 million people were vaccinated for COVID-19 by the end of April, leading to changes in their pandemic behavior, with the issue of time being the biggest driver, Derochowski said during his presentation “Taking the Pulse of the Housewares Industry.”

Derochowski discussed how consumers and the housewares industry have changed this year from April to August, and he gave a preview of what he expects for the industry over the next four quarters leading up to The Inspired Home Show in March.

The return to experiential activities is usually viewed through an economic lens as to how it affects spending on things other than housewares. Derochowski doesn’t view it that way. The bigger issue of experiential is its impact on time because time is what truly changes consumers’ eating behaviors, he said.  An NPD survey in February and July of this year on what are drivers of time showed that people had less free time in July because as they were vaccinated as they started doing other things, such as going to restaurants, to kids’ sporting events and concerts, Derochowski said.

Most activities that were popular during the pandemic lockdown declined except for outdoor living, listening to more audio content and working more. For the housewares sector, Derochowski said as time gets pressed, there is a change in how consumers clean, from whole house to spot cleaning, as well as an impact on baking and cooking, activities that grew during the pandemic.

He noted three pillars that affect time that should be watched: schooling, including managing the chaos of getting kids to school and the return of school activities; return to experiential activities, including kids’ sports, concerts, plays and sporting events; and the return to the office.

Consumer spending on housewares and small appliances this year versus 2020 has been trending downward since April, was negative during May and June, spiked up in late June and early July for gift giving and holidays, then continued downward and flattened through September, Derochowski said. Unit sales were down, but dollars were up during this period.

Some categories that declined during the pandemic lockdown have rebounded — accessories, beauty and apparel — “things that help us present ourselves to the world are returning,” Derochowski said.

During the pandemic, consumers moved to do more outside. In 2020, this movement began in March and picked up steam until June. But in 2021, Derochowski said consumers moved outdoors earlier in March, mainly because people started to get vaccinated and wanted to connect with family and friends. In June when school ended, the outside movement increased even more and continued through September. Derochowski sees this as a trend for the future, “we will move outside earlier and stay outside a little later because we want to connect with others.”

He also discussed the life moments happening from April to September as the availability of the vaccine allowed a return to larger group gatherings, weddings, moving and going back to college. Derochowski said 2021 “has been a refresh or accessory year of the big changes we saw in 2020.”

Industry trends since spring saw luxury major appliances do well in dollar growth, while home environment, grills/smokers/stoves, home textiles and personal care slowed down, another indicator of how consumers are spending their time since becoming vaccinated. Derochowski said growth is primarily in kitchen remodels and bath refreshes, whereas a year ago consumers were doing more outside improvements.

He added there is “tremendous growth in storage because we want to keep things organized.” Personal care is growing at 2%, driven by changes to styling products, because now that many people are vaccinated, they want to go out more and return to the office, he said. Housewares is down 1%, and kitchen electrics down 3% from April to August.

Derochowski said there were category winners in housewares, and they offer insight about behavior during the pandemic and what to expect in the future:

  • Kitchen Electrics: single-serve brewing systems, toaster ovens, espresso makers, electric rotisseries, electric pasta makers and beer and cocktail makers.
  • Housewares: portable beverageware, traditional food storage, housewares dinnerware, wine toolsets and chop/slice/core.
  • Home Environment: robotic vacuums, bare floor cleaners, deep carpet cleaners, handheld specialty cleaning, air purifier filters and bare floor cleaners.
  • Personal Care: electric toothbrush, handheld massagers, flat iron/straighteners, specialty stylers and garment steamers.

Consumers also changed how they shopped this year. Online shopping continues to grow for home environment, personal care and home improvement, while brick-and-mortar sales are growing across the board, Derochowski said. For the three months ending July 2021, kitchen appliances, housewares and home textiles grew more in-store than online.

“Clearly this is an important step for us to remember that yes, there is opportunity online, but we can’t forget the innovation going on in-store and should constantly think about how we can do things differently to help the consumer solve the needs that they are shopping for,” Derochowski said.

In forecasting for the next four quarters, Derochowski said spending is still up versus two years ago. However, he sees Q4 2021 as flat and a decline in Q1 and Q2 of 2022. Changes in the supply chain may affect price, he added.

Derochowski also noted that 2021 is the second year of changed behavior. During the pandemic, sales of grills and smokers, for example, skyrocketed, and related accessories sales soared with them, he said. This year, grilling accessories have grown twice as fast as grills and smokers.