Keynote: 2020 in the Rearview Mirror

by Peter Giannetti

After a year of unprecedented circumstances that drove unprecedented retail sales gains in home and housewares, Joe Derochowski, vice president and home industry advisor for The NPD Group, encourages the industry to measure success in 2021 by embracing more favorable comparisons against pre-pandemic sales levels of 2019.

Such a view, Derochowski said in his keynote to open the IHA Connect SPRING virtual event, can help keep suppliers and retailers focused on innovations needed to serve high consumer demand that is expected to continue beyond 2021.

Year-over-year retail growth in home products for the first quarter of 2021 is strong compared to sales a year ago before COVID-19 struck, Derochowski said. The second quarter is on track for slight year-over-year growth, possibly to be aided further by federal stimulus payments, he added.

Although NPD expects third- and fourth-quarter home goods sales to come up short of sales during the same periods in 2020, Derochowski said back-half 2021 sales should come in well ahead of comparable 2019 results.

“Always include 2019 if possible when speaking about forecasts,” Derochowski advised. “We’re benchmarking a lot against 2019. If you don’t, you’ll lose the insight.

“There are supply chain issues and pricing and promotion challenges, but if you look at the demand side, we will be up versus 2019,” he continued. “It’s very tricky, but this is the time to innovate— in marketing, branding, operations and new product.”

Derochowski said the home industry, as measured by NPD, grew by some $12 billion to $70 billion during the past 12 months, with an estimated 21% of that growth driven by the shifting circumstances and needs of homebound consumers.

He said every general home industry classification tracked by NPD showed dollar growth in 2020: Home environment (led by air purifiers and vacuum cleaners), +31%; kitchen electrics, +28% in dollars; housewares (led by cookware and cutlery), + 22%; and personal care (led by massagers, hair trimmers and hair clippers), + 9%.

Derochowski also spotlighted across-the-board home textiles growth driven by the rise in home improvement projects and moves to bigger homes (led window treatments, + 30%; bath, +18% and bed, +18%). Growth of kitchen/dining textiles, which advanced by 1%, likely was stunted by the home entertaining decline, he noted.

Derochowski identified several examples of the lifestyle factors that emerged or were amplified during the pandemic to propel home and housewares sales, with working and learning from home at the root of much of the consumer behavioral change. He cited boredom and stress relief; germ prevention; comfort; rising pet ownership; migration of salon services to at-home DIY; the move to bigger homes and rise in home improvement activity; and casualization.

Derochowski spotlighted expanding outdoor and garage living as examples of safety-influenced space transformation that opened new sales opportunities for the home and housewares business.

Regarding at-home cooking and dining preferences elevated by the pandemic, Derochowski highlighted the surge in leftover-friendly, one-dish meals, often made in advance, that help remove stress from day-to-day meal planning and preparation. He noted family bonding inspired by the increase in baking.

Home and housewares growth was shared across retail channels and platforms, notably including brick-and-mortar sales advances by many store operators, Derochowski said.

“When solving consumer needs, there is enough demand that everyone can grow,” he said. “It’s about finding the best way to serve the consumer.”


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