HomeFEATURESTrends analysed at Chicago’s International Home + Housewares Show

Trends analysed at Chicago’s International Home + Housewares Show

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute and colour expert for the IHA.

Some retailers may say they don’t follow trends, yet the life cycle of the products retailers sell to customers are all curated carefully over time with trend cycles in mind. Retailers have a requirement to present consumers with new innovative products that also fit in with the latest consumer movements. But trend analysing is a full-time job. From food, clothing, cars, movies and art, every sector has the obligation to see what the next big thing will be, and hopefully, be one of the first to offer it.

The International Housewares Association (IHA)’s International Home + Housewares Show held in Chicago each year is an industry-led trade fair for the retail sector. It’s heavy on on trend analysis, and specialises in all things inspiring, aspirational and upcoming. For 2019, over 2,200 exhibitors were featured from six continents, with over 60,000 attendees, organized into five categories which spilt the share mass of how many retailers are exhibiting their goods within the event center. Split between Dine + Décor; Discover Design; Clean + Contain; Wired + Well; and International Sourcing Expo, the ‘shows within a show’ covered all the bases. 

The first trade show held by the IHA was organized in 1939. Eighty years of running trade expos has put the IHA at the front of trend analysis, supporting new and existing retailers to expanding offerings while educating them on all things relating to the sector.

Changing face of a generation 

A common theme through the show is how to monitor, recognise, and implement trends to target a wide demographic of customer.

“We’re now in a consumer-centric period of retail where the consumer is in control,” says Tom Mirabile, trend expert for the International Housewares Association (IHA), during his annual keynote Top Trend 2019: New Consumer Insights and How to Thrive in the Retail Revolution.

Mirablie says housewares suppliers and retailers need to focus all their efforts on what the consumer wants, how the consumer sees themselves, and how the industry can help create solutions for them.  

“We need to stop looking at objects and start looking at what those objects deliver,” says Mirabile. “People aren’t buying objects, they’re buying experiences.”

Mirabile went on to dissect each generation and the buying power they are expected to have in the next few years, saying brands will have to adapt and evolve to suit different generations. 

Each generation, he says, will have a different effect on retail trends as they continue to develop as consumers. Mirablie credits Gen Z to being on track as the most self-educated generation, one which “sees brands as something that must evolve to be relevant to them.” 

“Millennials don’t see a brand as religion,” he says of the less traditional generation. “Loyalty does exist, but you have to constantly earn it.” 

According to a report by Visa on US consumer spending, Millennials have a 21 percent share of total net worth dollars and are expected to fuel the trends in space-saving products, as well as indoor greenery, as more head towards smaller, urban living. 

Gen X sits on 29 percent of the share of total net worth, with Mirabile saying that will increase as the generation is entering prime earning years. 

“Thirty-one percent of discretionary spending in the US right now is coming from this generation, Gen X is very self-sufficient and does more product researchthan any other generation. They’re also a true shopping hybrid; they still enjoy a trip in-store but have fully embraced online shopping.”

Boomers are beginning the path to retirement, meaning an increase of home moving, renovating or downsizing, signalling a boost in homewares. “Boomers are still looking to Millennials and Generation Z to see what they want to be,” Mirabile said. Boomers are expected to inherit US$15 trillion over a 20-year period as the next generation passes on. 

As for the eldest generation, Seniors, many are still economically active but much of their consumption has shifted to experiences and healthcare. Interesting fact: By 2035, one in three US households (versus today’s one in five) will be headed by someone over 65 years old. 

Confidence in colour 

Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Colour Institute and colour expert for the IHA, gave insight into some of the new colour trends expect to be seen in retail. Eiseman explained at the show that she looks at a wide variety of industries for colour inspiration, including television, movies, food and beverage, fashion, floral, art, technology and cars.  

The colour of the year for 2019 was ‘Living Coral’. Eiseman says this “conveys instant warmth and is really embraceable… it’s almost like it’s reaching out and touching you.” The colour was also chosen to represent the dying coral reefs in the world’s oceans, and this colour of the year is intended as a constant reminder that even retailers need to play their part in safeguarding the environment.

Eiseman introduced palettes that Pantone is expecting to see trickle down into retail even further. She expects that this year, diverse colour palettes with never-ending patterns and combinations will be the name of the game more than ever before.

“There are all kinds of ways to bring the expected into the unexpected,” said Eiseman. “Some of this might be a bit of a push for some people, but we need to catch customers’ eyes.”

A few of the trends Eiseman has spotted in retail included sparkle and metallics introduced to draw in attention, and she highlighted black and white striping used with another pattern as one of the newest and hottest trends coming in.

Tom Mirabile, trend expert for the International Housewares Association (IHA).

Let’s get digital 

Social media was another trend that was identified to see growth even more than it has in the last decade as the new generation become spenders. Due to social media platforms, brands are able to connect with consumers in a genuine way. Retailers are encouraged to think of their social media as just as important as their physical stores. 

In her keynote presentation, Erika Sirimanne, head of home and garden research at Euromonitor International, took a look into the way the digital world is growing as consumers gain access to cheaper, more readily available electronics. 

“Smartphones are very rarely out of reach… That growing readiness for content and services is, in a way ,spoiling the consumer, and ‘on demand’ becomes the catchphrase of this new generation.”

Sirimanne went on to explain that there are several factors which are credited in growing online influence, including best price comparisons, free shipping and time savings. 

“Consumers are growing their interest in being able to source a variety of brands, buy products that are not available locally, and they want that freedom to be able to buy what they want, when they want.”

Here in New Zealand we are often the last to implement trends, as our geographical location and shipping times means by the time we jump on the band wagon, it’s already rolling. The opportunity to see what the rest of the world is doing is often restricted to media and social media, yet involvement with international trade shows allows our sectors to view trends as they’re happening, allowing them to monitor, recognise, and implement those trends the same time as our global counterparts. 

Mirabile reiterated within his talk that retailers need to be agile as they influence how they’re perceived. Not only with keeping up with trends, but how they present themselves to their target audience. Each generation sees brands differently, and Mirabile says retailers need to show their strength every day. 

This story originally appeared in NZ Retail issue 761 April / May 2019

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Courtney Devereux is a Communication Consultant at Clear Hayes and freelance business writer.