I firmly believe that change is good. When there is change, there is opportunity. 2020 had more change than any year I can recall, and it brought a great deal of opportunity for the overall home industry. U.S. housewares and small appliances saw 22% and 25% year-over-year dollar sales growth respectively for the year, and home improvement and textiles sales grew 23% and 16% through November 2020. While 2021 will continue to bring change, the amount of change relevant to the home industry will likely be less than last year, but more than 2019 – which means the same can be said for our opportunities to solve new consumer needs. The consumer’s evolution back to a version of “normal” is just beginning, making this is an important year to form a firm foundation for the home industry’s success over the next decade.
In order to create ongoing growth, we have to look at our business differently and adapt quickly.
Consumers needs changed in 2020, and will continue to alter throughout this year. In the kitchen, consumers moved from a demand for convenience to an emphasis on taste and variety. Concerns about having a safe living environment have adjusted consumer cleaning needs, whether on the floor or in the air. Work and travel behavior changes has impacted personal care needs, from grooming, to styling, to garment care. Consumers have also broadened the scope of do-it-yourself home improvement projects, and kitchen and bath product are leading the way with 31% sales growth through November, opening the door to new opportunities in the finishing touches that come from complementary categories like home textiles, housewares, and appliances.
Eventually, we will start to shift back to lifestyles with more constraints on our time, and hopefully lessened concerns related to COVID-19, all of which will create a different set of needs, but when and to what degree remains to be seen. Our ability to innovate in product and marketing is going to be the most important component to success this year. We need to focus on the ‘now’, and find the benefit that applies to the consumer’s life in the current moment. We must also be prepared to adjust our messaging quickly to the fast changing needs of the consumer – which may look very different between the early months and the latter part of the year.
Reinforcing our relevance in consumers’ lives is paramount.
As they move back in the direction of what was previously normal in terms of working, schooling, and experiential living consumers will need to be reminded of how our products can help. There is a craving for normalcy despite remaining COVID-19 concerns – consumers want to get back to travel, to be with loved ones without angst, go to sporting events and concerts, and for their kids to enjoy and be involved in activities. As the year progresses, vaccinations expand, and confidence builds, there will be an increasing focus on these kinds of pent up cravings. What role do our products play in the realization of these cravings?
As 2021 unfolds, we need to be prepared to respond to shifts in the marketplace, and that kind of thinking should be part of our demand planning. However, we must also be precise, and maintain our focus when it comes to pricing, promotion, and positioning – mindful to not undermine our core value with reaction. More than ever, it is urgent that we take lessons from 2020 in order to be effective in 2021 and beyond.
There is still a great deal of uncertainty that will keep the needs of 2020 at play – for now. There are also elements of life in 2020 that will remain longer term – working from home more than before, increased pet ownership, movement to suburbs, more in-home space demands, etc. Ultimately, home products will always be relevant, but the way consumers use them will continue to change. If we are smart, prepared, and manage the change effectively, the home industry will continue to thrive.