While exploring best practices for added exposure and retail success during the holiday season, I homed in on the Housewares industry and what works best for brands in that space. Having spearheaded numerous PR campaigns and marketing initiatives for housewares companies over the course of my career, I was keen to better understand how brands were setting the stage for a successful 2018. I recently connected with Perry Reynolds, a longtime housewares industry insider and current CORE facilitator for the IHA. I wanted to get his take on what’s in store for this year and to learn how manufacturers are capitalizing on the ever-changing retail landscape. I’m pleased to share with you my Q+A with Perry.
Based on the recent International Home & Housewares Show, how do you gauge manufacturer’s confidence level for Q4 success?
Perry Reynolds: Based on interviews with exhibitors at this year’s show, it appears that, for most, prospects for the coming year are quite bright. Among the factors mentioned were strong consumer confidence, accelerated levels of home ownership, especially among millennials, and a strengthening retail scene. The National Retail Federation is predicting an even stronger 2018, home values are rising and tax cuts may give consumers a little more cash in their pockets.
How has the current retail landscape changed the way manufacturers approach the holiday shopping season?
PR: Just as consumers have been given new shopping convenience, the emergence of online retailing has presented suppliers with unprecedented opportunities along with, of course, additional challenges. Consumers have been given new tools to assist them with purchase decisions. They now can look at online reviews, explore Pinterest and Facebook, or use a myriad of search tools to help them with those decisions. Therefore, suppliers must now add focus on digital exposure to their marketing efforts.
Understanding the typical product development phase, when do you anticipate the bulk of new product introductions to hit retail shelves/online shopping carts this year?
PR: In today’s product development environment, products seem to come to market year-round. Products are introduced at trade events like the International Home + Housewares Show, but in many cases, products may be available for purchase more quickly through online outlets or the suppliers’ own website. Traditional retailers begin to build their store inventories in late summer but items in traditional planograms are inserted on a rolling basis. Decisions on what to add to traditional retailer assortments and what and when to advertise are made many months in advance, making spring introductions essential.
In your experience, how have housewares brands been most successful in capturing consumers’ attention during the peak shopping seasons? Is it based on marketing/PR efforts, retailer support, excellent customer service, a combination?
PR: There are many avenues to consumer awareness, but in an era of the growing digital and peer to peer influencing, I believe that PR becomes even more important to suppliers. Direct to consumer marketing tools such as Facebook Live, YouTube and websites with fully enhanced SEO, along with the use of measurement tools such as Google Analytics, allow suppliers to reach consumers effectively and measure that reach. Pairing those efforts with more traditional opportunities such as IHA’s Hot Housewares for the Holidays event, where suppliers can reach trade, traditional and digital media, can create a powerful marketing campaign. And don’t forget IHA’s The Inspired Home. Members/exhibitors can submit products at no charge for one of many monthly features curated by independent editors. Savvy PR professionals can help suppliers stay on top of all of these opportunities.
In terms of the relationship with retailers, suppliers can take advantage of opportunities to promote in store or online. All retailers offer tools to make products more visible. They also value suppliers who deliver on time, who take the time to understand the retailer’s strategic aims and who maintain high levels of service. Clearly, it is a combination of all of these factors that help make a product a success.
There was great energy at this year’s show. What is the best way for manufacturers to keep that momentum going through Q4?
PR: In our 24/7 world, it is critically important to stay in continuous contact with both their retailers and consumers. The IHA Show offers a complete list of registered buyers and media to enhance follow-up. That list is currently available and gives exhibitors the chance to reach out to those buyers or media who did not make it to their booth during the show, but are undoubtedly interested in learning more.
Consumers are fascinated by what happens at the show, so suppliers may want to use video they took at their booth, demonstration content or PR outreach materials to share with consumers on their Housewares Connect 365 page and on Facebook or other consumer platforms.
What is the number-one piece of advice that you would offer a new exhibitor getting ready to launch their first product this fall?
PR: Launching a first product is an exhilarating and often frustrating journey. Speaking to many first-timers at the show, especially in The Inventors Corner, I was encouraged by the passion and perseverance of these newcomers. Learning the ropes is often more than a little unnerving, but their lesson seemed to be that you must continue to believe in the viability of your product and to search out the most appropriate retail partners. Being persistent and continuing to believe may be the best tools a new supplier can possess. Once the product is ready to launch, keep the PR in full swing, stay in regular touch with retailer partners and keep innovating. Both consumers and retailers will soon be asking about your next big idea.