NEW YORK—Breaking the $3 billion mark, the kitchen tools and gadgets sector was among the leading housewares categories in terms of growth in HFN’s State of the Industry report, registering a 4.2 percent retail sales increase for 2018 over 2017. Only cookware produced a better percentage gain.

In 2018, this popular catchall section of impulse items, which covers everything from spatulas and garlic keepers to handheld can openers and silicone pot covers, represented 6 percent of housewares sales.

The tools and gadgets category is always among the most prolific in terms of new product introductions. Each year the International Home + Housewares Show (which becomes the Inspired Home Show in 2020) is flooded with new takes on old favorites, whether it’s a new way to hull strawberries or sip a soda—using a reusable metal straw.

Swissmar saw stronger sales and performance in 2018, especially within the tools and gadgets category, said Michelle Moskalyk, marketing manager. Even though tariffs on goods from China has had an impact, Swissmar has sidestepped some of that because the company sources products made in Switzerland and Germany. “Offering products manufactured outside China has truly become a great selling feature for products across housewares in general,” she said.

A significant trend, Moskalyk noted, is the growth in multiuse tools. “With space and storage considerations, many consumers are simply not investing in as many tools with a single purpose,” she said.

The category is also offering more fashionable looks in response to trends within other housewares categories such as tabletop and electrics. Brushed stainless steel, rose gold hues and sophisticated matte and faux stone finishes fit with the trend of displaying more kitchen utensils on the countertop, rather than hiding them in a drawer.

Food storage and packaging has been one of the hottest areas as more consumers look for ways to take control of their meal prep and portion size, while also honoring a commitment to the environment.

“We are seeing the negative impact of single-use packaging on the environment, and consumers are reacting to that,” said Melissa Kieling, CEO of PackIt. “With different diets, food allergens and meal prepping, consumers are making and bringing their food on the go.”

The popularity of some of PackIt’s recent introductions, such as its customizable bento containers, points to a promising outlook for this subsection. “What this tells us is that consumers are continuing to look for convenient solutions in everyday items, such as food storage,” she said.

More details on how the housewares industry performed are available in HFN’s September issue.

Joanne Friedrick is a contributing editor for HFN and Home Textiles Today with more than 20 years of retail and housewares business reporting, writing and editing. For the past 15 years she has been operating her own business with clients that include Convenience Distribution, Seafood Source and Zest, a Maine-focused consumer food and lifestyle magazine.

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