General Merchandise: What’s hot in 2018

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General Merchandise: What’s hot in 2018

By Carol Radice - 01/08/2018

The International Home + Housewares Show may just be a couple of months away, but Phil Brandl, president and CEO of the Rosemont, Ill.-based International Housewares Association said some interesting trends — propelled by innovative, design-driven products — are taking shape to impact several general merchandise categories in the following months. 


“Across the spectrum of home products, the impact of design and the emergence of new materials have created many new options for decorating, organizing, cleaning and supplying the home,” Brandl said. “Inspired by social media and peer-to-peer idea sharing, consumers are busily exploring new food preparation options, and kitchenware suppliers are ready with tools to support them.”  


Food and beverage storage

The standout hydration category, which includes bottles, infusion and filtration products, has experienced growth upward of 25% in the past year, and sales momentum is expected to continue forward in 2018. Propelled by health-and-wellness trends, such factors as technology, fashion and design continue to drive the category’s growth.  


The category is so hot, officials at IHA are adding a pre-show event, the Trending Today Preview: A Marketplace for Hydration on Saturday, March 10. Buyers will be able to meet with 60 exhibitors of hydration and hydration-related products from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. ahead of the show floor opening.


Among the vendors playing into the hydration trend is Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based Bradshaw International. Bradshaw is best known for its wide assortment of kitchenware offerings, but its products cover all seasons across every category, including tools and gadgets, bakeware, cookware, food storage and baking/decorating.


The company has recently launched its GoBottle under its Good Cook brand. Available in 25 SKUs, the GoBottle comes in a range of price points and options from acrylic to stainless steel thermal insulated bottles. The company said that it features quality construction and multiple usage features that include dual-function lids at a value that connects with most consumers. It also has bold, on-trend colors that Bradshaw said was meant to appeal to a younger demographic.


“We feel that the food storage and hydration categories make a lot of sense for our drug store partners,” said Melissa Simpson, senior channel manager at Bradshaw. “We have always had a presence with some core kitchen gadgets such as corkscrews and can openers, so the extension into these everyday items offers more opportunities for sales.”


Many of bottles are spill resistant with secure lids sealed with silicone gaskets, are BPA-free, designed to be easy to fill and clean, and many have built-in loops ready to be attached to backpacks or gym bags, Bradshaw said, noting that a color-coded system quickly lets the consumer know the top three details of each bottle.


Good Cook’s GoBottle stainless steel group is constructed of 18/8 stainless steel in order to provide durability and thermal insulation, Bradshaw said. On some of its bottles, cold drinks will maintain icy cold temperatures for up to 24 hours, while hot liquids can hold their temperature for longer than six hours, according to Bradshaw. 


Bradshaw is tapping into another general merchandise category that sees near-constant demand — food storage. Consumers never seem to have enough food storage containers, in part because they are always bringing them to work, in their car or taking them along when visiting friends. Experts say price, durability and weight are three factors that will be influencing consumers’ buying decisions in 2018. Shoppers also want eco-friendly, versatile and temperature-resistant containers.


In an effort to deliver on these needs, Bradshaw has recently introduced its Good Cook Food Storage Value Pack. The 50-piece set is BPA-free, as well as microwave, freezer and dishwasher safe. Bradshaw said the price point makes an ideal addition to drug, grocery and mass retailers. 


Tech storage

Freelancing is becoming more prevalent in our society, especially with the younger generation and those who need or want more flexibility in their work hours. With more workers in the United States being positioned as freelancers, many of these mobile employees work from multiple places on any given day, which has led to an increased demand for products that help support this portable lifestyle. Officials at Allegro, a division of Conair, located in El Segundo, Calif., noted that the driving factor for innovation will be how to help these workers maintain a certain level of organization and preparedness wherever they may be, with ease and efficiency.


The growing freelancer community and lifestyle are leading companies like Allegro to create products that provide innovative solutions that make organization and accessibility of all their gear and tech accessories easy. Allegro’s Porte Play line of electronic accessories storage bags come in a variety of sizes and was created to help users easily and neatly store cables, chargers, and other tech accessories. 


“We created Porte Play to be functional and not overly designed, unlike some similar items in the market,” Sarah Phan, vice president of marketing and new business strategy, said. She noted that such features as mesh and PVC pockets make it easy to store larger items and see what is in each compartment. Elastic loops were included to offer easy access to frequently used smaller items.


“And given that most freelancers work in public spaces or open collaborative workspaces, we made sure the bags also look sleek and stylish so they are happy to pull them out of their bags or leave them open on the desk,” Phan said.


Express yourself

Staying relevant by keeping up with what consumers are looking for will be critical for greeting card sales to thrive in 2018. This applies as much to content as it does to design. Affirming messages, in particular, are expected to appeal to greeting card shoppers this year. 


“Greeting cards are an emotional purchase and communicate messages we often cannot say ourselves,” said Megan Baucco, associate manager, marketing communications for Cleveland-based American Greetings. 


Special occasion cards will remain the top reason consumers buy cards, but as Baucco pointed out, consumers also will look to greeting cards to celebrate the everyday things, people and moments in life that really matter. 


Accompanying this content, experts noted design elements featuring personal touches and high-end craftsmanshipwill be features drawing consumers


“Despite living hectic lives more people will be inclined to show up for each other and offer friends and loved ones’ support in those everyday moments,” Baucco said. “Cards with positive messages will remain a popular choice with consumers looking to take a little stress out of someone’s life.”