Spring 2008
Organize Your Sales By Jeanette Driscoll

Stock for Sales

Retailer John Soroka can appreciate the necessity of maximizing space usage without clutter. He is the co-owner of Delphinium Home in New York City—a city where space is always at a premium. The store sells a wide variety of home accessories. Soroka says that in apartment living, every inch counts. His customers, he adds, are very interested in hiding clutter and making things look neat and clean.

The numbers

As it turns out, Soroka’s customers are not alone.

In its State of the Industry report, released in 2007, the International Housewares Association estimated 2006 sales of “closet and storage goods” at $2.1 billion. What’s more, the association estimated that the category had been growing at a whopping average annual rate of 20 percent in the five years prior. The Rosemont, IL-based association also estimated that space organizers, closets and clothing care (this would include items like hampers and shoeboxes—accounted for 5.8 percent of total housewares sales, $72.7 million in 2006.

The International Housewares Association’s consumer advisory council is a panel of U.S. consumers created by the Reidel Marketing Group—a research firm specializing in housewares marketing—to identify emerging home-related trends. Members of the council confirm that maintaining an organized home is a daily challenge, says Perry Reynolds, vice president of marketing and trade development for the housewares association. “Many [council members] live fast-paced lives, especially those with children, and being organized helps them to cope more effectively with their busy days,” Reynolds says.

Laura Ellison, marketing manager for Creative Containers, a wholesaler based in Greensboro, NC., says the popularity of de-cluttering is seen in the many television shows and magazines devoted to the topic. “Magazines like Real Simple and decorating television shows make organizational products chic and fun. They often take creative approaches with household products that can easily be duplicated,” says Ellison.

One finding from the International Housewares Association’s 2007 State of The Industry report is of particular relevance to gift store retailers: Gift stores were found to be increasingly popular sales outlets for all categories of housewares.

All-room organizing

What kinds of products sell at gift stores?

There are popular products for storage and organization throughout the home. The Creative Containers closet line offers coordinating components such as hanging shelves, pockets and hampers to add flair, not to mention order, to a closet. “For the home we offer hampers, totes and duffels that can be used in playrooms and laundry rooms to contain, conceal, or camouflage any number of items,” says Ellison.

Design Ideas, a company based in Springfield, IL, offers a wide variety of upscale baskets and other storage products for homes. Similarly, Umbra, a Toronto-based manufacturer, wholesales organizational products with a contemporary touch.

There are also products that help organize Christmas ornaments (or other holiday decorations) such as the ones put out by New York-based Sterling Pear. Buttoned Up, a wholesaler based in Ann Arbor, MI, offers organizing products for pet records, car-repair tracking, insurance and medical recordkeeping, among other things.

Laura Kellner, of Kikkerland Design, in New York City, has observed that storage is a popular category at trade shows. “Practically everyone needs storage items, and they want something new. No more plastic boxes; they want something that looks good. We’re seeing a lot more interesting storage items, clever and artistic,” she says.

Putting them to work

The home office movement is growing, according to Jeff Zbar, founder of Chiefhomeofficer.com, an online resource for work-from-home professionals. According to Framingham, MA-based IDC, a global marketing research firm, there were 36.6 million home office households in the U.S. at the end of 2007. This number includes both home offices that are used to run a business that employs at least one household member as well as corporate workers who work at home after-hours or as telecommuters.

Since the home office must be integrated into the rest of the house, designs for office and desk accessories have moved away from dull chrome shelving to more trendy merchandise. For example, Creative Containers recently added the Betties’ Desk and Bureau line, which includes more than 30 styles of desk accessories in five fabrics. The line features journals, scrapbooks, photo albums, three-ring binders and clipboards.

Even if work takes customers away from home, they are increasingly realizing that office accessories don’t have to be drab, says Jen Bilik, of Venice, CA-based Knock Knock which supplies humorous products for the office. “Now that consumers are educated in design and product offerings, they know they have more control over the place where they spend the most time, and they want their accoutrements to bring something extra besides functionality,” she says. Bilik adds that customers often look to make their workspaces an extension of their homes. “Their workspaces are a reflection of them, as is their interior design, and they want an inspiring, comfortable, aesthetically pleasing place to work.”

Chris Plantan, president and creative director of the Minneapolis distributor Russel+Hazel, says the company’s products can be described as “classic couture meets modern office.” The company offers binders and files, paper and notebooks, and a storage collection it calls store+style.

Pierre Belvedere’s Semikolon brand is imported from Germany. It includes photo albums, filing and storage accessories in an array of colors, some striped and some solid. The line is easy to integrate into any decor, contemporary or with antiques. Pierre Belvedere is a wholesaler based in Montreal.

On trend

Leather is big. Companies like Alicia Klein sell leather office products in a wide variety of colors. There is a sharp focus on humor—vendors like Kikkerland and Knock Knock rely on quirky designs and funny sayings to make light-hearted products for the office.

Marlon Deason, merchandise buyer at Sam Flax stores, in New York, says environmentally friendly products are very much in demand. The stores carry binders, folders, envelopes and storage boxes in recycled materials.

Ellison of Creative Containers notes that with personalization, retailers can offer innovative and often unexpected items. “We find that products that can be personalized are very popular with today’s gift consumers. For example, photo albums and jewelry boxes can be monogrammed,” she says.

Jeanette Driscoll

Jeanette Driscoll is an experienced retail trade writer and an award-winning market analyst. She specializes in covering current trends in the market through insightful use of market research data. Driscoll can be reached at savvyinfo@rcn.com.

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