Respecting Generational Divides, Living Within Our Means, the Live In Kitchen, the Green Kitchen, the Wellness Kitchen and Cooking for Fun are the most important trends at work in the consumer marketplace of the future, according to a panel of experts held recently during the 2009 International Home + Housewares Show. The discussion was led by Tom Mirabile, VP of global trend and design at Lifetime Brands, Inc., and included Susan Yashinsky, VP of marketing, Sphere Trending, a trend consulting firm; Sharilyn Ruckman, president, Ruckman + Company, a creative strategy and product development company; and Curt Bailey, president, Sundberg-Ferar, Inc., a leading industrial design firm.
The panelists offered these six top trends for four age groups, Gen Y, GenX, Baby Boomers, and Prime Timers, and provided recession proof strategies for all of them. The age groups view the kitchen differently, and respecting the generational divides between them is, by itself, an important trend. The Gen Y group is aged 14-33, and is completely connected and wired all day. Most rent an apartment rather than own a home, are still in school, or are just entering the workforce. The GenX group is aged 34-43 and typically is raising a family, so the kitchen is a family communications hub for them.
Baby Boomers are aged 44-63 and are either entering the empty nester phase or are experiencing children and/or parents moving back in with them. The panelists said the group is going to need to work longer than planned, but are still the highest group with discretionary income for housewares. Prime Timers, age 64 and older, are concerned with safe aging in place. They want to grow old where they are. They are inventing themselves, and their focus is on ergonomics and intuitive design. Product weight and visibility are key considerations for this group.
"It is important to have a plan of attack and address each generation's touch points," Mirabile said. The second trend is the Live In Kitchen. "The average American spends three to four hours in the kitchen each day," Mirabile said. "With respect to the recession, you need to think about the entire kitchen experience and how this impacts the way you segment and cross sell your merchandise, such as special zones for food prep, an area for gaming and crafting, and areas for entertaining, for example. There's no room in the marketplace for all things and all people, so you need to figure out how to be something to somebody," Bailey added. "Narrow your audience and be unique, whether it's gender or geography, you need to embrace out of the ordinary."
The third trend, living within our means, the panelists said, was created solely by the recession. "The recession is changing the way we view cash versus credit," Mirabile said. "Durability is now more important, in addition to redefining leisure time activities. That is a huge opportunity for (the housewares) industry. Yet, at the same time, you are fighting for a smaller piece of the discretionary income," he continued. "Household expenses that did not exist 20 years ago, such as Internet service, are now considered non expendable, which reduces the money left for housewares and home products."
Mirabile added that products like pressure cookers, slow cookers, airtight storage products and canning products are gaining in popularity and are helping people to live within their means. "Make sure that you are speaking to this new mindset," he advised. "Find ways to help people cook at home versus eating out. And overall, send a message of quality and durability with your products. Consumers are increasingly saying, 'Figure it out and don't charge me more for it. Make me want to buy, because I don't have extra money to spend right now'," added Yashinsky.
The Green Kitchen is another trend that the panelists said is gaining momentum with each day. "Being green is becoming a key factor in the way consumers view companies and each other," Mirabile said. "Even consumers who aren't green are getting pressure from their children, parents, and peers at work. Green is a huge power." Bailey stressed the need for a housewares company to be legitimate with its green claims. "Consumers are asking for green, but the reality is that there is a lot of misinformation. Do your homework and be authentic. There is a well connected group of consumers who will call you out on false claims."
The Wellness Kitchen trend is relatively new, according to the panelists, and is affected by the state of the economy. It's about nutrition, plans to live longer and an overall commitment to wellbeing, and is driven by maximized nutrition, purified air and water, stress management, effective rejuvenation and beneficial exercise. "With this trend, you should focus on helping consumers save money and offer options that help them make more healthful decisions, such as making home food prep easier and helping retain nutritional value," Ruckman said.
Cooking for Fun involves creating shared experiences and enjoying life's simpler pleasures. It involves the Food Channel, kids as a new generation of cooking enthusiasts, celebrity chefs and, "gastrosexuals", a breed of men who consider cooking cool and use it to impress friends and prospective partners. "Whether you are a retailer or manufacturer, you have to show that you understand the cooking enthusiast," Mirabile stressed. "You have to create marketing tactics that provide inspiration and education, such as 'try me's', POP displays, in store demos, and newsletters. The cooking enthusiast also understands the value of an upgrade, and that is an opportunity for you, because this trend is here to stay," he concluded.
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