Home ownership will be among the trends to influence the housewares sector, experts said at the International Home & Housewares Show, held March 11-13 in Chicago.
David Lockwood, research director for Mintel Reports of Chicago, pointed to some important demographic changes:
* The widening gap between high- and low-income U.S. households. More than one-quarter of all households earn $25,000 or less annually. But the percentage of high-income households is growing, and 17 percent of households now earn more than $100,000 per year.
* The aging population. In 2006, the oldest baby boomers turned 60. From 2006 and every year thereafter for 18 years, 3.5 million to 4.5 million people will turn 60.
* Home ownership has been driving up steadily, with 69 percent of the population owning their homes - but ``that's not going to go any higher,'' he said. ``That has peaked out.'' In 2006, for the first year in recent history, home ownership rates didn't rise.
Since home ownership is peaking, spending on remodeling will continue to rise, as will spending for furniture - a sector of the housewares market that is very strong, Lockwood said. In 2006, $80 billion worth of furniture was sold in the United States.
``It's such a big market and it's highly correlated with the U.S. economy,'' he said. The furniture segment will continue to grow, and at a rate above inflation.
``We really do think the whole housewares market is in very good condition,'' he said.
Exhibitors interviewed at the housewares show were optimistic overall about the business outlook in the year ahead.
The International Housewares Association reported total registration of slightly more than 60,000, which was up 2.8 percent from 2006. The figure includes 22,000 buyers.
``Exhibitors and buyers reported strong business for 2006 and the first two months of 2007,'' said Phil Brandl, IHA president. ``Most buyers were openly optimistic'' about the rest of 2007.
According to IHA, U.S. buyer attendance increased 3.3 percent among all retail channels. Attendance by U.S. independent specialty retailers gained steam, because nearly 75 percent of U.S. retail buyers came from specialty channels. International buyer attendance grew 1.7 percent to 6,517 registrants.