Even if the economy slows or enters recession, housewares makers are preparing for a pretty good year.
Design and innovation are two terms that are often bandied about. Consumers are looking for products that provide efficiency and save food, space or time.
``Simply, consumers look for solutions and places to store their stuff,'' said senior partner A. J. Riedel of Riedel Marketing Group in Phoenix.
Lawrence Hutzler sees unique food storage products as one area for opportunity in the new year.
``We are looking very positively for next year. I think it will be a good year for us - we have a lot of new innovative products,'' the president of Hutzler Manufacturing Inc. said in a recent telephone interview.
His father, Lothar Hutzler, opened the Canaan, Conn.-based company in 1938. Hutzler, like many houseware makers, did not want to disclose too much of what's coming.
The company has supplied plastic utensils to fast-food companies for many years. It makes a variety of plastic products including storage items, cooking utensils, bowls, gadgets, funnels and kids' stuff. They are made from materials such as polyethylene, polypropylene, polystyrene, ABS and melamine.
``We have changed our whole focus and invested more in [research and development],'' he added.
International Housewares Association President Philip Brandl said he is ``cautiously optimistic.'' He said there are some favorable trends and the industry has traditionally done well during economic slowdowns.
Brandl said the consumer lifestyle is changing and offers opportunities.
``The whole home storage area is huge,'' Riedel said. ``We still own a lot of stuff and need to find a way to store it. Hopefully, we will see a lot of innovations. It's a huge consumer market that could pop.''
She also listed other trends that houseware makers can cash in on. Riedel said there is more at-home eating, an ongoing remodeling craze and environmental concerns are reaching the mainstream.
The consolidation that rippled through the housewares industry earlier in the decade seems to have settled. One company, Home Products International Inc. of Chicago, exited Chapter 11 reorganization in March and appointed a new chief executive officer, George Hamilton, in April.
Cost cutting continues to be a big issue among the larger housewares makers.
Newell Rubbermaid Inc. of Atlanta said in its 10-Q report, filed Nov. 9, that its plan is to ``achieve the best cost position and increased investment in new product development, brand building and marketing.''
Rubbermaid said its Project Acceleration, a three-year program to strengthen its business portfolio, started in the fourth quarter of 2005 has resulted in the closure of 15 facilities and about eight additional closures are planned. The firm said in the quarterly report it wants to leverage its size and scale to achieve the best total cost position.