press release -
International Housewares Association

Contact: Deborah A.Teschke
Senior Manager, Public Relations & Communications
Email Debbie Teschke

Aging Consumers Buy Up Housewares Market With Small Appliance Purchases

Recession has concealed this high spending demographic

ROSEMONT, IL (June 25, 2010) – With the distress over the state of the U.S economy among millions of Americans the past two years, we may have forgotten just how large and influential the huge wave of aging consumers remains.

According to the U.S. Census, the American population age 55+ grew 22 percent between 2000 and 2008. Today, those in their golden years make up 24 percent of the total population, which grew by 8 percent during the same period. Most important to the housewares industry, this growing group has the potential to spend far more than the average consumer, according to a report in the winter issue of Housewares MarketWatch by Peter Goldman of the NPD Group.

And, apparently, they like their small appliances. NPD’s Consumer Tracking Service shows that age 55+ consumers were responsible for 24 percent of all small appliance unit sales and 30 percent of dollar sales in the 12 months ending November 2009. And while it’s true that all small appliance sales have been down in the last two years, there are much smaller declines in that older age group.

The 55+ consumer spent an average of 16 percent more on small appliances between December 2008 and November 2009, Goldman reports, and some small appliance categories were well above 16 percent. That group, which includes the older half of the famed Baby Boomer generation, spent about 20 percent more than the average consumer on men’s electric shavers and canister vacuums, for instance.

They are spending about 30 percent more on housewares that contribute to their comfort, such as fans and humidifiers. And, given new research on the oral-systemic health connection and advances in dental care that saves natural teeth, older consumers appear to be into oral hygiene at home; they purchase powered toothbrushes that cost 40 percent more than average models and other electric oral care products at double what the average consumer is willing to spend.

Even those who are approaching traditional retirement age and may be focused on maintaining their nest egg in today’s economy emphasize the value of the products they purchase over how much they have to spend on them. Consumers age 55+ who bought small appliances told NPD that features, price and brand are the most important factors in making a purchase. And as this demographic ages, brand and features increase in importance and price becomes less of a factor.

Other products on which the 55+ group over-indexes (i.e. 40 percent or more of dollar sales) include drip coffeemakers, coffee grinders, toaster ovens, slow cookers, electric skillets and bare floor cleaners.

Potential reasons for these comfort purchases include the status a premium product affords them. “Perhaps their income allows them to be more brand aspirational,” Goldman says, “bringing with that the features that offer ease of use, convenience and, ultimately, the best toys! It may be as simple as a desire to enjoy the finer things as they enter a new life stage, a time when they can focus on themselves and their own wants and needs.”

When this group’s obvious purchase power is combined with the fact that its numbers will continue growing well into the 21st century, housewares manufacturers would be prudent to keep in mind the opportunities the aging population represents, Goldman says.

“We’ve all been hunkered down, reacting to a challenging economy and rightly so,” he says. “However, perhaps it is time to re-focus our energy on this highly lucrative target demographic – and what may be the biggest marketing opportunity in our lifetime – rather than continuing to focus on what was the biggest recession of many of our lifetimes.”

Click here to view the entire winter issue Housewares MarketWatch. (PDF file)