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Home Goods Go High Fashion image

Home Goods Go High Fashion

By: Mark Seavy

Home goods are staying on top of the hottest trends, from the Atlanta Gift & Home Market to the Top Drawer show in London.

The category is increasingly emphasizing design—in some cases prioritizing it over functionality—similarly to the fashion industry. This shift comes as companies work to broaden their range of products. 

And while home goods (especially dinnerware and other tabletop products) have long been an opportunity for licensed artists, the category is shifting to reflect changes in consumer buying. Many home goods and giftware suppliers have traditionally relied on department stores and specialty chains to display and promote their products, but direct-to-consumer (DTC) and print-on-demand (POD) are a growing part of their business strategies. 

That shift comes as the industry deals with the collapse (and revival) of Bed Bath & Beyond, the shifting strategies for Macy’s and Nieman Marcus, and the shutdown of Pier One and Tuesday Morning. 

Tabletop supplier Mariposa, for example, used the Atlanta Market to highlight its Tray Chic POD business, which enables consumers to set their own designs for items that are printed and shipped from a contract manufacturer in Chicago. The company also signed a licensing deal with interior designer Rosanne Beck for a co-branded collection of trays, coaster sets, notepad holders, and other products. 

For dinnerware supplier Certified International, the focus is on expanding its stable of licensed artists. The company partnered with graphic designer and illustrator Courtney Morgenstern for a collection of Valentine’s Day-themed mugs and heart-shaped dinner plates. Jewel Branding & Licensing’s Sara “Sara B” Berrenson launched a new dinnerware collection at the Atlanta Market with Certified International. And Safe-T launched a line of fire extinguishers baring a variety of designs, including homages to actor Steve McQueen, Campbell’s Soup, and Jack Daniels. 

At Top Drawer, supplier Half Moon Bay broadened its reach with everything from Moomin Characters Ltd.’s Moomin (coaster, badge pin), to author Agatha Christie (mugs, book-shaped vases, bookmarks), and Alice in Wonderland (tea towel, shopping bag, luggage tag). Rainbow Designs fielded a curated display of its Paddington, Winnie the Pooh, and Bagpuss products. And Aurora, which typically highlights its licensed plush at toy-focused trade shows, used Top Drawer to promote its own brands.  

Beyond taking advantage of beloved brands, many exhibitors at Top Drawer were focused on expanding into new categories (as evidenced by an array of independent chocolate companies in attendance) as well as spotlighting their sustainable products.

But even with so many new offerings, retailers around the world remain cautious in placing orders. Many retailers prefer to focus on established brands with a record of sales, industry executives said, and are even cautious when inking those deals.  

Retailers have become especially conservative in their orders as concerns about shipping costs and timelines continue to grow. This was top of mind at both Top Drawer and the Atlanta Gift & Home Market, where industry executives discussed the fact that political unrest has led to many shipping companies seeking alternate routes, which has added 10-14 days to deliveries. 

“The concern among small specialty retailers [who account for a large part of the giftware business] is that if they get shipments in bits and pieces instead of one order, they will have amortized those separate bills over the cost of goods,” a licensing executive said. “That can add up to a significant amount of money.” 

These concerns have not, however, affected the fact that some categories—like wall décor—are gaining popularity with consumers. To take advantage of changing consumer needs and generate new revenue, MHS purchased Sagebrush Fine Art’s licensing business last July and has since signed several of its artists This includes Jim Baldwin, one of the Margaritaville brand’s staples. The Sagebrush acquisition also brought in account executive Pansy Winterburn, who joined MHS to head up the wall décor business. 

“Retailers aren’t starting with huge quantities, and they are controlling their inventories,” MHS President Marty Segelbaum said. “They are still making orders, but with lower quantities, and then they are reordering. That puts a strain on licensees because you must forecast and hope you are right.” 

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