In terms of core housewares categories, cookware has given retailers a run for their money in recent years. From market disruptors like the introduction of ceramic goods to shopping patterns shifting from sets to open stock items, cookware retailers have had limited time to react and re-strategize.
However, unlike in other channels were cookware has had a seemingly hard time finding its footing in the last few years, the independent channel has been able to give the category the due it needs. The smaller business models allow stores to be nimble, while the specialty training that retailers pride themselves on has made all the difference with customers. Many gourmet housewares retailers have reported cookware sales increasing year-over-year, while some of the segment’s categories have outpaced others.
“We have seen a resurgence of cookware sales in recent months, which is a little strange because we are not seeing a surge in new home sales nationally, but we are seeing double-digit increases in some cookware categories. There is certainly continued positive momentum in cookware,” said Angela Skogen, owner of Williston, ND-based Cooks On Main.
Those cookware sales, said Skogen, are from customers that are looking to make the investment in quality pieces like higher-end cast iron products and cast enamel Le Creuset goods.
“The premium brands have been selling really well here. Cast iron isn’t growing as much as it was, but it’s still growing on the premium side. Cast enamel is above my store’s growth trend, probably about 6% to 7%,” she said.
Laura Havlek, co-owner of Sonoma, CA-based Sign Of The Bear Kitchenware and Tableware, also said that her customers are looking to spend their money on better/best level cookware items that are built to last.
“There is a saying in German that goes, ‘I’m too poor to shop so cheaply,’ and I truly believe that’s the mindset people have when it comes to their cookware right now. They want quality cookware and are looking to invest in fewer pieces that are better quality,” she said. Havlek also said that Le Creuset has been a boon with her clientele, driven by the brand’s color recent color launch, she noted.
“Oyster and Indigo have done really well for us, and I believe that those colors really speak to people,” she said.
However, both Skogen and Havlek said that the most sought-after goods right now are quality cookware that can take on multiple cooking techniques. And, both said that open stock sales have been preferred purchasing method for all consumers, no matter their age range.
“Boomers typically used to want the whole range of items — they were collectors,” said Havlek. “People don’t want that much stuff anymore and that’s the new matrix. People are living and cooking different now. They are looking for cookware with added functionality,” she explained.
Havlek said that she has been selling a lot of woks, which she believes is tied to the cookware’s versatility.
“For a long time, we sold a lot of woks for the kid that’s going away to college or the person who is getting a new apartment for exactly that reason — the cookware can do a lot and it’s only one piece,” she said.
Skogen noted that everyday pans and deep sauté pans have been selling well at Cooks On Main because they are able to tackle an array of different foods by only needing to own one pan, creating a solution for their lifestyle.
“People aren’t buying homes right now, but they want to have cookware that allows them to make a variety of dishes but doesn’t take up a lot of room because they simply don’t have it. They are looking for three or four goods that lets them make a range of food,” she said.
Skogen also said that Millennials and Gen-Y are beginning to drive another cookware trend back into the forefront — cooking with non-stick pans. Several years ago, the cookware industry saw an issue with Teflon coatings that drove people to look for other cooking solutions. While many turned to ceramic-coated cookware, others began using stainless steel and cast iron offerings, too, as the products are made from natural materials. Now, however, it seems as if non-stick is beginning to make a comeback, according to Skogen.
“Millennials and Gen-Y want less pans, but they also are all about convenience. They want something that’s easy to use and easy to clean up. Not only is there lack of fear of the Teflon scare of years past, but the products and the education have gotten a lot better. We are able to spend our time with customers and really talk through the benefits of cooking with non-stick cookware,” she said.
Skogen noted that non-stick cookware sales have been up double digits already this year and she is anticipating the pattern will continue, especially in the short-term.
Havlek, too, said she has seen some increases in non-stick cookware sales, particularly with Swiss Diamond, and noted that other retailers she speaks with have also done well with Woll and Frieling’s Black Cube. However, she said that increases in Sign Of The Bear’s cookware sales have been mostly from stainless steel and cast iron goods.
“We are selling a lot of particular All-Clad pieces and Lodge cookware is still growing. But, it’s been very selective pieces at good price points,” she said.