Making Laundry Look Good
By Jessica Goldbogen Harlan
Laundry storage manufacturers are thinking outside of the box -er, hamper- to come up with new options that are better looking, more functional and more space-efficient. As industry players head into the fourth quarter, they say that better-looking pieces and items that work well in small spaces are top of mind for shoppers.
Polder Housewares, for instance, is looking to target college students, apartment dwellers or single women with a mini drying rack that can sit in the tub or on a table or counter. It sells for $14.99.
"For us, some of the biggest successes have been in the urban living items that focus on innovations in use for small spaces," said Kerry Cooper, vice president of marketing and sales for Polder Housewares. "Products that come out for use when you want them and go away small and quietly are desirable to a growing number of users out there."
College students and apartment dwellers, many of whom have to transport their laundry a short distance to and from the Laundromat, are also the target demographic for some products from Home Products International. The company offers oversized, easy-to-carry laundry bags inspired by messenger bags and backpacks.
Pro-Mart Industries, too, is addressing consumer space issues with a new product called the Pop Up Flip, a combination hamper and basket. It can be used upright as a hamper, then zippers transform it into a laundry basket. The product extends Pro-Mart's popular Pop Up Hampers line, for which product development manager Sarine Sabounjian Nigolian says the company "sees constant growth." She says, "They are a practical, portable, foldable, inexpensive solution for laundry that suits the majority of customers' needs."
Good looks also come into play in the laundry storage category, so hampers and clothing baskets aren't an eyesore if they're situated in the corner of a bedroom or in a bathroom.
CreativeWare Home is focusing on hampers that are made of metal wire and canvas, and typically offers coordinating accessories like storage baskets, waste baskets and vanity baskets to create a complete look. Gary Miniman, vice president of CreativeWare Home, said that the most popular looks include natural-hued liners ranging from pale beige to espresso, with mid-brown, sable and honey tones in the middle of this spectrum. For back to school, the company offers brighter options, such as red, blue or black.
John F. Travers, director of product marketing for Home Products International, said, "We continue to see growth in soft-sided laundry storage products that incorporate a fashion element that coordinates with home decor." He said that neutrals traditionally perform best in color, but added, "We are seeing the market trend towards color and fashion."
Some manufacturers are aiming to maintain quality and functionality while struggling with increased labor and shipping costs. CreativeWare Home, for instance, is moving towards fabric and metal hampers and away from natural fiber options to combat supply issues and high prices of natural fibers. The company also recently introduced a line of hampers and other storage products called the Fold'N Store. Made of heavy chipwood and fabric, and designed with a lid, the hamper collapses, which economizes on ocean freight. The space-effective design of the product line serves another purpose by taking up less retail real estate, and can be stored in a small space in a consumer's home.
Indeed, compactness for retail displays is a common thread among laundry care products and packaging. Heidi Slocumb, vice president of marketing for Evriholder, says that the Evribox line of drawer organizers with sizes to store socks, lingerie, camisoles and other clothing, was designed to fold flat and to hang from a hook.
As the all-important fourth quarter approaches, manufacturers expect that the category will perform similarly to last year's fourth quarter, with steady sales, and already are looking even past the year's end.
"Business is tough, people are definitely cutting back on their budgets," said Miniman of CreativeWare Home. "But the hamper business is pretty steady in terms of consumer buying."
Added Cooper of Polder, "To me the bigger question will be the first quarter of 2012. Based on sell-through in the fourth quarter we will see what momentum there is and focus on promotion as we begin the new year."