By Andrea Lillo
Notebooks and backpacks may have the standard back-to-school fare years ago, but housewares categories are now also heavily involved with that time of year.
Items that tote both lunch and beverages are popular with students of all ages, while older students also embrace more product categories, as dorm dwellers want their spaces to reflect their style.
“Retailers are looking for opportunities to focus on” and back to college is one of those growing areas, said Sal Gabbay, president, Gibson. It’s a more promotional category, and a cookware set from Gibson for this crowd will generally range between $39.99 to $59.99.
Base Brands’s WaterWeek set of water bottles has previously targeted the younger set, and now the collegiate crowd is next, said Ken Kreafle, chief executive officer, as the company recently got licenses for a number of colleges. These products could be in stores as early as July, he said, and will retail for $25 for a set of the 16-ounce size bottles (the original WaterWeek retails for $17.99).
While a lot of back-to-school is price sensitive and has to be below $20, that’s not always the case for the college crowd, Kreafle said. “Price is not as big of a concern” as are products that are fun and unique. One area lacking in the back-to-college arena is product that is ecofriendly, he added. Since so many students are aware of that issue, Base Brands is looking to offer some other products from its line to coeds, such as its bamboo Melaboo kitchenware and its Reduce Hybrid bottle for hot and cold drinks.
The beverage-focused line from Bodum has plenty of products for the college crowd, including travel mugs, water kettles, thermo mugs—and its French press. Bodum’s French press is perfect for back to school, said Thomas Perez, president. “Young people love coffee and this generation is looking for style.”
Mastrad’s product design focuses “not only with innovation and design in mind, but also functionality,” said Vanessa Rozanoff, national sales manager. “We aim to simplify cooking, saving time and also space, which is exactly what the back-to-school consumer is looking for in a housewares purchase.” One example is its steam cooker, which satisfies both Moms and dorm dwellers with its ability to microwave healthy meals in minutes, she said. Other related products include the new cotton bag dispenser, which stores reusable plastic bags neatly and conveniently, and its new line of silicone lids, ideal for both microwave splatter protection and refrigerator storage.
Launching later this year, the Laundry Pod is a non-electric washing machine perfect for dorm rooms, said Evan Dash, principal owner, Innovative Technology. Initially designed for soldiers in the field, the Laundry Pod uses six liters of water to do a small load of laundry. “We see it as big for back-to-school,” he said, as well as appealing to people who want green products or use recreational vehicles. At a $150 price point, the first Laundry Pod will probably be in a camouflage style, with other colors to come, he said.
Aladdin has launched several new products to help keep foods and beverages cold so they are safe to eat by kids at lunchtime, something consumers requested, said JoAnne Anderson, senior marketing manager. These include the Aladdin Chill Bottle, Aladdin Chill Lunch Box and Aladdin Chill Lunch Bowl. “Made with kids in mind, these items are designed to be easily opened and grabbed by smaller hands,” she said.
Compact enough to fit under a kitchen sink, the Laundry Pod is a portable laundering device that washes small loads of laundry with no electricity. thelaundrypod.com