Leaders of the Pack

       

       

By Allison Zisko

There’s money to be made by selling beverageware in bulk upstairs.

Despite a decline in overall beverageware sales last year, pack sales—meaning multiple pieces of the same shape packaged in a box—were up 4 percent, and they were led by a sales increase in the upper end segment, according to statistics from The NPD Group. Fine pack sales of crystal barware and stemware were up 5 percent, while casual sales were up 3 percent in the 12-month period between June 2010 and May 2011.

All piece-count configurations—from two-piece packs to 12-piece packs, as well as the most popular, four-piece packs—were up, said Kathleen Cella, NPD’s director of housewares and textiles, and price points have been holding steady. Cella attributed the growth of fine beverageware packs to the migration of some brands to more channels of distribution. Some of Riedel’s patterns, for instance, are sold at Target as well as at department and specialty stores. Riedel’s Vivant and Vinum brands ranked number one and two in dollars, respectively, on a list of the top three fine wine glasses sold in the June 2010-through-May 2011-period, according to NPD. Mikasa’s Cheers was third.

A few upstairs vendors, including those who haven’t significantly altered their targeted channels of distribution, confirmed that pack sales have been a bright spot in beverageware and have been more popular than sets, which NPD defines as multiple pieces of different shapes, or a beverage set packaged with a serving piece, like a pitcher or punch bowl. At least one of them will unveil new pack configurations during the tabletop market next month.

“We see the power behind the pack,” said Beverley Reid, senior category manager for crystal and glass at Lifetime Brands. “There is starting to be a need out there for more packs [from both retailers and end-users] and we have launched more at recent markets.”

Cheers has been the company’s most successful franchise in this regard. This fall Mikasa will roll out Cheers four-piece packs that feature four designs in four different jewel-tone colors. The premise of offering four different designs on one shape appeals to consumers who like the mix-and-match aspect of the line, Reid said, and the jewel tones are more “livable” than the pastel shades that were offered in years past.

Lifetime designs its packs to coordinate with its dinnerware patterns, because consumers find it easier to buy a set of four dishes and four glasses at the same time, Reid said. It created entertaining beverageware sets that were not as popular as they had hoped, according to Reid. “Our consumer tends to want to buy the serving piece separate from the [drinkware],” she said.

Some vendors package their glassware into packs almost by default. Steuben, for example, offers its stemware open stock, but if a consumer goes online and orders, say, six or eight glasses at once, it will be shipped together in one box, according to Robert Nachman, vice president of marketing and product design. Lifetime does the same on its direct-to-consumer website, said Reid. Multipiece purchases of Mikasa’s open stock items, called “kits,” are shipped as a pack, offered at a slight discount if purchased that way. These are configurations not sold at retail.

One of the downsides of pack configurations is the risk of “sticker shock,” particularly when dealing with higher-priced open stock items. In those instances, there may be less of an incentive—from either the vendor or the retailer’s point of view—to package multiple pieces in one box.

Nonetheless, packs are popular. “Definitely, packs and sets work better than open stock, especially the way retailers are positioning their product in stores,” said Sara Carcieri, vice president of marketing,  Reed & Barton.

 

Top 3 Fine Wine Glasses*

1 Riedel Vivant
2 Riedel Vinum
3 Mikasa Cheers
* In dollars, sold June 2010 through May 2011; Source: The NPD Group