Feature Article - January/February 2014

Home Sweet Home Goods

Housewares & Other Household Items Make Effective Incentives & Rewards

By Emily Tipping

If you want to reward your employees, partners, sales reps and customers with something that will give them that warm, fuzzy feeling about your company, then you definitely want to include home goods in your incentive and reward options to be sure to touch their hearts while improving their hearths. After all, home is where the heart is, right?

According to Eric Anderson, director of sales for PMC in Lake Geneva, Wis., the home goods category, which has been seeing a high number of redemptions over the past several years, is "continuing to experience some nice growth."

And there are good reasons why participants in incentive and reward programs continue to choose home goods.

"The home is where people spend most of their time," said Billie Reise, director of Marketing for Incentive Concepts in Maryland Heights, Mo. "It is easy to see why items people can use at home are such a large portion of incentive programs. Whether it is a television from LG, a new garage door opener from Chamberlain, a Life Fitness elliptical or a new sofa from Furniture Rewards, home goods are important to all incentive programs."

What's more, like many other incentive categories, home goods enjoy wide appeal, with program participants from any generation or gender finding something needed or wanted for their homes.

"Home goods appeal to all audiences, from young men and women who are just beginning to set up housekeeping to women and men who are ready to replace or upgrade what they already have" said Norma Jean Knollenberg, CPIM, owner and CEO of Top Brands Inc. in Oshkosh, Wis.

There are good reasons why participants in incentive and reward programs continue to choose home goods.

Ken Fishman, purchasing manager at Rymax Marketing Services Inc., in Pine Brook, N.J., further broke down some of the generational differences in home goods' appeal. "Baby boomers want rewards that combine outstanding value and utility, such as Miele vacuum cleaners and Cuisinart small appliances," he said. "Gen X wants rewards that create a balance between life and work, like Gaiam health and fitness products. Millennials follow celebrities, and we're seeing strong redemption for Guy Fieri Signature 14-Piece Stainless Steel Knife Sets and the Cake Boss Dessert Plate Set. Gen Z wants what's trending right now in retail—rewards like Michael Kors cases and covers to dress up their electronic devices, whether it's a laptop, phone, tablet or e-reader."

No matter what type of audience you're targeting, you're sure to find a wealth of options that will fit the bill. And, while home goods may have been popular through the recession as program participants looked to feather their nests with much-needed items, they continue to remain popular in the recovery, as participants satisfy their wants, as much as their needs.

"Typically, small kitchen appliances are a top-four category in every redemption program," said Frank Cavallo, senior director of Sales, U.S. for Hamilton Beach Brands Inc., in Glen Allen, Va. "Program participants have used their points more for everyday needs for the past several years. They are finally able to go after 'wanna have' items. We are seeing redemptions increase for new innovations in familiar categories, more versatile slow cookers, dual-use coffee makers and specialty items like breakfast sandwich makers."

Still, many people are still concerned about the economy, and those who are looking to redeem their points for an award might choose home goods because they are practical and useful.

It is easy to see why items people can use at home are such a large portion of incentive programs.

"When home goods need replacing but discretionary income is tight," Knollenberg said, "award winners will select something practical for the home as opposed to a more luxurious item."

"There's still a little concern" about the economy, Anderson said. "The economy is not back to roaring numbers, so people are being a little wiser. In the meantime, manufacturers on the housewares side are making products more attractive with more features, dual uses and other innovations that are encouraging people to go for that category."

Many people, Anderson explained, are still looking for items that they need, as opposed to what they want. "Take a flat-panel TV, for example," he said. "Unless your TV went out or you have enough points for a spare, you're thinking along the lines of what you really need. So many people are still holding off on some of the aspirational items and going with what they need."

By offering a combination of household items that will meet participants' needs and goods that provide unique innovations that will inspire their wants, you're sure to provide a little motivation for everyone.