Consumer guru delivers key 2016 insights.

The International Housewares Association’s trend forecaster Tom Mirabile, told participants equipped with 3D glasses at the 2016 International Home + Housewares Show last week that, “It’s never been more important to view consumers in three dimensions.  Today’s housewares consumers are multi-faceted, and embracing change is crucial. Mirabile was delivering his annual trend seminar entitled “The New Rules of Engagement.”

Owned and operated by the International Housewares Association (, the Show featured more than 2,200 exhibitors and over 62,000 attendees from over 100 countries.  Mirabile (pictured below) is also senior vice president, global trend & design for Lifetime Brands, Inc.



“Ultimately, the best innovations come from a really deep understanding of who the consumer is and what problems they have that you can solve,” he said.  “Everything we do has to come from a problem- solving center.”

Mirabile’s insights were centered around his 10 New Rules of Engagement, which are:

#1:  Know Your Audience – Younger and older generations are really dominating the economy right now.  Kids are actually influential consumers, and it’s important to look at Generation Z (ages 7-20) as the next adult generation. He said this group considers themselves foodies and is culturally diverse, entrepreneurial, and socially aware.  Mirabile also pointed out that the oldest of Generation Y is turning 40 next year…a far cry from the common perception of Millennials as 20-somethings who still live with their parents.  As for Baby Boomers, “They’ve shattered stereotypes of what it means to be over 50 today; older age does not mean dated design nor does it mean inactive lifestyle.” The Matures (age 71+) may not spend much on housewares, but Boomer family members have a huge influence on purchasing.

#2:  Create Desire — Consumers want to live in smaller homes, but they want those homes to live larger.  They crave originality, personalization, and for the first time in a while, indulgences.  (This may be because people are generally taking care of themselves more – and feel they can indulge once in a while, but also because indulgences give them an experience to talk about with family and friends).

#3:  Inspire the Makers – The maker movement is huge, and “for the maker, skills equal status,” Mirabile shared.  To this group, restaurants serve as inspiration, but he said “simplicity is always the key.”  The sheet-pan dinner is just one example of a hot maker trend right now.

#4:  Get Personal – We have never had the opportunity for the type of growth in gifting that we have today.  There is a giftable occasion for housewares at all times of the year, and it’s up to retailers and manufacturers to help make it relevant and accessible to consumers.

#5:  Get Healthy – In the past, being healthy meant something you had to do, it was focused on the physical, and it was more of an idealized goal that few could reach.  Today, being healthy is something you want to do, it is balanced between physical and emotional, and it is more realistic for all.  “Fresh is the single most important buzzword associated with healthy eating today,” Mirabile said.  There’s also more focus on mindful living or taking the time to savor both process and consumption.

#6: Sell Experiences –Consumers are searching for new trends in baking as it moves from sweet to savory, how to bring restaurant trends into our homes, and easy ways to stay healthy in terms of body, mind and soul. Casual experiences are on the upswing, as the trend in single-bowl meals illustrates.

#7: Stay on Trend – It can be challenging to keep up with the latest trends, but it’s important especially in housewares because it provides the opportunity to meet a new need or also repurpose existing products for a new trend.  Home distilling, bread-making, home butchery, local sourcing, homemade snacks, ancient grains and grilling (year-round and health-driven) were highlighted.

#8: Get Social – “I know we tend to think of social media as the domain of Millennials, but older generations are right up there in terms of usage,” Mirabile explained.  Give people content or experiences they can share on social media, and keep in mind that pictures are just as valuable – sometimes more – than words.

#9: Live in the Future – “I think in the past we used to think about innovation as something that trickles down,” Mirabile added. “Now it gushes out.”  The future is about convenience and anything that saves consumers time…something no one can buy.  This can be as high-tech as a robotic cleaning device or as low-tech as a food prep kit that is delivered to your door.

#10: Embrace Change – Whether it’s omni-channel retailing, mobile applications or lifestyle trends, Mirabile’s parting advice was simple: “Embracing change is crucial to success.”