Friday, December 13, 2013
By COTTEN TIMBERLAKE / Bloomberg News
There are all sorts of new things in the aisles for small kitchen appliances these days, such as men.
A Williams-Sonoma store is shown in Corte Madera, Calif. Chains are selling more high-tech specialty appliances, partly as a result of consumers making healthy foods for their families.
Not so long ago, small kitchen appliances were confined to a few main items such as toasters. Now, after a decade of kitchen-gadget makers adding high-tech features and with consumer spending recovering from the recession, chains including Macy's and Williams-Sonoma are selling scores of specialty appliances from two-stage juicers and food dehydrators to high-tech teapots and baby-food making systems.
Small kitchen-appliance purchases jumped 10 percent to $5.51 billion in 2012, surpassing the 9.4 percent increase the previous year and growing at double the rate of the whole $18.3 billion small-appliance category, which includes the kitchen gadgets plus items such as hair dryers and vacuum cleaners, according to NPD Group, based in Port Washington, N.Y.
Driving the trend is Americans' growing desire to eat healthier and buy tools that help them prepare natural foods, said Debra Mednick, home industry analyst for NPD. Baby boomers have led the charge.
"It's not about margaritas anymore," Mednick said. "It's about getting your antioxidants."
The machines have the added benefit of drawing male shoppers to a store department that traditionally attracted more women, said Stephen Cardino, fashion director for home at Macy's.
"Guys love anything with a plug," Cardino said in a telephone interview.
Appliance makers such as Whirlpool's KitchenAid; Conair's Cuisinart, Vita-Mix and Breville Group have added digital screens and industrial-grade materials to devices to help command higher prices and separate themselves from the mass-market versions from Hamilton Beach Brands and Jarden's Oster and Sunbeam brands.
The popular appliances allow consumers to prepare food from scratch, or semi-scratch, giving them more control over the ingredients that go into it, Mednick said. Shoppers also are attracted to commercial-quality appliances that allow them to replicate items, such as smoothies, that they typically enjoy outside the home, she said.