Home In Focus Opinion: The US tableware business and Covid-19

Opinion: The US tableware business and Covid-19

Jorge Perez, Cuban-American designer, on-air TV personality/influencer and tabletop industry icon gives his opinion

When the main interest of a consumer base suddenly changes to basic survival mode, consumer confidence and spending habits drastically change, and the impact is like a Richter scale magnitude 10 earthquake.

Due to the overwhelming economic downturn, I’m afraid the already struggling US tableware business will need much more than a ventilator to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

US tabletop retailers have had more than their fair share of challenges in the recent years and this crisis is the last thing they needed. Downtrending retailers are buckling up and the manufacturers are feeling the grip. Major retailers who had already been reducing tableware departments and closing doors have now gone on crisis mode cancelling all open orders, requesting RTVs (Return-To-Vendor) and pushing out their open-to-buy until Fall. In any time of crisis, while everyone suffers, usually the biggest hit in the category is the luxury sector which I fear will feel it the most. Even the LVMH Tiffany acquisition is now in possible jeopardy.

On top of this, the Spring New York Tabletop Trade Show (largest US annual tabletop trade show) scheduled for Mar 31-Apr 3 was cancelled which further exacerbates the problem.

“As in any good fairy tale, this story does have a potential happy ending… when we come out of this – and we will – there will be an overwhelming desire to come together and celebrate on a grand scale and the tableware industry will be an essential part of these celebrations.”

The independent tableware retailer – who I have always considered to be the original backbone of this industry – is who I worry will suffer the most. This precious group just can’t seem to catch a break. In addition to this crisis, already declining sales due to so many Amazonian challenges, on top of a non-interested new-age consumer group and high cost of doing business today, may devastate this part of the US tableware landscape. Many also relied on weddings and other life events which have now been postponed indefinitely.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, the very recent mandatory store closures of non-essential businesses in many US states to help minimise physical contact puts yet another nail in the tableware coffin. I have been to way too many retailer funerals over the years and I’m afraid this crisis will force me to keep my black suit on the ready.

Interestingly enough; the kitchenware part of this industry seems to be enjoying an upswing in sales as so many more Americans are now forced to cook meals and eat at home thus creating a surge in kitchen essential sales.

As with any good fairy tale, this story does have a potentially happy ending. My UCLA sociology degree coupled with my Baccarat large Sirius crystal ball (with stand) tells me the future might be very bright. This US lockdown has forced many of us to stop and realize how precious life is, and when we come out of this – and we will – there will be an overwhelming desire to come together and celebrate on a grand scale and the tableware industry will be an essential part of these celebrations.

Start planning for it. Check your right pocket. Your glass slipper is there.

Jorge Perez, Cuban-American designer, on-air TV personality/influencer and tabletop industry icon gives his opinion

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