Consumers are once again embracing key life moments after the pandemic and are planning to continue doing so in the year ahead and beyond, according to the just-released International Housewares Association’s (IHA) 2023 Occasions Report.

Results from the 2023 Occasions Survey suggest that housewares retailers and suppliers should continually consider their role as gift providers for not only major life events but for annual occasions including birthdays and anniversaries, as well as “anytime moments” when a person wants to turn just another day into a time to celebrate. The report is sponsored exclusively by Newell Brands.

            The IHA 2023 Occasions Report features exclusive research commissioned by IHA updating the results of its 2022 Occasions Survey, which examined consumer gift preferences and shopping behaviors based on each of eight key life events expected to shape special occasions: engagements, bridal showers, weddings, new home ownership, new pet ownership, baby showers, off to college and retirement.

The COVID-19 pandemic and its economic aftermath have scrambled long-established occasion traditions, and year-over-year results in the report chronicle how consumers have both rescheduled and reimagined life events that were delayed by coronavirus-related fears and restrictions. Weddings, for example, were postponed. According to the survey, the proportion of respondents who plan to attend a family or friend wedding during the next 12 months or so declined. In the 2023 Survey, just under a quarter of respondents were looking at attending a friend or family wedding in the next 12 months versus 29% in the year-prior survey. Those expecting to be involved in a family and friends engagement event in 2023 totaled 21% (6% very likely and 15% somewhat likely) versus 25% (9% very likely, 16% somewhat likely) a year earlier.

The bridal shower occasion slipped slightly at 19% of respondents likely (7% very likely and 12% somewhat likely) to be involved in such a family and friends event in 2023 versus 2022, at 23% (9% very likely and 14% somewhat likely). A slight year-over-year difference held for baby showers at 25% (11% very likely and 14% somewhat likely) versus 16% (11% very likely and 15% somewhat likely) in the 2022 survey.

At a time when the home market is in flux, the housewarming occasion possibility for family and friends slipped year-over-year at 28% in 2023 (10% very likely and 18% somewhat likely) versus 32% (12% very likely and 20% somewhat likely) a year before. The decline is no surprise, but the continued elevation vs. pre-pandemic levels is important.

Occasions Celebrations Extend as Multiple Events

Fewer 2023 Survey respondents expected to be involved in the family and friends leaving for college occasion in the coming year, at 15% (7% very likely and 8% somewhat likely) than was the case in the 2022 survey, at 17% (9% very likely, 8% somewhat likely.) However, what may be more revealing about the data is how the occasion seems to be made up of multiple events that stretch over several months as friends and family interact with the college-bound from the period leading up to high school graduation and the time the newly located collegians are using gift cards to finish outfitting their dorms and apartments.

New pet ownership is similar in that it may consist of multiple events as people pay visits to the household with a new pet. It continues as a gift-giving occasion and, in the aggregate, new pet occasions are up slightly in the 2023 study to 33% from 32%, although the certainty of having such an occasion is a bit less at 10% very likely and 23% somewhat likely in the 2023 survey versus 12% very likely and 20% somewhat likely in the 2022 Survey.

As for retirement, fewer respondents in the 2023 survey said they anticipate a family and friend occasion, at 20% with 8% very likely and 12% somewhat likely, as compared to 22%, with 10% very likely and 12% somewhat likely, in last year’s survey. The depressed stock market and inflation are among the factors that could be convincing seniors to work a bit longer. In the nationally projectable survey of 2,200 adults across the United States, 20% represents more than 66 million potential customers.

The Occasions Survey identifies opportunities for retailers and suppliers in terms of market parameters and dynamics. An important factor to consider, though, is the survey’s delineation of life events. Leana Salamah, vice president, marketing, at IHA, said the opportunity isn’t necessarily confined to a given occasion, but it often extends well beyond as consumers re-equip for their next life stage. After an event and its related occasion occur, a consumer’s lifestyle and needs evolve.

“These are inflection points,” Salamah said. “They fundamentally change something about the consumer. We talk about retirement as an occasion, but after the occasion has passed, this is a different consumer. A retired consumer. What do they need moving forward?”

The 2023 IHA Occasions Survey was conducted by Morning Consult in September 2022. More than 2,200 interviews were conducted online, and the data is weighted to approximate a target of adults based on gender, educational attainment, age, race and region proportionate with the general U.S. population.  

The 2023 IHA Occasions Report is published here.

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