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Bath Products: Total category sales — $2.9 billion

The bath industry matured last year by 16 percent to $2.9 billion, proving that the category continues to be significant in consumers' minds as an extension of the bedroom and an important room in the home to decorate.

The merchandise mix remained almost unchanged over the 12-month period. Bath towels lost 1 percent — dropping to 55 percent. Recovering that point was the bath accessories category, which rose to 11 percent. Bath/scatter rugs rose by 3 points to 23 percent.

Shower curtains stabilized at 9 percent of the merchandise mix. Of that, 45 percent is fabric and 55 percent is vinyl; and 73 percent are prints vs. 27 percent solid colored.

As for bath accessories, the bulk, 40 percent, continues to be made of ceramic, followed by plastic, which occupies slightly more than half of ceramic, 23 percent. Other materials include metal, 14 percent; resin, 12 percent; glass, 7 percent; and wood — typically used as an accent to other materials, which includes 4 percent.

In towel sales, embellished occupy a fraction, 8 percent, vs. unembellished; 100 percent cotton towels almost entirely dominate sales, at 96 percent, with blends taking up the remaining 4 percent; and solids are strongest, with 85 percent of the business in its share.

The study also found that only 7 percent of bath products are licensed.

In other interesting findings from the survey, participants said that, while domestic manufacturing still occupies the bulk of the business, importing is becoming increasingly important. Domestic manufacturing decreased by three points to 65 percent, and importing rose to 35 percent.

Discount stores are increasingly the retail partner of choice for bath manufacturers. Discount stores conducted more than twice the bath business done by home textile specialty chains — 44 percent vs. 21 percent — for the second consecutive year.

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