Digital Marketing Redux   //   November 27, 2023

3 acquisition strategies home brands are deploying this holiday season

Fourth-quarter sales are a major part of the calendar for kitchen and home brands, whose products are often suitable for gifting or hosting during the holidays. 

Shoppers are poised to spend similar amounts on holiday shopping this year compared to last year, with the National Retail Federation estimating that holiday sales will have a 3% to 4% increase over last year. In response, houseware brands that have primarily relied on growth during the season are aiming to draw in new and returning customers with a mix of new products, promotions and sales channels. 

Modern Retail spoke with three home brands about their strategies for acquiring new customers and maximizing sales this holiday season. And while Solo Stove, Caraway and Popsmith are three companies of different sizes, their strategies come down to two key components: enticing shoppers with new products, and offering best-yet promotions.  

Here’s a breakdown of what’s working for these brands as they enter their busiest sales season of the year.

Solo Stove: New products and big-box expansion

The holiday season is a major sales driver for Solo Stove, a fire pit brand that’s spent the past year focusing on balancing its channel mix between direct-to-consumer online sales and wholesale partners. Typically, Cyber 5 makes up about 28% to 30% of all fourth-quarter sales, said CEO John Merris. 

Last year, Solo — a public company that operates outdoor brands Isle, Chubbies and Oru Kayak in addition to its larger stove operation — saw net sales of $197 million in the fourth quarter, driven in part by a 196% increase in wholesale. This year, Solo Stove heads into the holiday season in a small growth spurt: Solo saw 8% year-over growth with $110 million in net sales during the third quarter driven by wholesale growth, marketing spend and new products.

“So much of our quarter and our year is tied up in the Cyber 5,” Merris said. “We’re still very much in a waiting pattern, excited and optimistic, but certainly it’s no sure bet that everyone is going to show up.” 

This year, some of the focus is on bringing back former customers with new products and colorways, like metallic colors. The brand also announced an NFL licensing agreement that allows Solo Stove customers to emblazon their firepit with their favorite team’s logo.

On the wholesale front, Solo Stove brand is also planning bigger retail plays to help drive awareness and bring in new customers. Sometimes that looks like larger displays in outdoor stores like Dicks Sporting Goods. Merris said the brand has also worked through its promotional calendar to help ensure stores aren’t competing against each other with differnet price points at different times. 

“We’re seeing a lot of success with getting deeper, better relationships and more real estate,” Merris said. 

This year will also be the brand’s first Target play — its tabletop-sized Mesa product will launch in all 2,000 locations. 

“It’s ideal for making smores, it’s not intimidating. It doesn’t require a two or three hour commitment. It’s a 25 to 30 minute commitment,” Merris said. “It’s the perfect product to get out in front of moms for the holidays, and its very giftable.” 

Getting into big-box stores also puts more eyes on the brand, and allows it to spend less on direct marketing. 

Solo will also lean into new marketing strategies that go beyond traditional ads. Solo Stove was also featured in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade with a first-of-its-kind campground-style float. 

“I had that on my wish list this year,” Merris said. “We’re stacking the deck in our favor this year and doing what I think are going to be the right steps to maximize opportunity in those five days.” 

Caraway: An entirely new product line

Four-year-old kitchen brand Caraway is leaning into new product lines to generate repeat purchases this holiday season. In the past three months the brand has launched a kitchenware line of utensils an ducting boards, a “squareware” line of ceramic cookware, and stainless steel cookware.

It’s a similar playbook to what Caraway did last year: Last year, the brand launched a tea kettle, mini cookware and food storage line in late summer and early fall to be timed for holiday shopping. 

“We do a big piece of our business within the Q4 period and building momentum (with new products) into Q4 is a key strategy.” Founder and CEO Jordan Nathan said.

Overall, the brand has been on a growth trajectory since last fall when it completed a $35 million series A meant to drive product expansion and marketing spend. A key difference this holiday season will be the brand showing up in more channels with bespoke offers. Caraway has deepened its relationship with Target, and recently expanded to The Container Store nationwide. There’s also a landing page on the site that’s based on price point to help shoppers make their purchases, a strategy that Nathan said aims to reduce the stress of going through a cumbersome gift guide. 

This year has also seen more sales and discounting from Caraway, a strategy that’s paid off by driving more orders compared to sales in prior years. Promotional strategies specific to the holiday season include new discounts across its network of 3,000 influencers. Caraway is also offering more bundled deals that bring together its best-sellers, like a $595 cookware set or $300 fry pan duo. 

Fourth quarters often look like multi-item carts, with people buying items for themselves and for others. In response, Caraway rolled out a four-tier offer that ranges from 10% to 20% off for online orders meant to help drive up cart values. This year the sale  began on Nov. 1, and added the incentive of a free tea kettle for orders over $1,000. 

Nathan said while the majority of fourth quarter sales are for gifting, it’s not uncommon for those customers to return to Caraway in the New Year for additional purchases. Some might buy the rest of the line or complementary products, he said. Many shoppers are interested in starting the new year on a healthy foot, which extends to more cooking-related purchases, Nathan said.

“Q4 is massive, but we also think about Q1 as an extension of those themes into the new year.”

Popsmith: Growing the B-to-B business

Popsmith officially made its stovetop popcorn maker available to purchase on its website this past September following a Kickstarter campaign that raised nearly $350,000. The timing wasn’t intended to coincide with the holiday season — but founder and CEO Tal Moore said the seasonal boost is helping the brand gain recognition.

Some of the sales bump comes from customers returning to gift the products to others. And there’s also been an organic rise in corporate gifting. There have been at least three corporate orders in the last few weeks, Moore said.

“There’s only so many times you’re going to give away a box of cookies or a bottle of wine. It’s sugar or it’s vice,” Moore said. 

To help drive sales, Popsmith runs ads on Meta-based platform, and is increasingly adopting user-generated content. For the holiday season, campaigns are being tweaked to focus on the aspect of gathering and family meals. And it also began offering discounts for bulk purchases of 10 or more units to entice more corporate gifting. Popsmith is also runing a 15% site-wide promotion through the Cyber 5. 

But the advertising won’t go too far so the brand doesn’t overstretch — Moore said the biggest challenge the holiday season has presented is inventory management. One popular colorway, cobalt, was already sold out and had to be restocked twice. 

“We anticipate stocking out, so we don’t want to take on a lot of new marketing initiatives right now,” he said. “We’re just going to focus on what’s working.”