Chicago-Returning to Chicago this week after a three-year absence, the Inspired Home Show is a smaller, quieter edition than its predecessor, yet features the same dedication to innovation and serving consumer needs, which has shifted as the country begins to emerge from the pandemic.
How the show would start was the big question on everyone’s mind, and exhibitors said they kept expectations low. But the end result was positive for most exhibitors, who said they had meaningful conversations with retailers, along with the opportunity to showcase their latest innovations.
“Everyone was looking for an excuse not to come,” said Alex Gransbury, founder of Australian gadget company Dreamfarm, noting that a slow return to normal was to be expected. “People are here, they are thirsty for innovation and the search for novelty.”
“We wanted to be here in person. We had three years of product development to show for it,” said Steve Grinspoon, CEO of Honey-Can-Do International LLC. “This show has exceeded our expectations.”
Several exhibitors said that retailers who initially told exhibitors they would not attend did. “For me, I was surprised,” said John Valencia, a spokesman for Imosa. “I wasn’t expecting such a busy day” on the first day of the show.
Anthony Howard, chief operating officer of Escali, who introduced a handful of new kitchen and bathroom scales and highlighted their newly acquired brand, The London Sip, during the show “You [got] To spend more time with people. We really appreciate it. … the attendance was different, but the people here are serious [about buying]. “
However, some sellers found the offer to be slow and were frustrated. Some major retailers have turned up, said Michael Jensson of Serene House, but if your buyer doesn’t, you won’t be so lucky. Cyrene House attended the show because she didn’t want to lose the show’s deposit as of 2020. “I wouldn’t have missed anything if I didn’t show up,” he said. “He’s frustrated.”
But most of the exhibitors HFN spoke to had a better experience. “I was stunned yesterday [Saturday]said Adam Fisher, a former CEO of Wusthof who is now Vice President of Brand at Cangshan Knives. “I wrote more requests in a day yesterday than I ever did at the Housewares Show.” The company introduced four new knife blades.
Bobby Javahri, president of Yedi Houseware, which still produces tabletop ceramics but has recently invested heavily in micro-electricity, said he’s had some “quality encounters.” Buyers who originally said they would not attend the show showed up.
“I’d regret it if I didn’t show up,” he said, taking a stack of business cards of the people he had to follow from his pocket. Not attending was not an option for his company, which is on an upward trajectory with mentions in Oprah Magazine and other business publications. “We had to show up.” he added.
At keynote presentations and on the show floor, industry experts and observers discussed the needs of the post-COVID consumer, with a particular focus on health – physical and mental – and overall wellness.
In an IHA presentation of a Market Watch report on homeware industry trends, panelists said today’s consumer is also excited about acquiring new skills — which can range from anything like cooking and baking to video editing and graphic design — and in reinventing themselves.
Andrew Rea, the person behind the hugely popular YouTube channel Binging with Babish, agrees that the post-COVID consumer is more self-reliant and hobby-oriented, and has had the time and bandwidth to figure out what’s important in life. He conducted a cooking show at the Culinary Theater and met customers at the Gibson booth, where his licensed product was shown. When asked about his advice to retail buyers, he said they should be happy to cater to customers who are looking for “something good for their heart, mind and soul.”
IHA panelists said consumers also crave connection, with friends and family as well as strangers, which ultimately extends to products and brands. Meanwhile, consumers who are beginning to return to the office – either full-time or in a mixed fashion – have a new set of practical needs, particularly in terms of food preparation and storage, that homeware manufacturers can meet.
Exhibitors showed how to meet these needs by showcasing what they’ve been working on for the past few years – adding a good dose of exoticism, innovation and colour.
Newell tackled changing work habits with Crockpot’s new Lunch Crock, a portable slow cooker in fun colors that allows someone to heat lunch at their desk, rather than using the microwave in the office.
Founder Dean Chapman said Prepara has used the pandemic to develop fun products. Two of the results are the Cactus Cheese Grater, which stands up and is safe for kids to use, and the Avo-Cacto Avocado Cuber, which cuts the fruit into cubes.
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High looks and price points prevailed, too—the $1,500 Objecto mixer from luxury car brand Bugatti was rated. Georg Jensen started his first French press, a double-walled item made by a team of 14 silversmiths in Denmark.
A year and a half after acquiring the Mirro brand, Imusa is now bringing in more high-end items — including better handles and ceramic coatings — as well as expanding its distribution, Jhonn Valencia said.