Buyers, vendors and food retailers came together this week at the International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago. The event, put on by the International Housewares Association (IHA), showcased the latest housewares while offering potential ways for supermarkets to attract more customers.
“We believe housewares in supermarkets is an underserved category with a tremendous amount of opportunity,” Perry Reynolds, VP of marketing and trade development for IHA, told The Shelby Report’s Geoff Welch, VP-Midwest, at the show, held March 7-10.
Those opportunities include a higher gross margin and customer retention.
With stores like Ace Hardware and OfficeMax adding housewares, supermarkets should seem like a more natural fit—but smaller, independent grocers may not have the buying power of a larger chain and thus can be concerned about losing money on the products. Merchandising, however, can make all the difference for supermarket sales.
“I think in order for a supermarket to perform well in housewares, they have treat it not just an item business—they have to position it as part of their food offerings,” Reynolds said. “They have to put it in the context that it will make the consumer more willing to see it as more than just a purchase there.”
Getting consumers accustomed to thinking of supermarkets in terms of housewares is a task that starts with suppliers.
“Traditionally, people who supply housewares don’t think of supermarkets as a natural next step,” Reynolds said. “By that same token, supermarkets don’t think that way, either. But part of our job is to make sure the buyers and sellers connect and they see the rationale for having the products in the supermarket and vice versa.”
Reynolds has seen some forward momentum in that trend.
“When we think about the supermarket business in relation to the Housewares Show, what we have seen over time is that, even as the supermarket business has consolidated, the number of supermarket attendees has grown and grown,” he said. “And the number of people that are likely to find a home selling their products in supermarkets has grown as well. I think it is a great opportunity for those buyers. Some supermarket chains bring large groups here to make sure they cover every category.”
Reynolds adds that the best way for a supermarket to be successful is to be on the show’s floor, connecting with suppliers. To make the process easier and more efficient, tools like the Housewares Connect 365 were offered prior to the show’s start on Saturday so buyers could plan their route and edit which vendors they wanted to see at the show with a custom floor plan. Buyers could use a scanner similar to a bridal registry to scan the items they liked and have it printed off, showing the booth and vendor; an emailed copy of the list also was sent as a reminder. Additionally, for the first time the show hosted an exhibitor preview that offered buyers time before the show opened to meet with the new exhibitors.
The 2015 Home + Housewares Show brought together 2,100 exhibitors filling three buildings, with 400 of the exhibitors new to the show. Sixty thousand people attended the show, with 7,000 from outside the U.S.; 21,000 of the attendees were buyers.
Reynolds says next year’s show will offer a new look and presentation but will continue its focus on innovation and supremacy of design, which he notes has become important in the housewares business.
IHA Innovation Awards announced
In related news, 13 housewares suppliers ranging from well-established brands to first-time exhibitors were honored as winners of the IHA Innovation Awards during the Home + Housewares Show.
• Bath + Personal Care: simplehuman, Adjustable Shower Caddy
• Cleaning: FusionBrands, WaveRack
• Cook + Bakeware: Frieling USA, Black Cube Cookware
• Floor + Carpet Care: Techko Maid, SuperMaid
• Home Décor + Gifts: Paint Handy, Paint Handy
• Home Organization + Storage: YouCopia, StoraStack
• Household Electrics + Home Environment: Miro, CleanPot
• Kitchen Electrics: Boyd Coffee Co., Brazen Connected 8 Cup Brew System by Behmor
• Kitchen Hand Tools + Cutlery: IMCG, Butter Mill
• Kitchenware: Bruer, Cold Bruer
• Personal Care + Home Healthcare: Crane USA, Mini Travel Humidifier
• Pet Products: Domo Elektro (Linea 2000 bvba), Dog Biscuit Maker
• Tabletop: Metrokane, Rabbit Push Muddler
“Congratulations to these winners; they are excellent representatives of the cutting-edge innovation and creativity that is driving the housewares industry today,” said Phil Brandl, IHA president and CEO. “Based on the efforts of these and other design-focused companies in our industry, consumers are able to fill their homes with innovative products that meet their individual needs and varied lifestyles.”
More than 500 products were entered in the IHA Innovation Awards competition. The 63 finalists in all categories were featured in the New Product Showcases in the Buyers Club in each show building, and the 13 category winners were on display in the Hall of Global Innovation in the Lakeside Center.
See photos from the show here.