The International Housewares Association hosted dozens of college students at last month’s show, continuing an effort by the association encouraging higher-education business programs to spotlight the housewares industry as a relevant and rewarding career choice (as New York’s FIT, for example, has done for several years).
With added assistance from its expanding young professionals networking group, the IHA wants to recruit and cultivate the next generation of housewares leaders by amplifying the advantages of a stable industry that offers leading-edge digital, design, marketing and logistics opportunities comparable to tech-centered business sectors that might rate higher on career wish lists.
What will that housewares industry look like to that next generation? This year’s show offered some glimpses.
Housewares suppliers, who’ve endured diminishing leverage with the big chains the past several years, said during the show they now share a common, urgent challenge with those very same retailers in how to manage the disruptive influence of e-commerce platforms in general and Amazon in particular.
Suppliers with unprecedented distribution alternatives are suddenly rebuffing some of the typical demands of retailers that for years were able to operate from a bully pulpit. Might this encourage a determined, renewed push for more productive cooperation between vendors and retailers?
Meanwhile, we could be witnessing the start of a breakdown of the traditional category buying management structure at retail. At a time when many believe the salvation of brick-and-mortar retailing will require differentiated, experiential merchandising, retailers are reexamining the category buying and in-store presentation silos that have been standard practice for generations.
Today’s consumers don’t know or care about traditional retail category buying structures. And they don’t shop in silos.
One cross-category exhibitor in Chicago was surprised, pleasantly, to receive a group visit from a top customer’s cookware, gadget and electrics buyers, who were working the show in unison.
A shift toward more collaborative buying alignments within corporate retailing could be vital to creating stronger in-store and online experiences that lift the sales potential of complete housewares and home product assortments.
These are among the pivotal retail business developments shaping the housewares industry for its next generation of leaders. Credit the IHA, against a backdrop of such dynamic retail transformation, for doing its part to amplify the housewares business as a relevant college subject and a rewarding career choice.
The industry’s future could depend on it.