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It’s All Connected As 2013 Housewares Heats Up

Let’s see if I can connect some seemingly random thoughts as the housewares industry heads into the busy season for product introductions and back-half planning.

First off, congratulations to the 2013 Housewares Design Awards winners, which were presented during a special 10th anniversary gala and ceremony in New York last week (see story on page 1 of the February 4, 2013, issue).

The winners are the latest standard bearers for the value-added design innovation that stirs the housewares industry at all pricepoint levels every year. Thanks, indeed, to all that entered this year’s Housewares Design Awards. Even those that didn’t make the finals demonstrate that the industry’s zeal for “new and improved” never yields to uncertain market conditions and myriad other potential restraints.

Shopping Journeys

Thanks as well to all who helped deliver the 2013 Housewares Design Awards: to The Gourmet Housewares Show at NYIGF and Whitford Corporation for their valued sponsorship; to the ICD Publications, HomeWorld Business and Gourmet Insider teams for their creative, technical and administrative support; to the Steel Associates team for its detailed coordination of entries and judging; to the judges for their thorough evaluation; to The Merchandise Center for its attentive hosting of the judging; to the Field Marketing & Media team for its enthusiastic media outreach effort; and to Paul Murphy for keeping the awards gala on track.

Speaking of design innovation, housewares buyers and suppliers hunting for inventive new products and programs are preparing to embark on their annual winter and spring shopping journeys to trade shows from Europe to the U.S. to Asia and other points in between. 

Narrow Gap

It will be especially interesting to see how the unusually close, two-week gap separating Frankfurt’s later-than-usual Ambiente and Chicago’s earlier-than-usual International Home + Housewares Show impacts buyer participation in each show. 

My guess is the impact will be nominal. Both shows have established firm, distinctive roles for often-overlapping constituents. The show organizers, nonetheless, would be wise to avoid such near-collisions on the calendar in the future to keep that constituency from grumbling.

Housing Boost

Speaking of minimizing the grumbling, here are a couple of recent tidbits that suggest the housing market and related spending are heading toward slightly cheerier times. 

The National Association of Realtors reported U.S. home sales rose to 4.65 million in 2012, a gain of 9.2% over 2011 and a five-year high. Rising new home demand finds builders stepping up construction, which bolstered economic prospects to the tune of about 30,000 new jobs in December. 

Meanwhile, the Joint Center For Housing Studies of Harvard University reports a surge in remodeling activity after a long period of under-investment in homes left plenty of housing inventory, including a glut of foreclosed/distressed properties, in need of rehabilitation. While aging consumers retrofit for their future needs, the so-called “echo boomers” projected to be the largest generation in our history are primed to enter peak remodeling activity during the next decade.

This would seem to be encouraging developments for businesses that make and sell all the things that will go into those new and refurbished homes— likely to include the 2013 Housewares Design Award winners and many of the products buyers will discover from Frankfurt to Chicago and beyond.

See, it is all connected.