CHICAGO— It’s the first day of the 20th anniversary of my first Houseware Show, and I remember how insurmountable all those aisles and booths seemed at the time.
A green reporter’s first impression: “How in the world can I cover it all in three days?”
A Diverse Industry
It was hard to envision enough stores to go around for the sheer scope of the companies and product lines on display inside the sprawling McCormick Place exhibit halls. But housewares retailing at the time was still, to a good degree, a regionally divided marketplace with so many buying headquarters to support so many vendors.
Swift consolidation certainly changed all of that. Or did it?
What is now the International Home + Housewares Show might seem to those who experienced it two or three decades ago lacking some of the trailblazing gusto of all those small-to-mid-sized companies that stoked the market back then.
A closer look, though, reveals what remains a diverse, enterprising industry despite the influence of megalithic national retailers and conglomerated vendors. The operational scale required to be an effective small and mid-sized supplier today might be notched up some, but such companies still make up the valuable core of an industry that continues to welcome and reward upstarts, their inventive solutions and their tireless drive.
With that, the Home + Housewares Show still presents what can be a dizzying array of vendors and products. To retail buyers visiting the show for the first time, and even to those who’ve worked it before, it’s enough to beg the question, “How in the world can I cover it all in three days?”
Since the show is unlikely to ever see a fourth day— to the applause of some larger exhibitors and the chagrin of some smaller ones— three days is all you’ve got. So you might as well make the most of them.
Checking in with exhibitors already in your vendor matrix certainly should be a top priority. But you’re probably already in constant contact with these vendors, and such visits shouldn’t monopolize your show schedule.
Leave more time to prospect for new resources and new products with the potential to become incremental revenue opportunities while separating you from your competitors. You won’t know what surprises await you in the far reaches of McCormick North if you never make it to the far reaches of McCormick North.
Under The Surface
Concentrate not so much on your strongest categories and more on filling the gaps in under-developed categories.
Do your homework in advance, and use all the new product discovery tools at your disposal. HomeWorld Business and its sister publication Gourmet Insider together are presenting more than 600 pages of show coverage this week, the most by any publishing group in the show’s history. The IHA also provides helpful on-site and online new product guidance.
To be sure, it would take an extraordinary effort to cover every aisle at the Home + Housewares Show in only three days. But probing even a little deeper into the show could uncover extraordinary rewards.
And maybe it won’t seem so insurmountable the next time.