CHICAGO -- Despite the ongoing recession, buyers and vendors at the 2002 International Housewares Show here had a positive industry outlook because of the "cocooning" trend that evolved from the Sept. 11 events.
The show's domestic and international attendance numbers were on par with last year, with approximately 60,000 buyers and exhibitors, according to Phil Brandl, president and chief operating officer, International Housewares Association, Rosemont, Ill. The attendance was a positive sign for the trade show, considering the decline in business travel since last fall and the absence of notable exhibitors like Sunbeam, Boca Raton, Fla., and Newell Rubbermaid, Wooster, Ohio.
Brandl said IHA was "very pleased" with the attendance, and he said the exhibitor no-shows were a "non-issue, except for the fact that it allowed [IHA] to bring in 427 new companies."
Retailers polled by SN were primarily looking for the latest products that made home cooking and home entertaining more enjoyable, including serveware, cookware and seasonal items.
"We're looking at new items covering all our [culinary] categories that are best-in-class, and we're also looking for cross-merchandising opportunities in seasonal items for spring and summer," Julie Griffin, culinary products manger, Lunds/Byerly's, Edina, Minn., told SN.
She said cross-merchandising has been successful in the retailer's deli, cheese and ice cream sections.
Griffin and Dan O'Rourke, culinary buyer, also said they wanted to look at tabletop opportunities and explore small electrics, such as stick blenders.
"Small electrics is one category where supermarkets have not ventured too much," O'Rourke said. "It's getting the right item at the right price that drives sales, so it's a nice opportunity."
While small electrics generally have higher price tags than ordinary housewares fare in supermarkets, these items and other upscale goods have become more commonplace now, according to Jeff Sondgeroth, sales manager, Gourmet Standard, a cookware manufacturer based in Kent, Wash.
He said multifunctional items like bowls with handles and rubberized bottoms to grip surfaces, old-fashioned items like egg poachers and upscale goods that facilitate home entertaining like fondue pots are becoming more popular.
"Instead of people spending money out and about, people are saying, 'come to my house,'" he said. "The cocooning trend is big. Supermarkets are starting to notice it and bring in more home items."
Brandl agreed that the nesting trend and the ways to capitalize on it were a prevailing focus at the show.
"The nesting trend is absolutely grounded in reality. It's a flight to safety and comfort of home," he told SN. "It's anything that helps you feel good about your home, from aromatherapy to candles. It's wanting to feel good in the home."
Retailers were on a quest to discover cross-merchandising opportunities for housewares items and products emphasizing home entertainment.
"Food preparation is our primary focus. We're looking for programs and products that have a synergy with our food products," said Bill Mansfield, vice president, nonfoods, Marsh Supermarkets, Indianapolis.
Griffin said she was impressed with the spring and summer seasonal merchandise from Progressive International, Kent, Wash., including old-fashioned straw dispensers, ice cream cone holders and an herb keeper.