MOVE NHMA SHOW? INDUSTRY EXECUTIVES SPLIT

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Industry reaction is mixed on whether Orlando, Fla., would be a better venue for the International Housewares Show, now held in Chicago.ed within five miles of Disney World."We have been in Chicago for a significant period of time, but it has been an environment where there have not been alternates," said Phil Brandl, president of the NHMA. "The housewares show has enjoyed its time

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- Industry reaction is mixed on whether Orlando, Fla., would be a better venue for the International Housewares Show, now held in Chicago.

ed within five miles of Disney World.

"We have been in Chicago for a significant period of time, but it has been an environment where there have not been alternates," said Phil Brandl, president of the NHMA. "The housewares show has enjoyed its time in Chicago, and we do view Chicago as a world-class venue; however, [Orlando] is a new world-class venue that deserves to be examined."

The benefits are wide-ranging, said Brandl, and costs could be reduced substantially.

"On the exhibitor side, labor costs would be substantially less," Brandl explained. "And our preliminary investigation points to transportation and housing costs being significantly less. "

There are also benefits to the NHMA in building international attendance. "Latin America is probably the most potential-laden, fertile foreign market for the show, and Orlando lends itself to that international buyer."

The climate is a draw, too.

While some retailers and vendors have clear-cut opinions, others are undecided. Questions remain on both sides.

One vice president and divisional merchandise manager for a Midwest mass merchant said, "The timing of the show is an important factor to take into consideration. If it's give-or-take a week, it becomes a non-issue. Beyond that, it's a matter of the facilities available, comparing the costs and the ability of the city to handle the magnitude of people in terms of accommodations."

"My first reaction is: If it's not broke, don't fix it," said Vincent Pasquale, president of Intercraft, a Newell division and the largest photo frame supplier. "Chicago is centrally located and easy to get to. People who are not in major cities won't be happy. And Chicago is really geared toward large conventions. They don't get flustered with large groups."

The weather conditions are more favorable in Orlando, Pasquale conceded. "There's always a chance to get snowed out of Chicago." But he added, "People tend to do other things in the warm weather."

While there are many vendors that think they will save on labor and housing, others see the move as too costly.

Cathy Rings, vice president of marketing with Rubbermaid, said that while there are some cost concerns associated with McCormick Center, it would be better for Rubbermaid if the show stayed in Chicago.

Besides the proximity of its headquarters in Wooster, Ohio, Rubbermaid has one of the largest booths at the housewares show, storing it in Chicago and reusing it for the hardware show in August. The costs to move it back and forth would be considerable.

"In general, we're pretty pleased with the Chicago location," Rings said, but added, "On the other hand, Florida in January is a good thing."

The NHMA will make a decision in the fall. And while the group has done an initial focus study, it is doing more extensive research, Brandl said. These studies will be completed in about 60 days.

"The research we're first doing is a financial feasibility study by a third party, Arthur Andersen," Brandl said. "There's also a third-party travel-destination group study and a broad-based survey targeting the retail community."

The NHMA is also looking into the availability of labor in the Orlando market, Brandl added.