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Housewares Show Goes 365

For non-veterans attending the 2011 International Home + Housewares Show that kicks off on Sunday get set to be overwhelmed.

You better have a plan as well as comfortable walking shoes. I’ll be wearing my not so fashionable basic-black Danskos.

If you’re not prepared, focused and well rested, your brain will quickly numb to the sheer volume of products, some 8,000 on display by nearly 2,000 exhibitors that occupy three buildings of McCormick Place.

Expect your senses to be assaulted, too.

First there are the throngs of attendees — 60,000 of which 21,000 are buyers — all jostling you in the aisles.

Next the hottest colors, designs and materials will entice and excite you. Hard goods in trendy new Pantone colors often reflect the mood and style of the times. Some of this year’s hot colors will undoubtedly complement the mood of those facing uncertain times, who have a lot less disposable income. Expect subdued tones and grey shades to be prevalent.

Cooking smells from the celebrity chef demo areas will stimulate hunger pangs. Those gourmet scents will be more pleasant than the greasy, smoky grilling odors encountered at The Food Marketing Institute show. You can take solace in the calming spa-like aromas quaffing from the air freshener section where the gadgets are likely to mist you as well.

To help show attendees put together their game plan, the International Housewares Association has created a pretty cool digital tool on its website — Connect 365.

I am not sure why everything these days has to be in 360 or plus. Our heads, after all, only turn 180 degrees. IHA likes the plus sign. It’s used on all its logos. Wired + Well; Dine +Design; Tabletop, Kitchen Essentials + Accents; Gourmet Foods + Products; Clean + Contain are all signed-expo sections of the show. Add to these the Global Crossroads Expo. And, as if you didn’t have enough to peruse, The Travel Goods Show is co-located with the show for the first time.

Besides being able to search for exhibitors, products, booth numbers, events, displays or speakers, the planning tool application comes with a virtual brief case. With it you can save exhibitors that are not to be missed, keep a schedule of events, and create maps/floor plans of the show floor. Right now that is all in one dimension. But I am sure the 3-D experience is coming soon for the true 360 plus experience.

I wonder at what point the virtual and live trade show worlds will converge so you never have to leave the office. In the very tactile home goods market, I don’t think that will happen. Humans like to feel and touch the goods they buy.

So show buyers and other attendees you have no excuse for being unprepared thanks to IHA’s Connect 365. Supermarket general merchandise buyers, please file me in your virtual brief cases and touch base to let me know your strategy and what you liked about the show. Now it’s time to hit the floor. See you there!