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A Wrap Up

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel told International Housewares Association members during the annual industry breakfast on Tuesday that President Obama would regularly call in his advisers after long deliberations on the critical issues of the day for “a wrap up.”

Well, here’s my wrap-up observations on the 2011 International Home + Housewares Show, which ended today. The IHA bragged that exhibit space at the three McCormick Place buildings sold out. That's just another indication that the recession is behind us.

Bullet points, please.

. IHA’s trade show is world class. While Messe Frankfurt’s Ambiente! is bigger — 144,000 trade visitors this year — IHA’s show at 60,000 visitors is big and growing fast. It’s world-class status is aided by the prestige Global Innovation Award (GIA). Some call it the Oscars of home design. The competition honors retailers who standout as innovators in merchandising design throughout the world. This year the competition was open to suppliers who could compete for a GIA in the new Discover Design expo that spotlighted inspired design in housewares.

. Housewares industry is upbeat. The chatter is the consumer is spending again in a trading up and trading down pattern. While indulgences lure consumers, they will not go into debt to buy better items. They’ll save first. And, look for values to help them save as they aspire to luxury, high-design items.

. Food is perfectly paired with food prep and cookware items. Witness the excitement at the show when attendees gathered around celebrity chef demos. That's entertainment.

. Supermarkets, which enjoy high traffic frequency and variety of food products, set a perfect stage to sell housewares related to cooking and eating at home. What’s needed is commitment to housewares merchandising, attention to detail and a creative spark that stands out from some alternative formats that have already capitalized on housewares.

. The operative strategy is to know thy shopper whether its Gen X, Gen Y or the Boomers. Housewares consumers are multigenerational and complex. Seniors buying housewares represent a small percentage of sales perhaps because they are being served by others since their aging bodies and minds tend to limit activities they once enjoyed.

. Chicago is a great city where food is always showcased. Rahm Emanuel, like others, face tough challenges when it comes to city budgets, education and health care, to mention just a few. However, Emanuel vowed to keep Chicago a world-class city to host world-class trade shows. Even in March, I found the city to be brisk, refreshing and very simpatico .

In the past, relocating the housewares show was a consideration. So I was glad to hear that IHA committed the show another five years in Chicagoland. Yes, it’s my kind of town, too.