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Independent Retailers Find High-End Housewares in Chicago

Products designed to steam, saute, clean, store and simply impress were on display during the 2018 International Home + Housewares Show (IHHS). Held at the McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, the show featured aisle after aisle of innovative products from the kitchen and housewares categories while hosting celebrities and TV personalities from home and kitchen entertainment.

Throughout the March 10-13 event, attendees could find the latest in smart technology integration into household items as well as advancements in the housewares category. With many home improvement retailers looking to expand offerings in the housewares category, the show provided insights into the next step for retailers hoping to draw in a wider variety of consumers.

Providing some of the star power included well-known chefs and food TV stars such as Food Network judge and host Geoffrey Zakarian. He hosted a show featuring sous vide cooking techniques in which food is cooked in a water bath set for a constant temperature. Other stars to grace the stage included Rick Bayless, Fabio Viviani and Alex Guarnaschelli.

With the growing popularity of sous vide technology, vendors are stepping up on food storage and products that can best utilize the water bath technique. Stasher displayed its airtight, silicone bag that hopes to offer a nonplastic cooking vessel for sous vide preparations as well as roasting and steaming.

While how to heat up food was a hot topic among those interested in kitchen innovations, cooling down was just as important. Thermos provided a close look at its Connected Hydration Bottle with Smart Lid, which now offers its integrated app for Android phones along with previous iterations for Apple phones. The Smart Lid allows users to set hydration goals, track progress and schedule reminders to remain hydrated throughout the day.

Other innovations reached beyond the kitchen, with vendors displaying the latest in cleaning technology and home storage. Ecoegg displayed its trio of primary products which look to increase savings for homeowners while decreasing waste in washing clothes and dishes. The egg-like plastic containers are designed to run inside a dishwasher, clothes washer or dryer. The containers are refillable with small mineral pellets that, depending on the type of container, release natural cleaning or drying agents that can last for multiple uses.

Hardware retailers might be particularly interested in Rinsekit, a product that takes the garden hose and makes it portable. Usable as a camping shower or a garden hose that can stretch beyond access to a spigot, the Rinsekit can hold several gallons of water and is pressurized straight from the spigot with no pumping needed to increase pressure. A heater is now available for Rinsekit that increases comfort if used as a portable shower.

Independent retailers were on the lookout for the next product that could wow consumers, with Farmhouse Kitchen & Wares owner Michelle Sandy seeking high-end items to bring to her restaurant and storefront in Staunton, Virginia. Being a restaurant operator along with running her kitchen and home supply store means she was particularly interested in displays like the cooking demonstrations, she says, but it was the search for the next big thing that kept her and manager Rebecca Gorra moving throughout the show.

“My priority was finding unique items. We carry a lot of the same products you’ll find at cookware retailers like Williams-Sonoma, but our customers know we’ll have those special products they didn’t know about until they visited us,” Sandy says.

Some items that caught the eyes of Sandy and Gorra included European cutlery and innovative food storage and water filtering. Farmhouse Kitchen & Wares brought exhibitor black+blum into the store just before the Christmas season, Sandy says, and they sold out before the turn of the year. Black+blum was showing its Eau Good water filtering product, which uses a charcoal stick within the water bottle to filter out chlorine while adding minerals to drinking water.

Sandy and Gorra, first-time attendees at IHHS, recommended independent retailers dig into the vendors prior to attending to really get the most out of a show that can overwhelm the unprepared. With so many products on display, the show offers a great opportunity to expand product lines and excite consumers.

“We know we’re looking for a needle in a haystack at times for a small retailer, but finding that needle is what our customers are looking for,” Sandy says. “We’re doing our best to find those high-end items that consumers are coming into independent, local businesses hoping to find.”

About Melanie Moul

Melanie is the communications and content manager for the North American Hardware and Paint Association. She joined the NHPA team in 2016 as an editor for Hardware Retailing and now helps lead the communications team to deliver relevant, timely content to the industry.

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