The Inspired Home Show Takes Events to the Next Level
By Leana Salamah, Contributor
Something exciting is happening next Spring! The International Housewares Association (IHA) canceled its 2020 convention due to the pandemic. The Association also postponed plans to relaunch the Home & Houseware Show and introduce it under a new name, The Inspired Home Show. The event will now take place in Chicago, March 5-8, 2022.
The editor of our magazine reached out to Leana Salamah, IHA Vice President, Marketing, to get insights about The Inspired Home Show and emerging trends driving consumers’ purchasing decisions.
Why is it important for retailers to attend the 2022 Inspired Home Show?
We know that the pandemic created a laser focus on the home environment for consumers. The number of home improvement projects hit a high point, and gardening is one of the ways that homeowners spent their new newfound free time. So already consumers are visiting these types of stores with far more frequency. What’s interesting is the amount of home + housewares products that were purchased at these stores during this time.
The pandemic changed a lot for consumers, and one of the things that was quite noticeable for our industry was the blurring of traditional channel purchases. Consumers, in an effort to do more of their shopping in fewer trips or at fewer locations – and uniquely focused on their home environment – have been buying home + housewares products from stores that perhaps in the past they didn’t turn to for these items. Hardware/Home Improvement Stores and Garden Centers, in particular, have seen real growth in the home + housewares product categories.
We expect this channel blurring to continue and in order to take advantage of these trends, these store buyers need to come to The Inspired Home Show and discover the latest products and trends to stock at their locales.
Will the format for the show in the spring be noticeably different from past events?
2020 was slated to be the first year that the International Home + Housewares Show was re-launched as The Inspired Home Show. That introduction will now be in March of 2022. The Show’s focus has really evolved from form and function to lifestyle, with consumers in the driver’s seat of how we think about the industry. To that end, the Show has been re-imagined to line up with a more lifestyle-oriented mindset. Several of the displays and programs will be noticeably different in how they are presented and there are several new things planned, including an area on smart retailing, a display focused specifically on the consumer trends identified in the new IHA Market Watch Report, and enhanced focus on influencers and influencer marketing.
What adjustments has your organization made to cope with the challenges of the past year?
The pandemic forced us to pivot to digital in a big way. In addition to revamping our online directory, Connect 365, we needed to come up with ways to actively bring buyers and sellers together. We heard from many retailers that while Zoom meetings were all fine and good for communicating with current suppliers, there has been a huge gap in the ability to identify new suppliers during this time. IHA developed a series of events that brought retailers together with suppliers that they may not have been familiar with in the past.
In March we held Connect SPRING, a two-week virtual event that included not only educational webinars but live product demonstrations from IHA members and a series based on the IHA Market Watch Report that identified products delivering on key consumer trends. These sessions were attended by hundreds of retailers representing virtually all of the major U.S. and international brands. When surveyed, more than 80% of retailers who attended these sessions said that they discovered new products as a result. Connect FALL, scheduled for September 27-October 1, 2021, will follow a similar format.
In addition, we have partnered with other organizations to put on the channel- and retailer-specific virtual events. We worked with GMDC to create Connect GROCERY, which paired IHA members with GMDC grocery retailers for one-on-one meetings. And we worked with QVC/HSN to create a one-day event that brought IHA members together with their buyers for similar one-on-one conversations. Between the two events, nearly 300 meetings were held and we have heard dozens of stories from our members telling us that they are in new conversations with these retailers as a result.
What are the new trends in small appliances or cookware?
Consumers are getting back to work and to scheduled activities. Products that increase convenience, that give time back to the consumer, and that perform multiple functions will be important.
Can you name a few highlights of the show?
A lot of the Show content will focus on the path forward beyond Covid. What habits that consumers picked up over the previous two years will stay and which will go? How does the new heightened sensitivity to personal space and germs overall change physical retailing? And how will this experience impact trends in areas like color preferences and space usage?
Did the traffic on Connect 365, IHA’s Digital Marketplace, increased during the pandemic?
Certainly, traffic increased as retailers felt the void inability to discover new products. While all of the feedback related to the platform has been extremely positive, there is universal agreement that digital platforms are a supplement to face-to-face events, not a replacement.
What advice would you give small manufacturers who want to exhibit their products?
IHA offers a multitude of marketing opportunities for exhibitors to take advantage of based on objectives. These are low-cost ways for smaller companies to stand out, including sponsorships, awards programs, media, and influencer exposure, and on-site product placements. I would encourage new exhibitors to look into these opportunities and identify the ones that make sense for their goals.