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Head of Household

4 Mar, 2010 By: Pat Cauley Response

For example, a laundry basket that used to be rectangular now fits to one’s hip. Manufacturers now even have designers on staff. “The acceptance and understanding of the marketability of design; that’s changed our business,” Reynolds says. Consequently, that has made more manufacturers better attuned at what’s going on in the inventor’s world. Reynolds cited cases of companies visiting business and graduate schools to have students collaborate on design projects for them — or that fact that Whirlpool now has a designer on its executive team — as signs that the tide is changing.

But in the midst of all these changes, ironically, consumer taste in products hasn’t necessarily evolved as quickly.

The Flintstones or the Jetsons?

With the advent of the Roomba, the autonomous robotic vacuum cleaner, suddenly Rosie the robot maid from the Jetsons doesn’t seem that out of reach. However, not everyone thinks futuristic products are right around the corner. In fact, when it comes housewares, a lot of times it’s the nostalgic products that catch the consumer’s attention … those yearning for a piece of the past.

“I think we’re all expecting what’s the next new amazing thing, but the innovation in housewares seems to be very slow in coming. The staple products seem to have a very long shelf life. I’m still seeing the LaLanne Juicer and Magic Bullet running after all these years. Housewares is a timeless category,” says Riley.

Catanese even figures that young adults may recognize familiar products from the past that they’re now able to buy. “Food products have five lives,” he says. “You saw the Magic Chop in the past, but now you’ll buy the Slap Chop.”

Regardless of if the products are stuck in the past or reaching toward the future, the housewares category should be in good hands. “It will always be one of the best categories out there because people are willing to spend money to make their day-to-day lives that much more enjoyable and efficient,” says Jourden.

Reynolds comes back to innovation as the business’ driving force. “We’re thrilled with the energy inventors bring to our category and our show. We make sure they understand that this is an industry that’s open to them and the kind of products they design,” says Reynolds.

The Housewares Show had 443 new exhibitors last year. “That’s the great thing about the Housewares Show and the inventors: we’ve seen all the knockoffs, but where’s that one thing we’ve never seen before?” Riley inquires.

So while some products continue to dominate the landscape years after they’re introduced, industry professionals know there’s still room for that innovative product that no one has thought of yet. And chances are that product and inventor will be in Chicago this month.

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