Escape From Chicago

Whew – just made it out of Chicago before the real slipping and sliding started. We had spent the last 3 days there attending the International Home and Housewares Show and flew out as the blizzard moved in behind us. Hugged a palm tree when we got back.
The IHHS is a mammoth once a year event held in the beautiful McCormick Place on Lake Michigan. If you have never been there, it is the largest convention center in North America with 2.6 million square feet of exhibit hall in four buildings, and this show fills three of them (North, South and Lakeside). Soaring 50 foot ceilings, sweeping curves, fountains, even decent food options – it is by far my favorite show venue. And the IHHS with over 2100 exhibitors is a pretty impressive show too.
This is a shot of one quarter of the South building from an elevated restaurant in the middle – just a fraction of the total show.
The Housewares Show is a little different from most others in that it’s a bit more formal – we have always said it’s a “suit” show. Literally. The place is awash with men in dark suits because that’s still largely the nature of the home and housewares business. Casual is the exception. The exhibitors cover an amazingly wide variety of categories, from the expected tabletop, cookware and kitchen accessories to appliances, cleaning products, storage, food vendors, pet products and much more. This show is also THE place to see new innovative products and beautiful industrial design. It’s everywhere, but I’m tellin’ ya nothing energizes your creativity like a walk through the High Design section, the ergonomic OXO displays, or especially the Inventor’s Corner. The show is a hotbed of smart innovation and it’s contagious – we find ourselves stopping constantly to discuss and make notes about “what if” ideas as we walk the aisles. A host of the “As Seen On TV” type companies are hawking their latest crop of “miracle” products – some of which are actually quite clever and useful. There is even an area called the “Hall of Global Innovation” displaying the IHA Innovation Award projects, some winning design student projects, a Going Green area and the Pantone Color Watch exhibit with 9 large panels of color and inspiration matched up to actual products found on the show floor.
So much great information, so little brainspace…

 Lots of candy colors in evidence, many shades of pink and green, a lot of yellow
Licensing is a big part of the home and housewares business. Most of the time the licensor/licensee matchup makes sense, but once in a while you just shake your head and wonder “who thought THAT was a good idea?”  Art, product design, celebrity, entertainment and brands all find their way into and onto products. Most artists in licensing tend to limit their thinking to the “onto” part of that equation, but it can be a lot bigger than that. There is unlimited licensing opportunity for someone who can not just make something LOOK better but can make it WORK better. A new shape, a better widget, a new twist on an old concept… artists are uniquely well suited to master these creative tasks, and you can teach and train yourself to get better at it. Work on your product development skills, beef up your creative chops, become good at seeing what others don’t and you can write your own ticket in the business.
4 replies
  1. Alex Colombo
    Alex Colombo says:

    Thank you very much for the fun tour and the great info about this show Jim. I haven’t seen it yet but your post inspired me to further look into it; although I am new to this business, I can totally see what your saying about developing top-notch skills at product development. I started to truly believe that’s the real ticket!

  2. BJ Lantz
    BJ Lantz says:

    Chicago in March – Brrr! Speaking of match-ups that leave you scratching your head… the other day I saw a set of cooking knives in Tuesday Morning bearing the name Isaac Mizrahi. Really??

    • Jim Marcotte
      Jim Marcotte says:

      Hey Beej. It is just plain silly sometimes, some more of my favorites:
      Paula Deen mattresses, Trump for bedding, “The Good Wife” furniture, the “True Blood” cookbook, “Revenge” for apparel, jewelry, perfume, food and games, and Tide for dry cleaners. Thankfully most of the out-there matchups seem to disappear pretty quickly – as they should.

    • BJ Lantz
      BJ Lantz says:

      I guess some consumers buy into that? To me, when a “celebrity” puts their name on something that makes no sense with “their brand”, it just appears like they’re going for the quick buck-grab. And that feels kinda…I dunno…cheap & slimy?


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