Many customers today, especially millennials, wax lyrical on all things online and connected but the truth is that the majority of consumers still prefer to physically touch, feel and experience products before making the final decision to purchase. And this was so for the thousands of retailers and distributors from 125 countries pacing the halls at McCormick Place, Chicago, USA, to view, touch and test the exhibits at this year’s International Home + Housewares Show. Andrew Yeo reports.
THE show, from March 10-13, was a veritable marketplace for everything you need to turn your house into a Smart Home.
The buzz word at the 2018 show was ‘Connectivity’. And a good number of manufacturers exhibiting their housewares had indeed incorporated connectivity into their products, from digital locks to light bulbs, security systems, air conditioners, kettles, coffee brewers, ovens and other home appliances.
They can all be remotely activated and controlled via apps on mobile devices.
While the ‘Smart Home’ concept may appeal to well-to-do millennials, the reality is that many countries in Asia are not yet fully into the digital domain. Moreover, shopping in physical stores is still very much a way of life in Asia.
However, ‘clicks-and-bricks’ will eventually prevail in Asian nations as it offers shoppers a certain level of engagement while allowing them to have a physical touch, feel and experience of the product before making a purchase.
Thus, buyers from Asia could be seen at McCormick Place touching and testing products, asking about minimum orders before placing bulk orders.
One of the problems that seemed to hold buyers back was that the products they liked were already available online on Amazon.com, Alibaba, Lazada and many others.
There were scores of lovely design driven housewares that the buyers and distributors were interested to bring to Asia — but at what price points could they sell in order to make transactions viable if consumers could purchase them online?
With rentals going down and costs of online deliveries going up — and in Asia it may take more than a week before online orders are fulfilled — online retailing may slow down in the months ahead.
In any case, manufacturers spoken to at the show were keen to sell in bulk to stores in Asia, directly or through distributors.
A case in point is Aydya Limited of Scotland, UK, whose AnySharp knife sharpener with its powerful Power Grip suction cup that can adhere firmly to any flat surfaces in the kitchen to enable hands-free sharpening of knives, including serrated blades, is easily available online.
The AnySharp sharpener uses tungsten carbide technology, thereby is able to sharpen any steel or even expensive hardened steel knives used by chefs. For those who missed the demonstration of the small but mighty sharpener during the show, just log on to www.anysharp.com for a quick view.
Zia Rehman, AnySharp, Business Development, said: “Yes, it is available on Amazon. But I believe sales will grow faster if we reach out to Asia via distributors or chain stores in individual Asian countries.
“AnySharp has been highly rated by professional chefs and it is a unique product that can sell well in your region.
“I am keen to talk to Asian retailers or distributors. If the quantity is right, we can work on a win-win arrangement.”
Another product that caught the attention of buyers looking for appliances in the health category was the 100% fruit, zero-guilt dessert maker — the Yonanas.
Click on the video above to watch Batchtel in action
The Yonanas can transform frozen fruits into a frozen treat in seconds. Simply insert slightly thawed frozen bananas and add any other fruit of your choice into the chute and gently push the plunger down and out comes a bowl of delicious frozen ‘yonanas’.
“It’s a great way to get your kids to eat more fruits or even veggies,” said Melissa Bachtel as she made batches of refreshing yonanas for visitors to taste. In the digital version, just click on the photo to watch Bachtel in action.
“On a special diet? No problem,” said Valerie Gleason, marketing director, The Legacy Companies. “Yonanas allows you to decide the ingredients, so if you are lactose intolerant, a vegan or just allergic to certain food or gluten, you are always in control. Just drop in what you can eat.”
Forgot where you placed your keys or cannot locate your bag containing your laptop and other valuables? Fret not if you have attached a small Chipola disc or card onto your keyring or bag.
The new Chipola Classic 2.0 is able to help you track your item utilising an easy-to-use app to make it ring or see the last place you had it. And if it is your phone that you want to locate, just double press your Chipola disc.
It is a useful functional present for your parents, siblings or friends who are getting forgetful. Get them a Chipola and they will never forget you!
Also seen at the show was the travel-friendly Quip toothbrush, another product available online but looking to penetrate retail stores. Its soft vibrating bristles feature a two minute timer that pulses every 30 seconds, telling you when to switch between sections of your mouth and when the job is done.
The slick-simplified battery-operated toothbrush is created by dentists and designers to help nurture good oral cleaning habits and it comes with a handy travel cover.
Imran Patel of Quip NYC, Inc said: “At the moment, Quip is available online on a subscription basis. We are now looking towards bulk sales through retail stores … and we may have to tweak our business model.
“We are looking for distributors in Asia — North-east Asia as well as South-east Asia.”
To find out more information about Quip’s various subscription plans of selling its teeth cleaning sets or to contact Patel, log on to www.getquip.com.
In the Smart Home Products category, Growgreen Limited of Hong Kong was showcasing its Aspara, an indoor hydroponic system that allows people to grow organic vegetables at home or in a restaurant’s kitchen.
Its advanced LED lights, smart sensors and an automatic watering system come together to create an optimum environment for growing herbs, salad greens and legumes indoor.
Keith Lam, the company’s project manager, said: “Aspara has been recognised by the International Housewares Association as an excellent product and is a finalist for the Global Innovation Awards honouring product design excellence.
“Our founder and CEO Dr Humphrey Leung said Growgreen is passionate about bringing healthy eating to everyone and the company is confident that Aspara will help contribute to this endeavour as the system provides all that plants need to grow efficiently.”
Aspara was launched in January 2018 and is already gaining positive reviews. To watch the system at work, log on to www.aspara.hk.
Many trade visitors this year were also seen watching Gordon Ritchie, VP Global Sales for vSpin USA, demonstrating the efficacy of his vSpin wine aerator that won a German Design Award 2018.
“Not all wines are created equal. Neither are wine aerators.”
This bold statement was highlighted at the booth and, indeed, the vSpin is way ahead of many other aerators that are in the markets around the world.
Ritchie said: “The vSpin gives you complete control over the time and speed that you want to aerate your wine; it allows you to customise the aeration process to suit your taste.”
Beautiful to behold, it will look great on any dining table, be it at home or in a fine dining restaurant.
Michel Jacob of Le Crocodile Restaurant, Vancouver BC, Canada, was quoted as saying: “vSpin Aeration will be a WOW factor for dining guests.”
More important, according to renowned wine critic Anthony Gismondi, is that “within two to four minutes you have a wine that tastes as if it has been opened for hours or aged for years”.
Made in Germany by Spiegelau, the vSpin is not only elegant but with precision state-of-art functionality it also creates a silent, gentle vortex which oxygenates wine to release its true flavours.
Watch vSpin at work at www.vspin.us.
Seen hugging an ALLAMERICAN pressure canner/cooker was Benjamin M Jacobs, senior VP, WAF (Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry), USA.
He was very proud and protective of his Made-in-America canner/cooker as it features an exclusive, precision machined “metal-to-metal” sealing system; its clamping locks align the cover to the base, forming a steam tight seal.
“As the seal does not use a gasket, the cover can be easily opened and closed,” said Jacobs, adding that the ALL-AMERICAN pressure canner/cooker makes it easy to can fish, meat, vegetables and fruits.
He said: “It’s the only method the USDA recommends for canning low acid foods.”
All six models for the home feature a precision machined regulator weight for accurate pressure control and each comes with an easy-to-read Instruction & Recipe Book.
For further information, go to www.wafco.com.
The next opportunity to check out more advanced and innovative products in Chicago will be from March 2-5 next year when the International Home + Housewares Show returns to McCormick Place.
Maissone’s winning ways – online to offline
FROM online to offline … to Chicago on March 10 this year to receive a coveted Global Innovation Award (gia) trophy for excellence in houseware retailing at the International Home + Housewares Show, Michelle Boyce who started Maissone, a home-based online business in 2014 and quickly opened a bricks-and-mortar shop the following year, is a nimble retailer that adapts to the changing retail landscape
Her ability to transit smoothly from a pure online retail business to aphysical go-to destination for consumers looking for beautiful home décorand gift items not easily available in Singapore contributes to the success of“hybrid retailing”. For example, her clients looking for some inspiration as towhat to give moms on Mother’s Day (May 13) would first go online to checkMaissone’s carefully curated selection of eye-catching gift items and head forthe store located in a row of old shop houses in a quiet part of town.
Boyce uses her ‘Click & Collect” platform to drive impulse sales when customers visit the shop to collect their items.
In recognition of Boyce’s passion, innovation and gumption in the competitive world of modern retailing, Maissone won the 2017/18 gia Award (South-east Asia) given by the International Housewares Association, USA. This annual award is co-sponsored by Retail Asia.
The annual award comes with a free air passage and hotel accommodation to attend the International Home + Housewares Show held every spring in Chicago.
Tom’s Top Trends for 2018
“WE’RE in the middle of a retail renaissance and yet we are so preoccupied with simply coping that we can’t see the dramatic positive changes that are unfolding around us,” declared Tom Mirabile in his Top Trends 2018 wakeup call to manufacturers and retailers attending his 7.30am talk on March 12 at the Grand Ballroom at McCormick Place.
To break things down for some of us who were still half asleep, Mirabile walked us through the main demographics that are affecting the way we conduct our businesses today:
- Gen Z (ages 3 – 22)
- Millennials (22 – 42)
- Gen X (43 – 53)
- Baby Boomers (54 – 73)
- Prime Timers (74 +)
His presentation was packed with actionable insights into how each generation’s interests and lifestyles are affecting retail today. His main takeaway message was that there are now new ways of engaging the different demographics and most of them involve social media.
“Where you place yourself and your business within social media is critical,” said Mirabile, the Consumer Trends Forecaster for IHA, the organiser of the show.
For those who failed to make it to his early morning talk or fell asleep in the hall, you can still catch Tom Mirabile’s insightful presentation at www.housewares.org/education/video.