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Going for the Lead

There is no rest for the weary as the new year arrives for those in the gourmet housewares industry.

The domestic winter gift and home trade show marathon begins this week in Atlanta and runs in rapid succession through Dallas, Las Vegas and New York. That’s four shows in the span of four weeks for independent retailers — an important opportunity for the channel to get a jump on their assortments and strategies for the coming 12 months.

There was a time — and not very long ago — when gourmet housewares retailers were lamenting the demise of a single, major trade show geared to their business.

And while that once seemed ideal, what these merchants have at their disposal today actually might serve them even more effectively. Instead of one central marketplace that typically followed in the wake of big international housewares shows here and abroad, they get four chances to cozy up to suppliers before the chain retailers sink their teeth into them.

Credit the gift show organizers in Atlanta, Dallas, Las Vegas and New York for their initiative to fill what was perceived as a show void for the independent housewares channel. Each, in recent years, has upped the ante for the gourmet housewares trade, investing in space and strategy to build the presence of gourmet housewares lines and to market the one-stop value of their expanded, complementary gift, décor and housewares selections.

Gourmet housewares buying groups Gourmet Catalog and HTI have seized the opportunity to kick-start the year at the winter markets by holding key member meetings in Atlanta and Dallas, respectively.

The long-term optimization of gourmet housewares at these winter markets depends a great degree on a number of factors.

Vendors should be willing and prepared to come to the early-year shows with new products (that hasn’t always been the case, but it is changing); and more store operators should be determined to shop these shows very thoroughly.

Moreover, independent retailers crave more direct contact with principals from the manufacturers, and the winter shows are a good place to make that happen. While reps are no less vital to managing much of the transaction between their lines and independent retail customers, it is encouraging to see more housewares company executives committed to attending these shows despite the challenging first-quarter travel schedules.

Travel at any time of year can be a real hardship for independent storeowners. Don’t expect such retailers to hit every gift and home trade show that has emerged as a legitimate gourmet housewares stage in recent years. That is the advantage of a winter show slate that presents several options that can be suited to independent retailer schedules and/or geography.

The winter gift and home trade show schedule is enough to make anyone weary. But just think of the possibilities for independent kitchenware retailers and suppliers that embrace the chance to get a running start on the year.



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