HomePage News presents a special report examining the International Housewares Association’s response to the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic and how it inspired the Association to build a more expansive, omnichannel, year-round service platform for the home and housewares industry. This opening installment looks back at how the anguish of canceling The Inspired Home Show 2020 set the stage for a transformed IHA.
To understand where the International Housewares Association is today, one has to start by looking back to March 2, 2020, inside the IHA offices in Rosemont, IL.
That was the day the IHA executive team, with sorrowfully unanimous authorization from its board of directors, made the stunning decision to cancel The Inspired Home Show 2020. It was the first of what would be widespread domestic business event cancellations as what was still then a relatively unknown yet deadly novel coronavirus began its global scourge.
IHA places a high priority on re-imagining and re-introducing a thoroughly engaging and productive home and housewares trade show, set to return March 5-8 at Chicago’s McCormick Place. Today also finds a thoroughly transformed association equipped with several new programs that aim to bring year-round, value-added balance to IHA’s full-service industry service mission.
An expansive new platform of IHA digital events under the IHA Connect banner was built from the ground up in a short time and launched this past spring. This includes the first Connect SPRING industry education and new product launch event; Connect GROCERY in partnership with GMDC to match grocery retailers with home and housewares vendors; Connect 365, a next-generation, in-depth online product discovery resource for IHA members; and Connect COMMERCE, a breakthrough B2B e-commerce platform developed in partnership with Brandwise.
The International Housewares Association also moved quickly to fill a void in the housewares B2B news space after the downsizing and closing of leading industry trade publications. Since April, IHA has developed and introduced HomePage News, an industry news and information platform that recently launched a website – HomePageNews.com – with plans to provide a wide range of digital and print editorial products.
It sets up a busy fall 2021 agenda from IHA, including Connect DIGITAL, a virtual conference (September 21-22) covering e-commerce development; Connect FALL, a virtual conference (September 27-October 1) showcasing industry education and special trend and new product spotlights; and Connect GROCERY, another matchmaking collaboration with GMDC. IHA also plans an October 5-6 in-person return after a year hiatus of CHESS (Chief Housewares Executive SuperSession), the Association’s long-running networking and educational conference for home and housewares industry leaders.
It is with no shortage of irony that IHA’s expanding industry service portfolio and strategic mission rose from one of the darkest moments in its 83-year existence: the cancelation of The Inspired Home Show 2020.
Derek Miller, IHA president and a 21-year veteran of the Association’s management, and Leana Salamah, IHA vice president, marketing since 2018, recalled the emotional weekend leading to the March 2, 2020 vote by the IHA board to cancel the show just days before it was to begin.
“The (IHA) VPs were huddled in my office,” Miller said of the fateful board vote over a conference call. “We went from one board member to the other: ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes.’ No one was talking. The motion passed unanimously.”
-Derek Miller, President, IHA
“We put our hearts and soul into the new show branding,” Miller continued, referencing what was to have been the debut of The Inspired Home Show rebrand in March 2020. “The party was ready to start, but we didn’t get to go on stage. We had to go from that emotion to telling the staff (about the canceled show) to immediately telling the industry.”
The refrain from many upon hearing the news, Miller said, was as expected as it was previously unfathomable: What do you mean you’re canceling the show?
“We had no choice to do so for the safety of our industry and visitors from 130 different countries,” Miller said, underscoring the global impact of the Association’s responsibility at a juncture where the ramifications of the COVID outbreak were impossible to predict.
Nor, perhaps, could anyone predict what would come next for IHA.
“We knew we had to change, but it wasn’t entirely clear how,” Miller said.
“We already had many of the tools,” Miller said.
He noted, for example, how CORE meetings were quickly moved to Zoom last year at a time when industry executives were frantic for information and direction.
As IHA pours more developmental strategy and resources into facilitating industry engagement throughout the year, it has not neglected what remains its most valuable industry platform: The Inspired Home Show.
To that end, The Inspired Home Show 2022 will offer two new exhibits— a pavilion for third-party industry service providers, including specialists in e-commerce, fulfillment, logistics, content and more; and the co-located Tastemakers Conference for influencers and bloggers. This joins such special exhibits and programming as Discover Design, Innovation Theater, Student Design Competition, gia product and merchandising awards; the Pantone Color Display; the Inventor’s Corner; and independent retailer events.
– Leana Salamah, VP Marketing, IHA
And it all started on a sorrowful March 2, 2020, even if no one at IHA at the time could see how much good would rise from that fateful day.