Home Positive Signs As Housewares Industry Turns Toward Chicago
February 1, 2024

Positive Signs As Housewares Industry Turns Toward Chicago

The first wave of industry trade shows to kick off 2024 is almost in the books.

I just returned from a two-week journey that took me from the Atlanta Market, where year-starting programs by the GC and HTI buying groups cultivated a busy show for the gourmet housewares business, to an earlier-than-usual Ambiente in Frankfurt, Germany, where a broad array of the global housewares industry got its first taste of what’s to come in 2024.

So, what did I learn as the housewares business welcomes some unusual breathing room to regroup ahead of what is set up to be a pivotal Inspired Home Show 2024, March 17-19 at Chicago’s McCormick Place?

Let’s get the part everyone expected to hear out of the way. Overall, last year was choppy for the better part of an industry coping with a retail marketplace still resetting itself, quite cautiously, after the steep ups and downs of the previous couple of years.

Now, to the part that contributed to an upbeat buzz along the aisles in Atlanta, Frankfurt and other home industry trade show venues from Las Vegas to Dallas to New York to start the year. Retail sales surged during the final month of 2023, suppliers and retailers across all channels reported during the shows. Such a strong, if late, showing validated forecasts among retail prognosticators expecting decent 2023 holiday sales gains driven by a shopping public, despite its excessive price sensitivity and zeal for bargains, not nearly as deflated as many would have expected months earlier.

That also spells fairly clean inventory positions by retailers heading into 2024. And that spells the likelihood of an ambitious early-year shopping mood by retailers scouting industry trade shows as they set in motion plans that very well could help drive what is expected by the fourth quarter to be the starting point of a renewed growth curve for the overall industry.

Many retailers in 2023 backed off early-year enthusiasm and clamor for a fresh burst of new products and innovation, choosing a more conservative route amid a volatile economy by stocking up on key staples with a track record of reliable sales. This year, even against an economic, social and political backdrop that can change sentiment in a flash, there are indications the marketplace should be more receptive to meaningful innovation. And by meaningful innovation, that means new ideas whose desire and need are vetted ahead of time through the many outlets— from evolving digital commerce platforms and new technology to real-time sales data analytics and consumer trend forecasting— now available to product developers, marketers and merchants to help mitigate risk before they release a product.

With the industry on the precipice of a renewed upswing, the winners in the race to cultivate market share through innovative product, marketing and business operation have so much more to win.

It’s been a busy, productive start to the year. Catch your breath. Then get ready for what should be a revealing Inspired Home Show in Chicago.

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