Refreshing discoveries off the
beaten aisles at IHA 2004
DESPITE the increased difficulty in obtaining visas to attend the 2004 International Home & Housewares Show (IHA), more than 5,300 international buyers made it to the exposition. The buyers, from more than 100 countries, converged at McCormick Place in Chicago, USA, from March 20-22 to check out what the 2,177 exhibitors from around the world had to offer.
At the end of the four-day trade event, the International Housewares Association reported that the total number of buyers was up 10% from 2003’s to 18,700 buyers.
“ We are pleased to report these record results,” said Phil Brandl, president of IHA. “Exhibitors and buyers to whom we have spoken have told us that the newly-refocused March show was quite successful for them.”
However, the March show — sandwiched between Messe Frankfurt’s Ambiente 2004 in February and the Hong Kong Houseware Fair in April — seemed to have less buzz in the aisles, according to veteran show attendee Jim C Chen, managing director of Madison Creatives, Inc of Taiwan.
Chen believed that the change of dates from January to March might have impacted the show.
He said: “I have been [attending the IHA show] since 1981, when I was a little boy; the show this year in March seems to be quieter — January is better. But, still, this Chicago show is a very good place to renew contacts and source for new houseware products.”
Agreeing with Chen was exhibitor Amy Sim of Global Success Industrial Limited of Hong Kong, which has been participating in the show since 2000. She said: “The show is okay — a good opportunity to renew contacts. It is also a useful show to make contact with US buyers.”
At the Hong Kong Pavilion, although things looked rather slow on the surface, serious negotiations were being conducted, as many of the exhibitors were also offering OEM (original equipment manufacturing) and ODM (original design manufacturing) capabilities as well as marketing services — especially for US and other foreign brands interested in tapping the China market.
The recent enactment of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) between Hong Kong and China means that foreign companies working with Hong Kong manufacturers
or partners can gain duty-free access to China for certain specified products. The first CEPA package of 273 duty-free products into China came into effect on 1 January 2004.
“ Hong Kong has emerged as a supplier of high-quality housewares resulting from product refinement, innovative design and attractive packaging,” said Richard Tam, director of Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s office in Chicago.
According to Tam, the US remains one of Hong Kong’s largest markets. “ This is a testament to the many US companies that, over the years, have come to rely on Hong Kong as a modern and sophisticated site to do business,” he added.
Indeed, the Hong Kong exhibitors were in touch with changing product trends. And so were the other Asian pavilions. Very colourful cookware, cutlery and containers assailed the eye.Bright colours were certainly in vogue, as could be seen in products ranging from innovative kitchen electrics to the more eclectic products being exhibited at the show.
One of the most innovative cooking systems that passed the test of TIME was being displayed at Cobb International Ltd, a South African company. Utilising space-age materials and design, the portable Cobb can grill, bake, smoke, roast or barbecue almost anything
with minimum fuss.
All that the eco-friendly Cobb needs is a fire starter and some eight to 10 briquettes (pieces of coal). Allow the coals to fire up for about 30 minutes until they turn grey before placing the grill grid on the sleeve above the fire.
Craig Davies of Cobb said: “The Cobb was judged by TIME magazine as one of the 30 Best Inventions of 2001. We have also won a VESTA 2003 Award for ‘Best in Show — Outdoor Room Products’.
“ It’s truly an amazing product — stays cool on the outside while cooking on the inside, can be used indoors or outdoors, even on a boat, and is rust-proof and easy to carry
“ We are now ready to expand into Asia; we are keen to appoint distributors in the region.”(For more information, contact Craig Davies at [email protected] or go to www.cobbglobal.com.)
As the Cobb makes a great barbecue pit, Asian retailers importing it may also want to bring in the simple but effective ‘FliTrap’ from Muscatech Limited of UK which their customers will find useful to zap those pesky flies outdoors.
The company’s director, Iain Copping, said: “The FliTrap is a lowcost award-winning trap that comes with a specially-formulated fly attractant. Its odour emission entices flies within a 20m radius into the trap.
“ It is clean and safe as we do not use any toxic chemicals. It can be used for all environments, from general households to commercial premises.”
Another innovative product that can find a ready market in Asia is the adjustable garment
hanger patented by M2M (Made 2 Measure).
Inventor Nick Lewis said:“ The M2M hanger range has extending arms that prevent
misshaping around the shoulder area of garments and also includes width-adjustable skirt/ trouser clips on an optional metal bar.
“ In short, the range fits all shapes and sizes exactly, prevents misshaping/damage to
garments and improves display.”
The adjustable hanger has won a Product Design Award from the UK Design Council. It has also been featured on the BBC Best Inventions show.
Lewis said: “Depending on volume, we can match existing price points and can offer unique rental programmes that provide garment retailers with a better hanger and cost savings of up to 20%!”
(For more information on the awardwinning product, go to www.m2m.co.uk.)
A sleek space-saving product to go with the adjustable hanger is the ‘ InstaHanger’, which provides instant clothes-hanging space. Featuring a polypropylene-plastic holder-cumbracket and chrome-plated steel hanging rod, it can be installed anywhere — near the washing machine, in the laundry room or even the bedroom.
Said Daniel Nagasaki, CEO of Arrow Hanger: “It’s practical, durable and affordable. The unit collapses against the wall when not in use.”
Caught playing ‘tug-of-war’with a roll of barbed wire at the SuperProtection Inc booth were Jared Ide and Cheryl Gomes. Of course, they were wearing a pair of their company’s cut- and puncture-resistant grip gloves
“ These protective gloves are made of our new SuperFrabic material. They prevent lacerations from nails, barbed wires, sheet metal, glass and other sharp or jagged objects,” said Gomes. “They are really good for industry workers or gardeners who have to prune bushes and plants with thorns.”
The company has a wide range of protective gloves, arm-guards and even aprons.
(To view the products, log on to www.superprotection.info.)
At the show promoting simple but practical products was Debbie Meyer, the inventor/designer of the famous Debbie Meyer’s Kake-kut’r. She was there to promote her E-Z Jewelry Cleaner, a specially-designed plastic box that allows consumers to wash their gold bracelets, chains, rings and other jewellery in a washing machine!
“ No soaking, no scrubbing and no extra solutions,” said Meyer. “Just place your jewellery on the hooks and pegs in the box, close it … whoosh, your jewellery is cleaned when your dishes are done.”
If home-makers have trouble tucking in the corners of bedsheets, or the top sheet keeps falling off the bed during the night, try Debbie Meyer’s ‘Sheet Hearts’. Just slip each corner of your sheet into the V-slit of the heart, flip it over and slide it under the corner of the mattress. Presto! no more loose sheet.
(For pricing and how to order the products, visit www.cakecutter.com.)
Jaded buyers often complain that exhibits at houseware shows are often variations of the same stuff. While it is true to a certain extent, there are discoveries to be made if you care to go off the beaten aisles. The 2004 show was, indeed, full of new and innovative products, many marketable in Asia.