Tabletop Vendors Happy with Housewares Show

New bakeware from Ten Strawberry Street

New bakeware from Ten Strawberry Street

CHICAGO–Moods and spirits were high among tabletop vendors exhibiting at the International Home + Housewares Show here last week. Business has picked up in the past year, vendors said, and they attempted to continue the momentum with new arrays of colorful, trend-right and price conscious collections.

“It’s been a good show,” said Ian Zucker, chief executive officer of Ten Strawberry Street. “People are up. Stores are up. Things are positive.”

No one was letting down their guard, however. “Dinnerware has been a hard sell during the recession,” said Rosanna Bowles, president of Rosanna. “I think people need comfort and they will spend money on things that are special. You have to do your homework. You can’t just slap any old design [on a product]. More than ever, the public is telling us it’s no longer enough to do mediocre work.”

The search for new pockets of business was evident in the number of tabletop vendors who ventured into new product categories at this show – Dansk launched Mario Batali cookware and dinnerware (previously handled by Copco); BIA Cordon Bleu will distribute the Danesco brand, which includes a range of kitchen tools and gadgets as well as metal bakeware; Artland is offering cookware; Gibson has broadened its Colorsplash collection to include dozens of gadget skus; Circle Glass is producing ceramic giftware; TTU added cutlery and gadgets to its Denmark brand; flatware designer Robert Welch is broadening its reach into cutlery and gadgets.

At the same time, core housewares companies are trying out the dinnerware business. Cookware company Meyer was among the most notable among them, launching extensive Paula Deen and Rachael Ray collections of stoneware and decaled porcelain dinnerware. Brabantia, known for its high-end waste bins and other goods, also launched a dinnerware line.

Overseas manufacturers also see opportunity in the American tabletop business: Fitz & Floyd will introduce the United States to the Maxwell Williams brand of tabletop through a new distribution agreement with its Australian owner, while the UK-based Creative Tops participated in its first Housewares Show here, showcasing a line of dinnerware, serveware and giftware in a variety of materials and tapping into a large design archive. The 15-year-old company, which carries several licenses including one with the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, is anxious to test the market here. “America is our main focus, our strategy for export now,” said Patricia Dawson, sales director.

Several trends gained momentum in Chicago. Among them were beverage dispensers, available in glass as well as ceramic in a variety of colors, styles and price points; small domed glass serving pieces for cupcakes, cheese and other goodies; and mini appetizer (or dessert) dishes, sold either as open stock display units or packaged in sets that include glasses (either glass or ceramic or both), small spoons or forks, and slate or ceramic trays.

In dinnerware, pattern and color predominate, reactive glazes are strong and mugs represent big business. In flatware, sandblasted finishes, or combinations of mirror and frost, remain popular. – Allison Zisko