"Suppliers felt the downturn actually made them more focused and gave them the opportunity to find a way to focus business," said Perry Reynolds, vice president of marketing and trade development at the International Housewares Association, which opened it's annual trade show Saturday. "We can see by the products it gave them the opportunity to really focus their efforts."
Reynolds said he's seeing a tremendous amount of enthusiasm within the industry, with a record number of products submitted for awards to be handed out during the show, which runs through Tuesday at McCormick Place in Chicago. Some 2,140 exhibitors will be set up along 13 miles of aisles on the show's three convention floors.
Reynolds said it's tough to find a single theme for the show but he's noticed much more attention is being paid to design and quality than in years past.
"Over the last decade, the attitude toward design has changed," Reynolds said. "I hear over and over the investment in and attention to design [is growing], driven somewhat by competitive retail. Consumers have an expectation for quality design.
"It's very difficult to compete with a product that doesn't have obvious advantage."
Lifestyle consultant Lisa Casey-Weiss said among the trends are consumers' desire to raise their own fruits and vegetables and then preserve them. Among the products facilitating that are the Urbio, which allows plants to be displayed vertically on walls, canning products from Cucina Pro, the Squeezo for making sauces and jellies and Star Universal's choppers for use in freezing and canning.
And with the economy getting better, consumers are getting interested in home improvement and remodeling projects again, she said.
Also among the tens of thousands of products that will be on display for the 22,000 buyers among the 65,000 people registered to attend the show are:
-- Humminah LLC's Grillbot, which takes the muscle out of cleaning the barbecue. The robotic brushes are just placed on the grilling surface and the device does the scrubbing.
-- premium vacuum-maker Oreck's combination bagless vacuum cleaner-steam mop, the VersaVac. Oreck says the device eliminates the need for multiple cleaning tools.
-- Quickie's Ultra Mop, which combines a microfiber cleaning pad and sponge to provide scrubbing power that leaves a floor virtually dry.
-- a magnetic spot scrubber from Cuispro designed to clean vessels with openings too narrow for a regular sponge, brush or cloth. The device has a silicone scrubbing disc that is dropped into the dirty item and a spot scrubbing knob kept on the outside. The two pieces use magnets to hook up and then are glided over the problem areas.
-- Scizza's scissors for cutting pizza. A spatula is attached to the bottom of the blades to make picking up a slice easy. The Scizza will sell for $29.95.
-- the Chillsner from Corksickle to keep beer cold. The in-bottle chiller is filled with thermal gel in an aluminum casing, which is first frozen and then slipped into a beer bottle. The device, which retails for $29.95 for two, is the sibling to Corkcicle.ONE, which chills and aerates wine at the same time.
-- Roland Products Inc.'s GarlicCone, a cone-shaped, soft plastic utensil for pealing garlic. Cloves are dropped into the cone and cooks then rub it to get the skins off.
-- TeleBrands' Rabbit TV USB, which plugs into a computer and provides access to more than 2,000 television and 9,000 radio stations anywhere there's Internet access.