blog: news + information from “the home authority”

How China’s Currency Policies Will Change the World

September 1st, 2015

China’s currency analyzed and how it will impact the entire world from an economic standpoint.


The recent fluctuations in China’s currency typify the best and worst of a globalized world, where developments in one place can instantly change the political and financial calculations of governments in others. For most of human history, the communities, cultures and economies of the world existed independently of one another, separated as they were by vast distances and difficult terrain. It would, for instance, take months or even years for news of China to reach Europe across the great Silk Road trading route during the height of its use some 1,000 years ago. Even then, the communities along that route could hardly be considered entirely coherent.

But that is clearly no longer the case. And now, as China continues to adjust the yuan, markets throughout the world will react accordingly, even as they react differently.


There were several reasons behind China’s decision, but it nevertheless came as a surprise to many. In search of stability, China has tied its currency to the U.S. dollar since 1994, usually at a low value relative to the dollar. During the 2000s, the connection helped China keep its exports competitive, with the developed world consuming its output. The West’s economic collapse in 2008 meant that this model could no longer function, and China began trying to grow consumption levels so that the domestic consumer might come to fill the hole left by the faded international market.

Changing China

Transforming from an export-led economic model to a consumption-led one could be described as changing from being like Germany to being like the United States, and China has tried to reproduce some of the advantages that the United States has created for itself in the same role. One of those advantages is the dominant position of the U.S. dollar in world trade, which means U.S. consumers can go deeply into debt and global demand for dollars will delay the moment at which this comes to a head by those debts being catastrophically called in. Thus China sought to grow international usage of the yuan, making strides in its attempts to do so. The next step would be for the yuan to be accepted into the International Monetary Fund’s “currency,” the Special Drawing Right. However, the IMF has said that China would need to liberalize its currency before such a step could take place. The IMF makes the decision every five years, with one originally set for November this year, though the institution recently announced that any changes will not be implemented until October 2016.

Meanwhile, the peg to the dollar aided China’s strategy as the strengthening dollar over the past two years enabled the yuan to rise alongside it relative to the world’s other floating currencies, empowering Chinese consumers and helping the changeover from an export- to consumption-based economy. But low global demand has not created a good climate for such change, and growth has been unsteady during this period, slipping to 7 percent this year. The baton pass from an export-driven to consumption-driven economy is risky, and exports need to hold up long enough for the Chinese consumer — and building blocks such as the reserve currency — to develop. When export numbers for July showed an 8.3 percent fall year-on-year, all signs seemed to point toward a loosening of controls, which would both please the IMF and, if the Chinese currency continued to weaken as many in the market expected it to, help boost exports.

The Repercussions

In the globalized world, where every economy is interconnected with every other economy, the effects of a shift like China’s can be felt everywhere. The world’s largest economies have tended to move in concert throughout modern financial history, with central banks choosing to tighten or loosen interest rates, often in quick succession. But actions over the past two years have diverged from the rule. While one group is now considering raising interest rates for the first time since 2008, another group is still pursuing quantitative easing programs, which are partly designed to devalue currencies and stimulate growth. China’s dislocation from the dollar, particularly if the yuan devalues further against the dollar, moves the country from the first group toward the second, with clear consequences:

The U.S. and U.K.

Following the 2008 crisis, the United States and the United Kingdom were arguably the first to adopt forthright monetary policies to stimulate their economies. Quantitative easing was pursued on both sides of the Atlantic, and, possibly as a result, these two economies have led the recovery in the past few years. Consequently, for the last 12 months the financial world has focused on a key question:When will the U.S. Federal Reserve raise interest rates for the first time since 2008? The Bank of England is wrestling with a similar dilemma. The interest rate rise will be seen as the first step toward “normality” following the extended period of ultra-low rates, and capital has flowed from emerging markets to the United States in anticipation.

Only sporadic growth and low productivity levels, along with stubbornly low inflation figures in both countries, have caused their central banks to delay the rate rise, but recent strong job creation figures led many in the market to expect the United States to make the change in September 2015 (and the United Kingdom in early-to-mid 2016). The U.S. economy does not particularly rely on exports, insulating it from some of the drawbacks of currency strength, which usually hurts exports. But China’s latest move creates another currency against which the dollar can appreciate. Now, a rate hike would likely strengthen the dollar even more, to the extent that it might become an issue for the U.S. economy. China’s reshuffle, then, may have changed the answer to the biggest financial question of the year; market expectations for the rate rise have slipped back to December and may even move to 2016.

Emerging Markets

Emerging markets have suffered a torrid few years. Commodity exporters in Asia, Africa and Latin America enjoyed a boom period between 2000 and 2008, when China was consuming their raw materials as part of its production machine and Chinese investment sustained prices for a few years after. But global commodity prices have fallen since 2011, with the economies of Brazil, Nigeria, Russia and several parts of Asia suffering the most, as evidenced by their steadily falling currencies. The yuan’s depreciation reduces China’s spending power, and unsurprisingly emerging market currencies have continued to decline. Every time the yuan weakens, it creates more problems for these countries, as many welcomed Western capital during the good times and now have sizable dollar-denominated loans on private balance sheets that are becoming harder to pay back.

Japan and the Eurozone

Meanwhile, the depreciating yuan has made Japan and the eurozone’s currencies float upward. The development is problematic because both have undertaken quantitative easing policies, in part to devalue their currencies.

Since coming to power in December 2012, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been pursuing a three-pronged strategy designed to shock Japan out of its economic funk of the past two decades. The first of these “arrows” has involved monetary easing, partly to drop the yen’s value and stimulate export-led growth and inflation. The plan has not been working. Inflation has remained stubbornly far below its 2 percent target, exports in July were down from the year before, and growth has been highly unreliable, with second-quarter GDP shrinking at an annualized rate of 1.6 percent. Even before China’s currency reorganization, talk had begun that the pace of quantitative easing, already redoubled in 2014, would need to be boosted further. Falling Asian currencies relative to Japan will only increase these calls, but there are complications to redoubling quantitative easing.

So-called Abenomics has been losing public support. Even within the administration, Abe and Bank of Japan head Haruhiko Kuroda have been divided on the best way to proceed. The former has pushed for more easing. The latter, perhaps more aware of the complications from the Bank of Japan already owning a sizable portion of the available market in Japanese sovereign bonds, has pushed for fiscal consolidation. This difference of opinion over Abe’s decisions, such as to delay a planned consumption tax hike, and other policies regarding Japan’s military, have garnered the administration its lowest popularity rating since coming to power (in July it was 38 percent, down from 46 percent in June). Abe’s grand experiment is on the ropes, constraining the prime minister’s ability to double down both politically and economically. The time may be approaching for Abenomics to be called off. Under such circumstances, it is hard to imagine Abe remaining in his post.

In Europe, the European Central Bank’s quantitative easing program has also weakened the currency, improving eurozone economies. Talk about the ECB extending quantitative easing past its scheduled end in September 2016 has already begun. The decision would not technically be as problematic as in Japan, since Europe’s quantitative easing has not gone on as long and the ECB could overcome any lack of available bonds by extending its own self-imposed limits to purchase more sovereign bonds. Still, if Europe considers extending its program, there could be difficulties convincing Germany of quantitative easing’s merits, potentially creating undue political issues at a time when the Continent is already deeply fragmented.

How China’s Currency Policies Will Change the World is republished with permission of Stratfor.

IBC logo

Chatting with Magisso

August 26th, 2015

by Vicki Matranga

We are speaking with Juhani Sirén, Magisso’s CEO and founder. Headquartered in Helsinki, Finland’s capital, Magisso was established in 2008 and began exhibiting at the International Home + Housewares Show the following year.

Simple and smart, Magisso’s home goods products reflect the attitude and atmosphere expected of Scandinavian design. Their hand tools and kitchenware reduce the complexities of daily tasks; tableware inspires harmony and calm. Legendary Finnish design infuses innovation with comfort in modern interpretations of form and function.

Juhani, where do you find inspiration when designing new products?

We are constantly looking for trouble – to solve it! It is fascinating that you never know where the inspiration originates each time. New innovative design ideas can come to mind by touching surfaces, listening to song lyrics, observing nature and just living your everyday life. It’s all about how you see the world around you.


Are there any specific designers, places or eras that influence you?

Our design DNA comes from the functional Finnish design heritage where all the lines and shapes are timeless and in perfect harmony. I personally love the works of Tapio Wirkkala, Timo Sarpaneva and Eero Saarinen – oh yes, and the works of Mother Nature. There’s nothing extra, only the necessities.

How do you choose which idea to take to the next step — to product development?

Our staff generates many ideas; we also receive product suggestions from consultant designers and even from Magisso users. It is hard work to choose the most suitable ones (and a lot of fun). The most important thing is to know your customers and their needs. So we have actually developed a quite sophisticated measuring system that helps us to identify the next big hits for Magisso.

How do you identify the key user audience for your products?

We use varied consumer test groups. We also cooperate with several universities around the world for market, user and brand research. And then we talk a lot with our customers. However, I think it’s sometimes better to shut up and just listen.

Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of your product line?

We start from a problem, so form always follows the function. Material selection is based on the function needed. Just look at any Magisso product and you will see the eye-pleasing minimalistic design approach—nothing extra and free of short-term trends.


How do new technologies influence your product design? For example, do you use 3-D printing, Kickstarter or other platforms to develop or launch products? How do you use social media?

Social media, especially YouTube, is extremely important for us as every Magisso product has special features which need to be explained. A short video is a perfect way to get people excited. Magisso has almost one million views on the YouTube channel!

We have used 3-D printing for about seven years now. It definitely makes the product development process more time-efficient and brings an idea come to life easily and quickly.

How do you see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?

Design is and has always been everywhere, whether you want it or not. Its importance will grow in the future. I believe the perception of design has changed to more than “just” an individual product design standpoint. Design will be more and more related to concept and lifestyle creation, service design and brand identity. Design process can go all the way to the people who are excited to work for the brand. Companies like Google know how to do this all. And even more.


Tell us how you learned about our Show.

We first exhibited in 2009. We had always been interested in the U.S. market and learned about the Chicago Show from our partners. Finnish and Nordic design has some really great traditions in North America. For example, the work of Eames and Saarinen became important in the 1950s and, of course, Iittala, Marimekko and Fiskars have been popular in the U.S. for decades as well.

How does our Show help build your relationships with buyers and media?

This is our most important show in the United States. Thanks to Discover Design we have been able to establish the Magisso brand and build our presence here. We always meet most of our best customers during this Show.

Can you give us a preview of what you will be showing in your booth in Discover Design?

Magisso will showcase more new items than ever before in Discover Design in 2016. I can’t give any details yet but all of the new designs are super smart lifestyle objects!

Thank you, Juhani, for telling us about how Magisso thinks about design. We wish you a successful sales season and look forward to seeing you in Chicago at the 2016 International Home + Housewares Show March 5-8.

At the 2016 Show, Discover Design settles into a new home in the North Building of McCormick Place. Visible from the Grand Concourse, this new location triples the size of its 2015 design presence and will embrace all categories. A global panel of design experts reviews exhibitor applications to select companies that represent the best in functionality and style.

See Magisso there, along with other notable design-driven companies such as Zoku, Joseph Joseph, Charles Viancin, Alessi, Sagaform, Corkcicle and Nambe along with many others. Learn more about Magisso’s exciting products at

Down the Aisles: Hudson’s Bay

August 24th, 2015

For most Canadians, Hudson’s Bay Company is a name that has been a part of their lives for as long as they can remember. The company, which is Canada’s longest continually running department store, was established in 1670. Since that day two and a half centuries ago, it has continued to expand and fine tune its innovative operations, firmly establishing itself as a brand that its millions of customers love and trust. Today, there are 90 Hudson’s Bay Company stores, two outlet stores, and under the company’s umbrella, alongside the Home Outfitters brand in Canada and the Lord & Taylor brand in the United States. ‘Home’ is the company’s homewares department, and in 2014, it opened a newly designed space called Home on Seven, on the 7th floor of its Toronto Queen Street premises, that became one of five Global Honorees in the 2015 IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia).

Every year, a jury comprising editors and publishers of the leading home and houseawares trade publications around the world and four retail experts compare the merits of 25 retail stores that have been nominated as the finest in their country. This year, the jury found Home on Seven to stand out from the national winners not only due to its exceptional use of attention-grabbing graphics and signage, but also for its inspiring visual merchandising, which has become synonymous with the company’s overall brand.

Canada 2

As the Senior Vice President of Home Alison Coville says, the aim of Home on Seven was to “build upon our strength in the market as a home and leading Gift Registry destination and enhance the bridal experience by grouping all relevant and related businesses on the one floor, including china, housewares, small electrical, cookware and bakeware, décor, giftware, gift registry, the Birks and Godiva shops and concierge, creating a one-stop shop for brides-to-be.”

From the outset, the store’s mission was to make the experience of organizing a wedding stress-free and enjoyable. To enhance the enjoyment factor and give the chosen warehouse space a residential loft-like feel, it first had to be turned into a calming haven, so windows were created to let in natural light. From there, the finest of details for each space in the store was considered.

The gift registry space, for example, is pivotal at Home on Seven, so it has become a stylish, welcoming space with a large consultation table and four private suites divided by glass walls. The design created a shop-within-a-shop feel for casual dining, and after it was enclosed with a metal cage and dark distressed wood panel bases, a classic storefront feel was achieved.

All sections of Home on Seven had to have their own distinct character to make customers feel less overwhelmed, which can often be part and parcel of a large department store experience. The housewares section, for instance, is decked out with dark metals and woods and veined counter tops, while light metals and white lacquer wood were applied in the china and gift registry section. Concrete-finish vinyl tiles were used in the store aisles, and warm vinyl wood planks were used in the casual dining area.

Everything about Home on Seven is about achieving warmth, relaxation and the welcoming feel people have when they enter the home of a friend or family member. In the gift registry area, a whitewash wood composite floor was laid, and accents of powder blue were applied to the walls to bring out the original black-trimmed warehouse windows.

The meticulous planning regarding the store’s design was something that impressed all of the judges, with special note being made of the fully-equipped, modernized demonstration kitchen imbued with an old-world European feel; the suspended, distressed pine wood slat ceiling; the placement of interesting pieces of furniture oozing character to create a residential feel, and the smattering of inspiration boards to highlight home fashions from across the world.

Canada 4

Home on Seven is all about making it easy for the customer to explore the store’s different areas and find new products, while being continually inspired, so ‘Trend Zones’ have been mapped out to ensure cohesive flow. And first impressions do count, so as soon as customers step out of the elevator or arrive at the top of the escalator, they are visually stimulated and led from one exhibit of products to the next.

One of the many stimulating set-ups in the store is the street-like zone that resembles a market running down the middle of the Casual Dining Department. “This allows for strong trend, seasonal and occasion merchandise stories to be highlighted,” explains Coville. “And feature display tables within both the casual and formal dining departments provide a blank canvas for our visual merchandising teams to create inspiring entertainment presentations for customers to mimic in their own homes when entertaining.”

The fun use of colorful graphics and funky signage (often incorporating plays on words) throughout Home on Seven adds artistic flourishes while also giving customers something to ponder upon as they locate everything they need. From lit-up vintage signs to graphics created by an artist to emulate blackboard scribblings, directives are relaxing and helpful, again adding to the stress-free environment. Betsy, the much-loved life-sized red cow, for instance, standing by the entrance with a helpful floor plan painted on her side, has become the store’s icon, and her figure on canvas – Andy Warhol style – can also be found throughout the store.

Each year, Hudson’s Bay Company publishes four ‘Home’ catalogs that are high quality magazine-style publications. Fans of the company love them, and they are styled, shot and written by some of Canada’s best publishing talent. Products from Home on Seven are regularly featured in the catalogs, sending the Hudson’s Bay Company message further afield, filling Canadians with endless inspiration.

That message is a clear and strong one: Hudson’s Bay Company makes shopping a wonderful, stress-free experience, with some fun and frivolity thrown in for good measure.

For more information about the gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) program, the co-sponsors, or participating in 2015-2016, contact Piritta Törrö at Additional information on the IHA’s gia Awards program is also available online at

For more information about the International Home + Housewares Show and to pre-register for the 2016 Show, taking place in Chicago on March 5-8, 2016, please visit

Keep Cool with Zoku Treatmakers

August 5th, 2015

by Vicki Matranga

What does summertime mean to you? Barbeques, corn on the cob and …. cold treats? When you’re chillin’ in the backyard or on the porch—Zoku treatmakers make every occasion a celebration.

Zoku’s first product, which started with a seemingly simple idea What if we could make popsicles freeze faster?, propelled the company into the housewares market in 2009. The patented Zoku Quick Pop® Maker delighted parents and children as it made delicious (and healthy) homemade frozen pops on the countertop— in just seven minutes and without electricity. Pop lovers could create their own flavors from fresh juices and avoid high-priced, high-sugar purchased treats. The Quick Pop® Maker was a hit and became a popular choice for dessert and snack time for kids and adults alike.

After premiering one of the most successful recent product launches in kitchenware, Zoku continues to bring innovation and creativity into the world of homemade foodie fun. It expanded the Quick Pop® Maker line with varied products (Frogs, Fish and Polar Bear characters will make you smile) and a recipe book. New items were introduced such as the innovative Ice Ball, which lets you savor iced drinks on the rocks without diluting the flavor; the Slush & Shake Maker, a fast and easy way to enjoy fresh slushies and milkshakes; the Iced Coffee Maker and the Ice Cream Maker.


“Zoku” means “family” in Japanese and the company aims to create family memories around its products. Created in its Hoboken, New Jersey headquarters, Zoku products are now sold around the world. The innovative, easy-to-use, well-designed products received a National Parenting Seal of Approval, are included in museum collections, have earned awards for outstanding design and are featured widely in national news media outlets. Happy users engage in lively social media conversations, sharing stories and recipe tips.

We chatted with Zoku’s president, Ken Zorovich, to learn about how his company creates such appealing products. We also asked him about Zoku’s experience at the 2015 International Home + Housewares Show.

Ken, where do you find inspiration when designing new products?

Step into any family’s kitchen and you will see the type of creative and adventurous energy that drives our product development team at Zoku to design new product experiences.

Are there any specific designers, places or eras that influence you?

We often find ourselves reflecting fondly on our own childhoods and the people, products and experiences that helped ignite our own creativity and passion for making!

How do you choose which idea to take to the next step — to product development?

We rely on a number of important user needs, design metrics, financial, market and manufacturing requirements while selecting an idea to “take to the next step.”


How do you identify the key user audience for your products?

Any time individuals interact with one another or perform a particular task, there is an opportunity to reshape their experience with great products—our team starts by identifying meaningful interactions, and the people involved become our audience.

Is there an approach or look that joins the functionality, form or emotional appeal of your product line?

While we carefully craft each of our products’ form and function independently, all of Zoku’s products share a unique aesthetic that unifies our product line—everything from bright colors, appealing forms, cute characters and delightful interactions!

How do new technologies influence your product design?  Do you use 3-D printing, Kickstarter or other platforms to develop or launch products?  How do you use social media?

Because so many of our products are creative tools, testing and prototyping are crucial to bringing these ideas to reality. Rapid prototyping technologies, such as 3-D printing, greatly improve the speed and resolution with which we can evaluate concepts. Technology amplifies our process, but pen and paper are still very important.

Individuals love to share their Zoku creations, and we love to see them! Search any social media platform for Zoku and you will discover loads of recipe ideas, artistic creations and playful narratives the world-over. We like to host creative contests and even share snippets of our development process.

Where are your products manufactured?

All of Zoku’s products are designed in the USA and manufactured by our bright and dedicated team in China.

How do you see design’s importance in our industry as it moves forward?

Our industry plays such an important and direct role in the lives of millions of individuals as they furnish and fill their homes with products that keep families connected. Design ensures that individuals—not profits or margins—remain the main priority for product development.


Can you give us a preview of what you will be showing in your booth in Discover Design?

Zoku will be unveiling several new products in our booth, but you’ll have to wait until Show time to see them!

Tell us about your experience with Discover Design. Did our Show help build your business?

Zoku found a new home among other design-focused exhibitors in 2015. Discover Design reaffirms Zoku’s position as a design leader to our current customers, and extends our reach to new customers who place a high value on design.

Thank you, Ken, for sharing your thoughts with us. We wish you a successful summer season and look forward to seeing you in Chicago at the 2016 International Home + Housewares Show, March 5-8.

At the 2016 Show, Discover Design settles into a new home in the North Building of McCormick Place. Visible from the Grand Concourse, this new location triples the size of its 2015 design presence and will embrace all categories. A global panel of design experts reviews exhibitor applications to select companies that represent the best in functionality and style.

See Zoku there, along with other notable design-driven companies such as Joseph Joseph, Charles Viancin, Alessi, Sagaform, Magisso, Corkcicle and Nambe and many others.

Learn more about Zoku’s exciting products at Have fun staying cool!


CHESS 2015 Examines Innovative Strategies for Reaching the Consumer

August 4th, 2015

From launching a product via crowd-funding to partnering with Amazon, the innovative strategies available to help housewares suppliers reach their target market will be explored during the 2015 Chief Housewares Executive SuperSession (CHESS), Oct. 6-7 in Rosemont, Ill.

Addressing the theme of “Concept to Consumer: Innovative Strategies for Reaching Your Market,” the program’s featured speakers will include Carmen Nestares, director and category leader, Kitchen, at Amazon; Dana Telsey, retail analyst, CEO and chief research officer at Telsey Advisory Group; David Houle, brand futurist; and a panel of crowdfunding experts including Terry Romero of Kickstarter.

CHESS is the strategic and networking event for industry leaders. It is designed for chief officers of all IHA member companies and their top decision-makers, and features sessions on design and innovation, brand marketing, eCommerce, the Chinese market, supply chain revolution, retail trends and more.

The program opens Oct. 6 with the annual keynote session featuring a blue-ribbon panel of housewares CEOs. Moderated by Peter Giannetti, editor-in-chief of HomeWorld Business, this year’s panel will discuss “Lessons Learned Along the Innovation Continuum.” Futurist David Houle will then explore “Brand Shifting: The Future of Brands and Marketing” with insight on what brand marketers must do to navigate the current and future disruptions of the next five to 10 years. Afterward he will sign copies of his book “Brand Shift: The Future of Brands and Marketing” for attendees.

The afternoon will close with a panel discussion on “Crowdfunding: The New Multi-Billion Dollar Launch Pad” moderated by Evan Dash, CEO, Storebound. Crowdfunding, Kickstarter and IndieGogo are just a few of the multitude of new avenues that allow anyone with a product concept to raise capital quickly. The panel will explain the basics of using the crowd, pros and cons, common pitfalls and positioning for a successful campaign. Panelists include Terry Romero, Kickstarter; Mark Dziersk, managing director, LUNAR; and Michael Liebowitz, founder, Solid Design.

Day 2 opens with a keynote presentation by retail analyst Dana Telsey, offering a retail market analysis reporting on the leaders and laggards in the industry. She is a regular guest analyst on CNN and CNBC. Following Telsey, John Manzella, president of Manzella Trade Communications, will examine the U.S.-China trade and investment relationship, separating myth from reality, offering strategies for companies doing business in China and analyzing issues causing friction, the emerging bilateral political and economic landscape and what’s ahead for President Xi Jinping.

The implications of eCommerce on the housewares supply chain and what companies must do to perform up to consumers’ expectations will be explored during “The Supply Chain Revolution” by Lee Clair, partner, Zubrod/Clair. Clair will share up-to-the-minute insights into the changing role of the 3PL in today’s housewares supply chain, with real-world examples of different business models for both brick and mortar and direct-to-consumer fulfillment.

Closing CHESS 2015 will be Amazon’s Nestares with an overview of how housewares suppliers can use Share of Heart to their advantage in partnering with Amazon.

Networking breaks, luncheons and a cocktail reception and dinner also provide time for attendees to network and meet informally with speakers, industry service providers and their colleagues—the most valuable part of the program according to past participants.

To register for CHESS or for more information, visit the CHESS website at or contact Judy Colitz of IHA at

CHESS logo






The International Housewares Association is the 77-year-old voice of the housewares industry, which accounted for (US)$322.6 billion at retail worldwide in 2013. The not-for-profit, full-service association sponsors the world’s premier exposition of products for the home, the International Home + Housewares Show, and offers its 1,700 member companies a wide range of services, including industry and government advocacy, export assistance, State-of-the-Industry reports, point-of-sale and consumer panel data through Housewares MarketWatch, executive management peer groups, a unique Web-based community at and group buying discounts on business solutions services.

Register Show Badges:

Attendees | Exhibitors | News Media

Reserve Discounted:

Hotel Rooms | Airfare