blog: news + information from “the home authority”

International Home + Housewares Show Featured on “The Big Pitch”

July 29th, 2015

Several exhibitors from the 2015 International Home + Housewares Show are being featured on “The Big Pitch,” a new TV program from Kevin Harrington of “Shark Tank” fame.

Harrington and his crew filmed product pitches from 25 exhibitors during the Home + Housewares Show last March in Chicago and then selected 11 that were the best-of-the-best, according to “Big Pitch” producers. The program airs on the Fox Business Network.

“Because the International Home + Housewares Show is not open to the public, programs such as ‘The Big Pitch’ provide consumers with a glimpse of the new products they will be seeing at retail and help create a demand for innovative housewares items. Consumers can also find emerging housewares trends and the latest products from our exhibitors on, our consumer-focused website,” said Phil Brand, president and CEO of the International Housewares Association, which owns and operates the Show.

The first Housewares Show program aired July 25 and included FlexiSnake Inc., Handle Hands, Work Safe Technology Corp. and Brod & Taylor. The next program will air Saturday, Aug. 1 at 5:30 p.m. EDT on Fox Business Network and feature eNNOVEA, Rice Cube Pty Ltd., Comadeco Canada Inc., Krevare LLC, L’Chef and Lena Fiore, Inc. dba Toilet Tattoos. Consumers can purchase the products shown via the program’s website or from their local retailers.

“We filmed more than two dozen pitches at the International Home + Housewares Show and saw a remarkable array of products across a number of categories—enough to create two separate episodes of ‘The Big Pitch.’ That’s never happened before, and it’s a testament to the spirit of innovation in this industry and at this Show,” Harrington said.

For more information on the featured exhibitors and the International Home + Housewares Show, visit Housewares Connect 365 at

Out of the Ordinary: Koskela

July 29th, 2015

Michelle Hespe meets the innovative owners of Koskela – one of five inspiring retail stores that became 2015 Global Honorees in the prestigious IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia) in Chicago.

There’s a great quote by American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker John Rohn that captures the essence of what Australian retail duo Sasha Titchkosky and Russel Koskela set out to do. “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary,” he once said.

The determined pair knew they were taking a risk when they set their hearts and minds on a 2000 sq m warehouse that hadn’t been used in over three years for their fledgling retail business. It was also in a part of Sydney that was a far cry from being a retail hub, but they believed in their dream of creating a business and a space that was not only out of the ordinary, but something new and inspiring for Sydneysiders and all who visited. They also had their minds set upon helping the world around them.

“The original idea was formed 15 years ago in 2000, when we first started Koskela, which was then a company primarily catering to the corporate market, producing furniture for innovative Australian offices,” explains Titchkosky. “However, we both always wanted to do something great with the retail side of the business.”

Fast forward a few years, and in 2004, Koskela relocated to a 450 sq m New York style loft space that was set up like a living space, and the focus shifted to being both commercial, and to a lesser extent, retail. Then in 2011, the warehouse was discovered, and the Koskela that people know and love was born: an enormous space with a café, workshop space and gallery, selling Koskela furniture and a curated selection of Australian and ethically made homewares.


Jump ahead again four years to 2015, and Koskela has just been named as one of the five top retailers in the world at the Global Innovation Awards (gia) in Chicago, which are hosted by the International Housewares Association (IHA) and the International Home + Housewares Show.

“It’s one of the most exciting times in the history of our business,” says Titchkosky. “The first 10 years we focused on the commercial side of things while having a family, and over the last five years, we’ve turned our attention back to our original dream of creating a unique retail concept.”

The pair did their research before making the jump, always keeping an eye on competitor businesses. They understood that for any retail space to succeed in today’s tough and saturated market, a business needs to give people multiple reasons to visit, and that it has to provide visitors with a real experience. “We always wanted to do something with food, as food and design seem like a natural match, so we created the café on our site,” says Titchkosky. “We also set aside a gallery space and now have new artists exhibiting every 4-6 weeks. We are also now running workshops, as we often discussed that people have no space to create a mess at home, so they can come and get into things here.” The workshops encompass everything from macramé to embroidery, screen-printing, and even classes where guests can make a piece of furniture.

There are so many outstanding points of difference when it comes to Koskela – such as the sheer size of the place for one – but one of the things that resonates with many who have become loyal fans is the business focus on good design affecting social change. “We want Koskela products to last – whether they are for the workplace or home, for educational or recreational environments. We design products that are destined to become classics.”

Koskela is extremely conscious of the impact people and products have on the planet, and so looks carefully at what goes into the many pieces that they stock. The couple is also continually evaluating the way in which they do business, to ensure that they are taking care of customers and those behind the creation of their wares. “We make sure that our products are made in a way that does not impact the health and wellbeing of the workers making them,” says Titchkosky. “And we are deeply committed to social enterprise – using our design skills to empower Australian Aboriginal artists and artisans through collaborations.”

Their efforts don’t stop there. Koskela has over 85 percent of its furniture range independently certified as being environmentally innovative, and the smaller products are either made locally, by smaller artisan makers, or are made internationally with an ethical or social enterprise manufacturing focus. And as if that’s not impressive enough, Koskela aims to invest 10 percent of all their profits back into social enterprise products that they have developed in collaboration with highly disadvantaged Australian indigenous communities. “The product ranges that were created as part of these collaborations have benefitted over 100 women and have been exhibited in Japan and Australia,” says Titchkosky with pride. “They are the first products of their kind which combine contemporary design with traditional craft forms practiced over thousands of years.”

The gia judges in Chicago were impressed by Koskela’s many initiatives, and by the feeling of creativity, warmth and community that the company has created on and offline. They loved the store’s displays and “effective use of an impressive premises, innovative practices including a brand-fitting in-store café” and their strong social responsibility programs.

“It was great to be able to have some time one-on-one with one of the judges,” says Titchkosky of her gia experience. “There are always things you can do better, and I found the judges’ critiques of our store really helpful.”

Now, with a gia award taking pride of place in their warehouse, and with more innovative business plans being concocted by the day, Koskela is headed for great things, and the happy couple behind it could not be more pleased with their direction. “We both love the fact that we are creating something meaningful,” says Titchkosky. “We want to bring Australian design to the world. It is so rewarding to see something that starts out as an idea actually turn into a real product. We took a risk and this is where it has led us.”

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


Soul Determination: Presentes Rodriguez

July 29th, 2015

Presentes Rodriguez from Brazil was one of five retail stores in the world to become a Global Honoree at the 2015 IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia) in Chicago. Michelle Hespe looks into what makes this South American business so exceptional.

So what was said about Presentes Rodriguez? The gia jury thought the Brazilian homewares store really stood out from the rest of the entrants because of its utilization of fresh technology, and the passion, dedication and innovation that two brothers, Murilo Rodriguez and Diego Rodriguez, demonstrate in their approach to business, and indeed, life.

Their project was inspired by two main principles, family and home, because that is what their European parents taught them – that these two things are the pillars of life. The men have also both been involved in home construction, and always strived to make every home they built the best example of how they would create their own homes – with products in them that made life not only easier, but more enjoyable. They gave their homes soul.

“The creation of the store was an evolution of our experience in the home building sector,” explains Murilo. “The pillars of ‘family and home’ were implemented in our lives and work right from the beginning, but then later, we also built up a great track record and expertise, having worked in several businesses related to the home and family. And because the homes we built were designed and completed as though they were for our own personal use, this created a special bond with our customers.”

This holistic approach allowed the brothers to understand homebuyers’ needs when it came to practical, innovative and modern products, and it created an opportunity for the men to cross-promote and sell properties fully equipped with household appliances.

And so Presentes Rodriguez opened in 2011. The concept took shape a year before that, in the form of a drawing by a Brazilian architect who incorporated the brothers’ ideas into a space that would offer the best possible purchasing experience for customers. “Every detail in the store layout is a result of a broadly planned design: from the entrance to the product disposition, the lighting and the furniture design, all created to highlight the best attributes of our products,” explains Murilo.


There was no slowing down and every detail was considered, including the store’s rise to fame. So while the store was being designed, the brothers were setting their sights on gaining a prestigious award in the retail industry to put their store on the map. They were aware of gia – considering it the best award in the industry, and so set themselves the goal of winning the national segment. “We knew that there was a high road ahead of us – with many of the world’s top players competing for the prize, but with a lot of hard work, love and faith, we were recognized as the best store in Brazil,” Murilo says. “So what had seemed a distant dream – to represent our country on the international round, competing with the largest retailers in the world – became a reality. And so then it was our will to win, dedication, perseverance, and the desire to achieve the goal that filled us all with energy and focus, not just to compete with the best retailers in the world, but to tell our story and to present to the world who we are.”

That’s how this four-year-old store made it to the top, with the brothers finding themselves on stage accepting an award as a gia Global Honoree in Chicago in March 2015.

The win led to a great experience for the Brazilian duo, and they loved the many experiences that the International Home + Housewares Show offered, especially dealing with the gia expert jury who are there to mentor all national gia winners. “It’s a dynamic and interactive fair that successfully manages to gather multiple events in one place without losing the quality of any of them,” says Murilo. “We were very well received by the entire gia Award team throughout our stay, especially by the gia expert jurors who were great mentors to us, sharing their precious teachings and kindly hosting us at this moment of great importance in our company’s timeline.”

There’s no doubt that this impressive timeline will carry on, with the business flourishing over the coming years, and the brothers learning still more as they forge ahead. However after their experience so far, they already have some sound advice for anyone starting out in the industry as they did. “Keep dreaming and building upon your dream,” they say. “Our quest for innovation and perfection has motivated us, but it’s believing in our quest and capabilities that has brought us to where we are now. Follow your dreams in a well-structured manner, dedicating attention to the following things: initiative, persistence, calculated risk-taking, efficiency, commitment, a constant thirst and ability to seek new information and opportunities, goal-setting, systemic planning and monitoring, persuasion, networking and self-confidence.”

That’s great advice coming from a business based on a culture of innovation that can be found in the store’s online tools, which make it very easy to search, access, and purchase through the site. The brothers’ innovation can also be seen in the gourmet events at the bricks and mortar store, in which customers have the opportunity to be a part of a differentiated experience, with access to new market trends. “Such focuses are always provided with the highest quality in mind, matched with a welcoming, cozy service executed by highly skilled and trained staff,” says Murilo. “Our challenge is to keep this culture, which has always been our engine, running. We can never let our ideas become obsolete and we need to maintain the soul and spirit that was envisioned at the project’s conception.”

A mixture of utilizing and improving upon on technology, keeping abreast of new research, putting customers’ needs first, and being on trend with products that make their clients lives more enjoyable has propelled Presentes Rodriguez forward – placing them firmly in the Brazilian spotlight and on to the global retail stage. Murilo sums it up perfectly: “Presentes Rodriguez has the gift of making the home – a place that houses the soul and body – beautiful.”

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


Power to the People: John Lewis

July 29th, 2015

Michelle Hespe checks out one of five global honorees from the 2015 IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia) and discovers the very clever concept behind the United Kingdom’s John Lewis department store chain.

Imagine if there was a department store at which the customers made the business decisions? Where the people from the street created and guided the retail philosophy to entice, please and retain customers? In essence, that’s the framework that John Lewis stores – under the John Lewis Partnership – are based upon, because the company is owned by a trust on behalf of its employees, who are known as Partners. This year, the combined work of those Partners resulted in the business scooping one of the world’s top retail awards – becoming one of the five most innovative retail stores in the world at gia in Chicago.

Every year, the International Housewares Association hosts the Global Innovation Awards, which brings together not only leading retailers in the world, but editors and publishers of the top retail and housewares publications to form a jury headed up by four expert judges, who are all retail experts in different sectors of the industry.

This year, the jury and judges chose John Lewis as one of five global honorees for its great architecture; theatrical, creative displays; thought-provoking use of ordinary products, and its breathtaking merchandise displays. They also praised the store for its innovative pop-up mini shops in the store’s aisles, and all agreed that John Lewis is exemplary in cross-channel sales, utilizing an impressive online store and mobile app.


The core business approach of John Lewis, with its ‘Partners’, is what initially makes it stand apart from many other retail operations. “The John Lewis Partnership’s reputation is founded on the uniqueness of our ownership structure and our commercial success,” said Nicola Hattersley, buyer from the Cookshop sector of John Lewis. “Our purpose is ‘the happiness of all our members, through their worthwhile, satisfying employment in a successful business’, with success measured on our ability to sustain and enhance our position both as an outstanding retailer and as a thriving example of employee ownership. With this in mind, our strategy is based on three interdependent objectives – Partners, customers and profit.”

It is now over 150 years since the first John Lewis Store opened its doors in London’s Oxford Street in 1864. From that day forward, the business has had the same pledge to its customers: ‘Never knowingly undersold’. “Our unique promise to our customers, that the price of any item we sell will always be as low as the lowest price in the neighborhood, has been our slogan for over 75 years,” explains Nicola. “Through the efforts of our Partners serving customers with our suppliers’ high-quality goods, we have succeeded in building the largest department store retailer in the UK.”

It is indeed an impressive collection of retail outlets – with 43 John Lewis shops, 31 department stores, 10 ‘John Lewis at Home’ stores and shops at both St Pancras International and Heathrow Terminal. “All of the stores offer an exciting, inspiring environment for our customers to shop,” says Nicola. “They provide theatre and inspiration through cross-merchandised displays, good orientation, navigation and facilities to ensure our customers can shop with ease, and our multi-channel proposition is integrated throughout our branches so customers can view our extended range online.”

The gia judges and jury were particularly impressed with three facets of John Lewis: the Partner concept, their pop-up stores and their omni-channel approach to business.

As the public and those in retail have witnessed over the last decade, pop-ups give businesses a chance to showcase products that might not always be their current line of focus, and a chance to test a niche or sector of business that they haven’t been involved in before. It also gives businesses a chance to dapple in servicing demographics that they have not approached before, and to bring particular products together for celebrations or timely events. “Pop-up shops within store give us an exciting opportunity to showcase different product themes – for example a showcase of British brands, or to support a cross-category brand such as Orla Kiely (a top Irish fashion designer who has merged out into a wide variety of products including homewares and even cars). This year we also had a pop-up shop that pulled all the products together to celebrate our 150th birthday,” says Nicola.

The omni-channel approach that John Lewis impressively adopts has them reaching their customers no matter what way they shop. An innovative example of this that impressed the judges is the marketing to support a new initiative called the ‘Cook Edition’. The partners approached John Brown content marketing agency with the task of informing both existing and new customers of its cookware and dining ranges, and from this brief, the John Lewis Cook Edition was created. It is essentially an edited offering of recipes and the supporting kitchen gear needed to cook and present it. The initiative is led by a quarterly 16-page magazine featuring beautifully photographed dishes, at-home entertainment ideas and product stories by leading voices in the food industry.

“The publication sits on the Cooks Table fixture in-store, supported by product highlighters to accompany the stories told in-depth in the publication,” explains Nicola. “And for those who want to digest the publication digitally, our newsstand app (available on Apple, Kindle and Android devices) features additional digital content and features, such as step-by-step recipe guides and click-to-buy functions.”

The app also houses video content that is produced to bring the recipes and products to life, which are then utilized across John Lewis owned social estate as a means of encouraging their customers to engage with them through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Once engaged, customers are then enticed to discover more by vesting the John Lewis Cooking & Entertaining hub online. ”To provide an external voice, we also engage our blogger network to bring these stories to life through their own creations of our recipes, as well as media inserting cooking ideas into national press publications and key food titles,” says Nicola. John Lewis also ensures that the Partners are spreading good word of their business, and with the training and development that they receive, it’s no wonder that they do. “There is emphasis on Partners driving their own development which is supported by reviews twice a year that help formulate a Partners Development Programme,” she says.

For customer service, John Lewis has a training program called ‘Love to Sell’, that was developed using customer and Partner feedback. It’s approach puts the customer at the heart of sales using a self-explanatory 5-step ladder:

  • Show me you know me
  • Inspire me
  • Find me a solution
  • Tell me what I need to know
  • Make it easy for me

One of the most important factors for John Lewis, Nicola says, is that as a partnership the company is democratic, open, fair and transparent. “The Partners have a voice through a number of democratic channels so there is a true sense of pride in belonging to something. Everyone can influence how the business is run,” she says.

It’s this unique approach and structure as a partnership has given the company an innovative, not to mention highly successful way of doing business, ensuring that since 1864 John Lewis has grown to become the most successful department stores in the United Kingdom, and one of the latest five stores in the world to proudly call a gia their own.

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


Culinary Crusader: Jumbo

July 29th, 2015

Michelle Hespe catches up with the manager of Jumbo — a Turkish retail chain specializing in kitchenware and cookware that was chosen as one of five Global Honorees at the 2015 IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia).

Function has always been crucial when it comes to cookware and dinnerware, but today, form and function are more tightly entwined than ever, with products designed to be easily used and displayed. Kitchens are no longer hidden away at the back of the house with the cook out of sight — now they are at the center of everything. Restaurants are also following that trend – with the kitchen being in the center of the establishment with everything on display to be admired.

What an ideal time then for Jumbo — a Turkish retail chain featuring kitchenware and dinnerware — to be in the spotlight and on the road to further expansion. Since 1947, the store has had a focus on products in the culinary sphere, but now they are a true success story, with 44 stores under their belt by the end of 2015.


Jumbo’s business strategy and approach to design was recognized internationally in March 2015, when it scooped one of the most coveted retail awards in the world — a Global Innovation Award (gia) from the International Housewares Association in Chicago.

“We aim to contribute to dining culture by providing timeless designs with ergonomic, aesthetic and premium quality products that fulfill a customer’s need for easy usage and functionality,” says Ayşe Demirtepe, the business’ Category Manager from Istanbul. “And we aim to strengthen our industry-leading company position with our unique product range including cutlery, porcelain, glassware, cookware and accessories. Based on our strong past experience enriched with global awards and our innovative approach, we are establishing the Jumbo brand as a benchmark of quality design and innovation.”

This solid and simple aim has meant that Jumbo has never wavered from its original philosophy, and in turn that has meant that the business has steadily gone from strength to strength, growing as the need for its products and approach to design has increased.

“The original idea of the Jumbo stores was welcoming consumers into a refined, premium environment that fits our brand identity and product range,” explains Demirtepe. “Highlighting the premium quality and design features of products is always the main purpose, and all parameters from lightning to furniture and visual elements are selected accordingly to align with this. And our refined, clean product display was the main differentiation setting us apart from competitors in the Turkish market, where generally, a crowded product display is preferred.”

Anyone who has visited Turkey and checked out the country’s more common, traditional retail stores, will understand how different the streamlined, clutter-free approach that Jumbo has adopted is, as a typical store in Turkey is often more like a bazaar – with products sitting, hanging and covering every possible surface.

The process for entering gia was a straightforward one for Jumbo, as they were already in the throes of analyzing everything about the business for the launch of new stores. “Besides winning gia, our aim was to create the best possible store layout and visual merchandising approach to perfectly represent our brand,” says Demirtepe. “We were sure that we did that very well when our first store opened, but then winning this international award proved to us that we were indeed going on right direction, so now we are sticking to it.”

The physical award, and the publicity that gia grants its winners is something that Demirtepe really appreciates, but it was also the experience of being in Chicago and attending the International Home + Housewares Show and the various gia events there that has been good for the business. “It was a great opportunity for me to meet retailers from around the world, and to be informed about their business and best practices. Seeing new designs and trends at the Show and attending retail presentations by the gia experts were also very inspiring. I learned a great deal and really enjoyed the entire gia experience.”

Part of the experience was the excitement generated by Jumbo’s win at the gia awards gala — which is a glamorous affair considered by many as the Oscars® of retailing — and the media that soon followed the announcement. After accepting the award on stage to much fanfare, and after the news really sunk in that they had just been voted one of the top five home and housewares retailers in the world, Jumbo’s team sprung straight into action to spread word of their accomplishment.

Demirtepe remains humble, acknowledging the people that she works with as being the root of the company’s success. “Working with right partners and a great team who share your passion is definitely the key to success,” she says. “You have to follow changing consumer behaviors in the retail business — new trends, new designs, new marketing ideas and business approaches. It keeps you dynamic.”

And as for advice to other retailers considering entering gia, these Turkish words of wisdom are as streamlined as Jumbo’s direction and its presentation of wares: “Define exactly who you are as a company. Make the differentiation from your competitors obvious, and then carefully gather all elements that will perfectly convey your message to consumers. And always be brave.”

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


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