IBC Members Meet with Ace Hardware International

On December 1, IHA’s International Business Council (IBC) hosted ACE Hardware International at an IBC Members-Only meeting in Chicago at the IHA office. With several IBC members in attendance, the retailer-owned cooperative explained how their Global team selects products and determines assortments offered to their member-retail stores outside of the U.S.A.

Following the presentation given by Tom Woods, International Merchandise Manager for ACE Hardware International, members were invited to engage in 15-minute, one-to-one meetings with purchasing executives from the Ace International team headed by Joe Furlane, VP International Merchandising and included, Kris Hagen, Senior Associate Merchant – International and Lana Williams, International Drop Ship Specialist.

In the presentation, Tom Woods discussed ACE Hardware International’s strategy along with its global capabilities prior to the individual meetings. A copy of the Ace presentation is available to IBC members on the IBC Member Portal.

To become a member of the International Business Council, please visit the IBC website and complete a brief survey to gain access to the ACE Hardware International presentation, global Key Retailer and Key Distributor Reports and many other benefits. Membership in IBC is complimentary for all Regular IHA Members.

For more information, contact Lori Szudarek.


South Korea Market Visit

IHA Staff recently made a market visit to South Korea in preparation for a potential trade mission to that country in 2018.  The visit included touring major retail outlets/malls, meeting with key distributors to better understand the market, and meeting with relevant key retailers.

Distributors met with included Venta Korea Co., Ltd., household appliance distributor for Vornado of the USA and Venta Airwasher of Germany, as well as bakeware specialist representing Wilton Brands; Electrom, Inc., a large and small appliance distributor representing KitchenAid, Whirlpool, and Maytag among others; and Hanway Trading Co., Ltd., a specialist in department store supply and representing brands such as Villeroy & Boch, Casa Bugatti, Le Creuset, Thermos, and Libbey Glassware, as well as other tableware and kitchenware suppliers.

Retailers met with included Lotte Home Shopping, GS Home Shopping, and Costco Wholesale.

A summary of the major sales channels and players in the Korean market include:

Brick & Mortar:

  • – Department Stores – Lotte, Shinsegae, Hyundai, Galleria
  • – Hypermarkets – Costco, Emart, Home Plus, Lotte Mart
  • – Home Appliance Stores – Samsung, LG Best Shop, Hi Mart, Price King
  • – Flagship/Road Shops – Kitchen Aid, Miele, Whirlpool, GE, etc.


  • – TV Home Shopping – GS Home Shopping, CJ Mall, Lotte Home Shopping, Home & Shopping
  • – Internet Shopping Malls – GS Shop, CJ Mall,, Shinsegae Mall, AK Mall
  • – Open Markets – A.Auction, 11st, G Market, Interpark

The strongest channels in South Korea appear to be the Hypermarket channel and the Internet/TV Home Shopping channels.  Department stores are still relevant, but mostly for branding and visibility purposes, most consumers will make their purchase through other channels once seeing the product in department stores.

An important takeaway from meeting with both distributors and retail buyers is that in many cases, the retail buyers do not purchase directly from overseas brands/suppliers, but rely on their local distribution partners/vendors to affect these purchases and maintain inventory.  Therefore, importers and distributors play a critical role in the success of international brands in the South Korean market.

IHA Staff also met with the Korean Trade-Investment Promotion Agency (KOTRA) at their Seoul headquarters.  KOTRA has a Foreign Investment in Korea division, which supports the entry and establishment of foreign businesses in Korea. They provide comprehensive services for foreign businesses, including consultations, assistance with investment notification and corporate establishment, and support for business activities in Korea.  More information about this division of KOTRA and their services may be found at Invest Korea.


The Langham, Chicago – Number One Hotel on Trip Advisor

Book now and enjoy these additional incentives:

  • – Book early and enjoy a special low rate of $285 per night (Offer expires December 31st)
  • – Complimentary WiFi/Wired internet in guest rooms
  • – Complimentary access to Chuan Spa & Health Club

Book Your Discounted Room at The Langham Chicago


As an International Home + Housewares Show attendee, experience the timeless qualities that define the Langham legacy since 1865 – heritage, history and legendary hospitality; by booking your room today!

A perfect blend of convenience and stylish comfort, The Langham, Chicago masters the five-star luxury hotel experience with understated elegance, and has quickly become a destination of choice as evident with its status as the “#1 Hotel in Chicago” by Travel + Leisure.

The Langham, Chicago features 316 luxurious guest rooms and suites ranging from the 516 sq. ft. Grand Room to the sprawling Infinity and Regent Suites each spanning 2,700 sq. ft. Conveniently located downtown in a 52-story landmark tower designed by renowned architect Mies van der Rohe, The Langham, Chicago is just minutes away from the boutique-lined boulevards of Chicago’s retail hub and within walking distance to many of the city’s premier tourist sites.

The distinctive dining options at The Langham, Chicago are suited to both business and leisure travelers. Located on the hotel’s second floor, Travelle Kitchen + Bar’s modern David Rockwell design is the perfect stage for Chef Ricardo Jarquin’s contemporary take on Seasonal American cuisine served throughout the day. While the Pavilion features Afternoon Tea with Wedgwood, the brand’s signature afternoon tea that originated at The Langham, London.

The hotel is also home to Chuan Spa & Health Club – Chicago’s first and only five-star spa – where guests can indulge in signature wellness and holistic treatments as well as a 67-foot swimming pool, fitness studio and innovative relaxation facilities.

Explore The Langham, Chicago through the snap shots below:



Webinars Assist Exhibitors With Marketing, Boothmanship for 2017 International Home + Housewares Show

To help exhibitors make the most of their trade show investment, the International Housewares Association is presenting a series of educational webinars focusing on marketing services, booth design and etiquette advice for the 2017 International Home + Housewares Show.

In “Bring More Buyers and Media to Your Booth in 2017,” IHA staff walks through the Exhibitor Marketing Kit, explaining the 25 marketing, promotion and public relations tools the Show offers exhibitors. Most of the services are free and are designed to help exhibitors promote themselves to the buyer attendees and attract attention from the consumer and trade media. Taking advantage of the programs and services can help a company stand out from its competition and differentiate themselves to buyers and media. Services discussed include the 2016 Show buyers and media lists, lead retrieval opportunities, Housewares Connect 365 listings, the New Product Showcase and IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia), sponsorships, special booth signage, the ColorWatch by Pantone display, the Show News Center and press kit distribution, promoting special events and new products to the media, the traveling media tour and trade publication advertising and editorial opportunities. This webinar was first presented on Nov. 15 & 30 and will be offered again Dec. 14, Jan. 5 & 18 and Feb. 7. Each program is customized based on deadlines and services still available.

“Fundamentals of a Well-Designed Booth” explains the essential elements that support a well-designed trade show booth and how exhibitors can create and implement a unique experience for their buyers and enhance sales.  Presented by visual merchandiser Matthew Goodman, the program offers tips on how the overall plan, booth layout and physical placement of product can increase an exhibitor’s sales and explains IHA’s new Excellence in Booth Design Award that is launching at the 2017 Show. This webinar was first presented on Nov. 17 and will be offered again on Dec. 8.

Other webinars planned are “Become a Trade Show Samurai” with Mike Moyer on Jan. 11 and Feb. 1, and an encore presentation of “How to Make Housewares Connect 365 Work for You” on Jan. 31. “Trade Show Samurai” offers tips on what exhibitors can do before, during and after the Show to accelerate their trade show strategy and capture more sales leads than they could imagine. The “Housewares Connect 365” program provides a tutorial showing exhibitors how to best complete their HC365 listing to attract buyer and news media attention.

All IHA webinars are recorded and posted on IHA’s website for exhibitors who could not listen to the initial airing or want to share with other staff or vendors such as PR agencies.

For more information on upcoming webinars or to listen to past programs, please visit the IHA website.


Protecting your Brand in Cuba in Uncertain Times

Prior to Fidel Castro coming to power, the following three statements pertained to Cuba:

  • – Its’ workers had the 8th highest wages in the world
  • – More Americans lived in Cuba than Cubans lived in America
  • – Its’ per-capita income was higher than those of Austria and Japan

Diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba were then severed for the 53 years between 1961 and 2014 under the Castro regime. In 2015, U.S. President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro agreed to restore ties.  Today, the U.S. operates an embassy in Havana, and Cuba has an embassy in Washington D.C.


The trade embargo, which prohibits the sale of commercial merchandise, however, is still in effect, making it illegal for U.S. companies to conduct business on the Island.  President Obama has begun to ease commercial restrictions, allowing U.S. travelers to bring back Cuban cigars and rum into the country.

A White House website article, “Charting a New Course on Cuba,” outlines the current Cuba policy and the next steps to be taken to normalize relations.  Those interested in selling products on the island should note one important section of the policy:

Authorize expanded sales and exports of certain goods and services form the U.S. to Cuba The expansion will seek to empower the nascent Cuban private sector and make it easier for Cuban citizens to have access to certain lower-priced goods to improve their living standards and gain greater economic independence from the state.

While this does not in itself authorize full-scale commerce, it is clear that the door has begun to open.  The White House Press Office has also posted information on current efforts to restore relations with Cuba in their “FACT SHEET: Charting a New Course on Cuba”.

The passing of Fidel Castro on November 25 is certainly a significant milestone that perhaps portends the beginning of the end of the long-standing disagreement between the two capitalist and communist nations.  Raúl Castro, Fidel’s 85-year-old brother, is now in control and has been called “a transitional president between the old guard and the future…” by Volker Skierka, a Castro biographer and Cuba expert in an article posted by The Guardian newspaper.

With the recent election of Donald Trump as the next U.S. President, however, the direction and speed being taken to normalize relations may change dramatically.  When interviewed by Fox News, Reince Priebus, the incoming White House Chief of Staff, said that President elect Trump will keep his campaign promise to void the 2014 deal made between President Obama and President Castro unless further demands, which include “religious and political freedom for the Cuban people and the freeing of political prisoners”, are met.  Time will tell if President-elect Trump will be able to renegotiate a favorable diplomatic and trade deal with Cuba.


Although no one knows for certain what is next on the horizon for U.S. and Cuban relations, U.S. companies are already registering their brand names in order to protect their commercial interests for if and when they are legally permitted to conduct business on the island.

According to the Miami Herald in an article published on November 15, the Cuban Office of Industrial Property (OCPI) has received more than 1,000 applications in 2016 to register trademarks from U.S. companies.  American companies that have submitted applications include Netflix, Hershey’s, General Motors, Disney, Starbucks, Domino’s, Apple and Microsoft.

Cuba has a “first-to-file” policy, allowing anyone to register a trademark, provided it has not previously been registered.  It is therefore possible for someone to register a trademark and then attempt to “sell” the rights back to the rightful owner.  Thus, even if you do not plan to sell products within Cuba in the immediate future, it still may be prudent to register your brand name to ensure that it is available when you do decide to enter the market.

As an alternative to registering directly through the OCPI, American companies should know that Cuba is also a signatory to the Madrid Protocol, which is an international registration treaty that allows companies who have submitted an “international application” to seek protection from any member country.  It is important to note though that each country may apply their own laws to determine if trademark protection can be granted.  Additional information about the Madrid Protocol is available on the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

A patent and trademark attorney should offer advice on the appropriate type of registration for your company and brand.  Although the listing below does not represent an endorsement, the following two law firms have published informative articles about registering a trademark within Cuba:

Hunton & WilliamsTrademark Registration in Cuba

  1. – Filing a National Trademark Application in Cuba
  2. – Filling an International Application through the Madrid Protocol Treaty

Foley Hoag LLPTop Five Reasons Why You Should File For Trademark Protection in Cuba

  1. – You don’t need to use your trademark in Cuba to obtain a registration
  2. – The trademark application process in Cuba is relatively simple
  3. – Obtaining a trademark registration in Cuba is relatively inexpensive
  4. – It may be difficult to take back your brand in Cuba from “pirates”
  5. – Cuba could become the next hot spot for your business

Although no one knows for certain what is in store for U.S. – Cuban relations, it certainly is a small but potentially interesting market that is worth watching. Cuba has just 11.38 million people, and it would be safe to say that there is a dearth of disposable income.  Therefore, it’s important not to get too carried away.  At the same time, if Cuba becomes what is was in the 1950’s, then there is an opportunity to get in on the ground floor.

The International Business Council plans to take a small group of members to the island country as soon as appropriate to begin exploring opportunities in this yet-to-emerge market.  Watch the IBC website for additional details and updates.