Retailers and media looking for trend-setting, high-design products at the 2014 International Home + Housewares Show head for Discover Design in South Building. The inspiring Discover Design Gallery, accessible to buyers and media, features products submitted for the Global Innovation Award (gia) for Design.
Specialty retailers, editors at influential websites and print publications, trendspotters and independent designers serve as Discover Design judges. They review exhibitors’ entries to choose six products as finalists, three of which will be honored as Global Honorees. They also select three companies as gia finalists for best product collection; one will be named the Global Honoree.
Get acquainted with some of the industry experts who will determine the winners of the Show’s gia product awards. Today we are speaking with Mary Rose Gearon and Jens Bauerle, who together co-founded Global Brand Vision (GBV), a leading international consultancy to retail chains and department stores for home products. Partners in the business and in life, Mary Rose serves as president and Jens as CEO.
With more than 25 years of experience working for Crate and Barrel, Williams-Sonoma and other leading home retailers in product development and global sourcing, Mary Rose is a uniquely accomplished industry expert who specializes in assortment planning, product development, sourcing and buying, vendor development and buying agencies. She speaks and writes five languages, including Mandarin, and has lived in four countries. She served on IHA’s Gourmet Retailer Advisory Council from 2009 to 2011.
Jens Bauerle is an international retail expert with more than 20 years of industry experience. A former Crate and Barrel executive responsible for strategy and business development, Jens leads an extraordinary team of retail consultants (all of whom are at least bilingual) who apply their skills and talents, passions and know-how to clients in developed as well as emerging markets. GBV’s collaborative approach to clients’ projects leverages the psychology of change in a client’s environment for high success. Its growing client base includes leading retailers such as Central (Thailand), Falabella (South America) and Crate and Barrel. Jens speaks and writes fluently in five languages and has lived in six countries. He has served on IHA’s Retailer Advisory Council since 2011.
Mary Rose and Jens, please tell us a bit about yourself and your work.
Mary Rose: Born in England and raised in Germany, Belgium and Italy, I have been lucky to have had a fun and rewarding career in home retail. I started out working for one of the best buying agencies in Florence, Italy, where our portfolio of clients included Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, Door Store and Crate and Barrel. Italy was a leading market for importing quality housewares, furniture and textiles and it was a wonderful training ground for in-depth knowledge of manufacturing techniques and exposed me to the world of American home retail.
Later I worked as the head of Crate and Barrel’s European buying offices, travelling extensively throughout Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, Turkey, Poland and even to Latvia and Lithuania. In 2005 I left Italy and moved to Chicago to work at Crate and Barrel’s corporate headquarters as Director of Trend and Sourcing—a fantastic opportunity to broaden my horizons to the East – (China, Thailand, the Philippines etc.)
Two years ago I joined my husband, Jens Bauerle, as president of Global Brand Vision, a niche consulting company that specializes in retail solutions, from merchandising and sourcing, to store design, visual merchandising and international franchise expansion.
What is the most fun or rewarding part of your job?
Mary Rose: Selecting or helping develop products that people like and buy. The thought that products I have worked on are being used, every day by people all over the world, is amazing. I also love working with young designers and helping them get their creations to market. Young talent has to be encouraged!
Jens: I enjoy working together with our team and our clients in resolving problems in assortment strategy, sourcing, store design and visual merchandising—be it for a new home concept, a shop-in-shop idea, or the remake of an existing business. Each assignment is like a journey that we undertake with a client and each project has its challenges.
What motivates you in your work?
Mary Rose: A passion for product and the teams of people it takes to get a product onto a shelf; from the design brief, to the drawing to the craftsmen who realize the mold to the final sample, there is such commitment and energy – impromptu solutions based on years of experience makes product development truly a mixture of art and science.
Jens: While I enjoy the challenge of working in globally different cultural, climatic, and socio-demographic environments, it is our exceptional ability in bringing our projects to successful conclusion that is our strength. I attribute this strength to the exceptional people in our consultant teams, and our hands-on approach that is very practical and tangible for our clients.
In the past few years, what has changed most in your business?
Mary Rose: The use of computers for highly sophisticated 3D design renderings and the expansion of social media (Facebook, Pinterest etc.) as tools for the dissemination of information, trends and fashions.
Jens: Home retail used to be very country-specific. We have seen a development toward global trends and lifestyles. Size and style preferences still vary, but less so than in the past. The Internet is contributing hugely toward this trend. Furthermore, technology and high operational standards have become very important to the success of the retail business. Creating an exciting, more casual lifestyle in a relaxed atmosphere is paramount in all countries to stay ahead of competition.
How many years have you been coming to the International Home + Housewares Show and what are you looking forward to seeing?
Mary Rose: About 12 years. I’m looking forward to catching up with colleagues and vendors to see what has been a best seller, what is new and get a feel for the retail environment from the men and women in the ‘front line.’
Jens: I first attended the IHA Show in 1996, and have been coming to the Show every year. Maybe I should expect a longevity reward?
Will you be searching for specific items or exhibitors?
Mary Rose: Since my interests span a variety of categories, I am always interested to see what is new, be it an exhibitor or a product or a technique. Most of my clients are looking for tabletop and housewares items so I really keep my eyes out for anything innovative and fresh in those areas.
Jens: I visit the Show to stay in touch with vendors we work with. The Show is a great time to talk about new product and product ideas, and to understand where our vendors are going. I also look out for new vendors, products and ideas that could be relevant to our clients.
Next to the general areas of tabletop, gifts and glass, Discover Design is an important area of focus for us. We look very closely at the gia awards nominees and winners and global retail candidates of the year attract our interest. We also make sure that we see each new exhibitor each year—there can be amazing surprises!
What do you find exciting and inspirational at our Show?
Mary Rose: Apart from the specifically product-based offerings, I find the talks given by industry leaders to be fascinating.
Jens: I love how the Show is evolving and maintains a sense of discovery and freshness from year-to-year.
How does Discover Design enhance the Show experience?
Mary Rose: The IHA’s efforts to bring new talent to the Discover Design area have really paid off and it is one of the focal points during my visit. Innovation and design come from all parts of the world today, from large companies to small, and Discover Design provides a much-needed showcase for this new talent.
Jens: Discover Design is stimulating, and helps push the boundaries of product innovation. It allows young, new talents to showcase their ideas, and motivates everyone to appreciate the value that creative talent is bringing to the retail world and the consumers worldwide.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products?
Mary Rose: Ethical manufacturing standards, authenticity, and the price/quality ratio of the product.
Jens: Authenticity (why, where from, how made); Honesty (quality-price, materials); Life-enhancing (design, colour, shape).
What are some of today’s challenges that new product development professionals face in the housewares market?
Mary Rose: The speed with which a product becomes ‘old’ or is copied means that product development has become even faster and the time from “pen to shelf” gets shorter and shorter, which means that companies must invest more in D&R without trusting that the product’s longevity will provide the payback. More and more retailers expect their vendors to provide private label products which can prove challenging and less cost-effective to the manufacturer.
Jens: Fewer and larger retail groups dominate the market. Next to industry consolidation, there is also the huge transformation of the retail reality of saturated markets toward multichannel retail, resulting in the closure of bigger stores, enhanced shopping experiences within existing and new smaller stores and the demand for exclusive product designs for a specific retailer. This means that product development professionals have to select a few retail chains to work with and that they have to have a steady flow of new product ideas in order to remain relevant in the dynamic retail environment. On the other hand, most product development professionals have access to direct-to-consumer channels.
What attractions, locations or stores do you visit while you are in Chicago?
Mary Rose: I always try to slip in a visit to one of Chicago’s amazing museums and certainly enjoy the vibrant food scene as well as the top-notch shopping both professionally and personally!
Jens: Next to the usual visits to beautiful retail concepts like Crate and Barrel, Restoration Hardware, Pottery Barn, Williams-Sonoma, West Elm, Urban Outfitters and Sur la Table, we always make sure to visit smaller or independent stores, and of course, sample the amazing food scene.
Thank you, Mary Rose and Jens. You two certainly are a dynamic duo! We can be sure that you will meet people from your broad international network of friends and colleagues at the Show. And that you will discover many surprises with new exhibitors, delightful products and informative educational events. See you soon!
Visit Discover Design and See the Products Chosen by the Judges
In these final weeks before the Show, our blog introduces Discover Design and Design Debut exhibitors to give you a glimpse of the inspirations, influences and ideas that go into creating the exciting products that you’ll see in March at McCormick Place.
Discover Design is the premier design destination at the International Home + Housewares Show. Located in the South Building, the invitation-only category features more than 100 exhibitors from around the world. Companies driven by innovation and design present distinctive products and collections in Tabletop, Gift, Textiles and Home Décor categories. Learn more about Discover Design exhibitors and their products by visiting here.