Retailers and media looking for trend-setting, high-design products at the 2014 International Home + Housewares Show headed for Discover Design in South Building. The premier design destination at the Show, Discover Design hosted more than 100 exhibitors that presented distinctive products in the Tabletop, Gift and Home Décor categories. The Show also introduced 10 emerging companies in Design Debut, a row of 10 mini-exhibitors set between the Discover Design Gallery and its Lounge.
At the Show last month, exhibitors met new buyers and reported successful new business. “The 2014 Show saw an increase in U.S. and international registration and non-U.S. attendance represented the greatest growth. Specialty retailers made up 75% of our 21,000 buyers,” said Perry Reynolds, vice president of global trade development.
The inspiring Discover Design Gallery, accessible to buyers and media, featured products submitted for the gia Global Innovation Awards for Design. Specialty retailers, editors at influential websites and print publications, trendspotters and independent designers served as Discover Design judges. They reviewed exhibitors’ entries to choose six products as finalists, three of which were honored as Global Honorees. They also selected three companies as gia finalists for best product collection; one was named the Global Honoree. The Discover Design gallery catalogue featured the products entered for consideration and displayed in the Gallery.
Australian Discover Design Judge Shares Top3’s Approach
Before the Show, we got acquainted with some of the industry experts who determined the winners of the Show’s gia product awards. Today we are speaking with Terri Winter, owner of top3 in Australia. She served on the judging panel and shares some of her experiences at the Show.
Terri Winter founded top3, headquartered in Sydney, in 2001. The unique concept presents the top three items in their respective categories, selected according to design criteria, to offer products in kitchen and dining housewares and accessories. Top3 is about editing options, not limiting choice, and focuses on quality, innovation and style. It sources the best-designed products from around Australia and the world, presented in exciting in-store and online experiences. Top3 believes in fostering design, not stealing it, and makes sure that all top3 products are authentic. Now with three stores, two in Sydney and one in Melbourne, top3 boasts more than 40,000 members—its most loyal customers—and has been recognized with design and retail industry awards, including IHA’s gia retail excellence award.
Terri, tell us a bit about yourself. What is the most fun or rewarding part of your job?
The most fun (and the most rewarding) part of my job is the research and the buying. I am very lucky to really not consider a large part of my work as real work. I don’t watch TV really at all – my evening enjoyment is flipping through the latest design and home magazines and cruising the web for new and upcoming products.
What inspires your passion in your work?
I am inspired to see how much innovation and talent there is in the world. It would be fair to think at some point that there will be no new ideas– but for more than a decade now I am delighted and amazed with the new ideas that emerge in product design. Receiving new product samples is like having Christmas every day of the year!
In the past few years, what has changed most in your business?
Over the past few years the biggest change for me has been having other key team members become more responsible for their own roles and letting go of the feeling that I need to do everything. There is often someone else who may even do it better! Obviously more people shop online as well. We have been online since we started in 2001, so our online store is constantly updated and the amount of information people can get there is far greater, with larger images and video. Being online has always been part of our business.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products?
Consumers want quality products that do not need to be constantly replaced. They want products that enhance their daily lives, consider the environment in production or materials and products that simply do their job!
What are some of today’s challenges that retailers face in the housewares market?
Once of the biggest challenges these days is ensuring that customers understand the difference between an original quality product and a cheap copy or replica so they avoid disappointment. “Getting the Look” has been pushed by magazines for the past few years, but these products often don’t last and are of poor quality. The Internet offers easy access to a huge amount of images that may LOOK like what you are searching for, but are often misleading or have little information about the quality or authenticity of the product. This makes it harder for consumers to make informed decisions. These cheap imitations devalue the original product and it is important for us to educate customers as to why they should buy the better quality original in the first place. We have heard disappointment from customers who bought cheap junk and then come to us for something that will last. Many are realizing that you get what you pay for!
How many years have you been coming to the International Home + Housewares Show?
My first visit was in 2009.
What do you find exciting and inspirational at our Show?
There are a large number of smaller companies and businesses that show as well as the larger companies—so it is a great cross-mixture. The smaller innovative housewares brands are really important for me.
How does Discover Design enhance the Show experience for buyers?
Discover Design is a great addition because many people do not take design factors into account as much as they should in their buying. Everything, every product is designed to some extent, but true design considers the user and the manufacturing process so you receive a much higher quality product for the price. Design can reduce manufacturing costs and increase value and integrity of a product. Design is not just about the colour and the pattern—design is planned long before the product is in manufacture. Discover Design showcases the products that apply design and shows everybody who may never have thought about the design process what caring about design can achieve. The calibre of the products in Discover Design is very high.
Were you looking for any specific trends and products that fit those trends?
We do tend to be more about classic design and not specifically trend-related. Despite saying that, however, the increased interest in timber and natural materials certainly influences our decisions.
Tell us about how the Discover Design judging process worked.
Since the judges are located around the U.S. and the globe—I am based in Australia—the judging happens online. We read the submitters’ product descriptions and see their images on a password-protected site and then we vote our choices.
What did you find most interesting in the entries?
I am always impressed with simple innovation. Design does not need to jump up and down and be loud to be heard. The great thing about awards like Discover Design’s gia is that they ensure everyone considers design as an integral part of a product. Companies understand that good design makes business sense, and it shows when you see the submissions every year. Design improves our everyday life, and it is a joy to see more and more people discovering the thrill of using a product that works – and lasts due to good design practice.
Did you get a chance to meet with the exhibitors whose products were selected as gia Honorees?
I met many of the exhibitors and we will have several of the winners and the nominees coming on board with our range at top3 by design in the coming months. We have several products from previous years also.
What types of new products caught your eye for your stores?
Can’t divulge that one – but there are quite a few!!
What events at the Show did you especially enjoy?
The Leatrice Eiseman + Tom Mirable session was fantastic.
Did you find time to enjoy Chicago after a long day of business at the Show?
Although we were there only for a few days this time, were lucky enough to dine with some Los Angeles-based friends at the amazing L20 restaurant. The meal was simply incredible—art and food combined. Every dish outdid the one before it and we finished up at 1 in the morning!!! It was fabulous.
Thank you, Terri, for describing how you value quality and offer design choices in your stores. Thank you for serving as a Discover Design judge and for sharing your thoughts about our recent Show. We’ll see you again at our next Show, March 7-10, 2015!
To learn more about top3 by design, Australia’s design store, please visit www.top3.com.au.
Discover Design Gallery Attracts Buyers and Media
The Gallery displayed more than 200 exhibitors’ products. At the reception Saturday evening March 15th, exhibitors mingled with retailers and media.
Learn more about Discover Design exhibitors and their products by visiting www.housewares.org/discoverdesign
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