IHA gets acquainted with Marie McGrath-Brown to learn about innovations in dinnerware as well as the growing impact of women innovators in product development, issues that she will discuss at the 2018 International Home + Housewares Show. At the Show, the Innovation Theater will feature 21 presentations over four days. Topics will include smart home, consumer shopping preferences, branding and global market trends.
Marie McGrath-Brown is the general manager and president of Gaia Group USA, which creates dinnerware notable for its organic shapes and colors, featuring designs and finishes inspired by nature, urban living and patterns from around the globe. She has more than 25 years of leadership experience in home-related retail. She most recently served as VP/GMM of The Great Indoors and Divisional VP of Housewares for Sears. She has been responsible for the strategic development and execution of new business start-ups, business turnarounds and growth strategies.
Dedicated to bringing consumers “the best of the earth,” woman-owned/woman-led Gaia Group USA designs and manufactures innovatively-designed dinnerware for home, hospitality and private labels. Gaia Group USA divisions include Gaia Hospitality, with its restaurant and hospitality dinnerware products, and Gaia Privée, a private-label service that allows manufacturers and retailers to work one-on-one with Gaia’s design and manufacturing teams to create their own bespoke products.
Marie, what is the most exciting or rewarding part of your work?
I love meeting buyers and industry professionals who are excited about Gaia Group’s products and understand the delicate blend of art and science it takes to create beautiful dinnerware and be successful in this business.
What fuels your inspiration?
For dinnerware and dining, it’s bringing my favorite people together to share in a meal, an occasion and the chance to feel connected.
Can you name a pivotal event or project that impacted your career or company?
During Gaia’s inaugural launch at the 2016 Show, we were invited to participate in line reviews for a major retailer. At that point as a company, we were less than five months old and it was an incredible validation of the work we were doing.
In the past few years, what has changed most in your business?
It’s no secret that brick & mortar business is suffering in general, so slow turning businesses like dinnerware are financially scrutinized and often downsized for more lucrative lines of business. In addition, we’ve seen a trend toward simpler lifestyles with less accumulation of material possessions.
How has your company met these challenges in the way you do your work?
We work closely with private-label product-development initiatives to provide trend direction that is kitchen-friendly and has longevity. We also strongly support online retail initiatives.
Recipe for Success: Women, Housewares and Innovation
Tuesday, March 13 9:30 – 10:20 a.m.
Innovation Theater, Lakeside Center, Room E350
Why did you choose to speak at the International Home + Housewares Show?
The Show is a leading event in our industry and is also an important part of Gaia’s company history. It’s a great privilege to address this community to talk about women innovating in this space.
Tell us what you will be speaking about and how this topic is important for Show audiences.
Women have been inventing and innovating for the home for centuries and, in the coming years, will be taking even more significant leadership roles in advancing technology for home use. In an amusing, surprising and thought-provoking way, this presentation will track how women have uniquely contributed to household innovation. It will highlight women who are making significant contributions today and programs, such as STEM education, that are helping pave the way for more women to take leadership positions in product and service development.
Giving a glimpse towards the future, the presentation will focus on groundbreaking innovation labs that are creating new avenues for household products and services to be created, as well as bleeding-edge technologies that will completely change how products are manufactured, distributed and purchased, such as 3D printing and augmented reality, which promise to shorten the product development lifecycle from months to days.
What are you looking forward to most from speaking at the Innovation Theater?
This is my first time presenting in the Theater and I’m looking forward to sharing insights about women’s innovation in this industry.
What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products or how to shop for them?
For consumers shopping for dinnerware, the online choices are almost endless. With so many options and angles for inspiration, it is difficult to commit to a style to integrate into your existing decor. Trusted shopping websites that curate assortments can be a great help here. But it’s hard for a website to replace feeling the weight and shape of a bowl in your hands.
What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals and/or retailers face in the housewares market?
An ongoing issue for new product development is how to create trend-right style that is also timeless. The consumer purchase incident rate is low for dinnerware, yet it is considered a fashion good, where trend plays a role in the design—so it’s a tough balance.
Thank you, Marie, for sharing your experiences in creating a young brand and your perspectives on female leadership roles in design and management. We look forward to getting to know more about the vital role of women in the housewares industry during your program on Tuesday, March 13 at 9:30 a.m.
Headquartered in Hoffman Estates, IL, Gaia Group USA is found online at www.gaiagroupusa.com
Learn from experts about how to invigorate your new products and services by enhancing your innovation efforts. Critical issues such as global design trends, branding, the needs of distinct consumer age and gender groups, and questions about smart/connected devices in our home environments all impact the home goods market. Be sure to attend the free executive-level educational sessions at the Innovation Theater. These programs will give you a fresh perspective as you walk the Show and will inspire, inform and improve your business. All programs will be audio-recorded and will be available at www.housewares.org after the Show.