Frill is gone at Housewares Show
By Sandra Guy Business Reportersguy@suntimes.com March 7, 2011 8:39AM
The International Housewares Show at McCormick Place, Sunday, March 6, 2011. | Jean Lachat~Sun-Times
Updated: April 8, 2011 12:22AM
Shoppers hungry for a deal are eager to find inventive, sturdy and useful household goods, especially if the products sport bright, clean, retro designs.
The attitude is part of a “nesting” trend that started after the 9/11 terrorist attack, and has continued through the recession as people turn to their homes for comfort, relief and entertainment.
Those messages shone through Sunday at the International Home and Housewares Show, where manufacturers, retail buyers and trade groups are foraging for wares to put on store shelves.
A keynote speech today titled “Thriving in a New Age of Anti-Consumerism” will highlight how consumers have stopped equating personal happiness with material possessions. The show, which is closed to the public, runs through Wednesday at McCormick Place.
An 87-year-old Chicago company, Warp Bros., headquartered at 4647 W. Augusta, touted some of the most utilitarian goods at the show: Its claim-to-fame plastic storm-window material, “Flex-O-Glass,” which insulates and seals out drafts, as well as ribbed shelf liner and oversized, see-through yellow “banana bags” to store furniture in the attic.
The bags and liner start at $6 and the pre-cut Flex-O-Glass retails for $25 at hardware stores.
Key to the company’s success is founder Harold Warp’s early 1920s observation that farm chicks grew faster and had stronger bones when exposed to ultraviolet light through his Flex-O-Glass than those housed under plain glass.
“My dad was way ahead of his time, since we now know that UV radiation exposure stimulates the production of Vitamin D,” said company President Harold G. Warp. “He chose to come to Chicago from the farm in Nebraska because Chicago was centrally located for mail order.”
Warp Bros. (warps.com) employs 60 at its headquarters and its factory in Dixon.
A three-year-old storage-products company in west suburban Berkeley called “Honey-Can-Do” (honeycando.com) has demonstrated its inventiveness in a way that appeals to today’s on-line retailers and functionality-focused retailers.
The company’s product list has ballooned to 468 items from 98 two years ago as it offers hangers, carts, organizers and shelving in wood, chrome, steel, bamboo, plastic and other materials to offer retailers a wide variety of options.
Shoppers can find the company’s zip-up gift-wrap organizer for $17.99 and its chrome folding utility table for $100 at retailers such as Aldi, amazon.com, Kmart, Target and Bed Bath and Beyond.
“We saw, starting in 2008, that people were looking for [lower] prices for high quality, so we responded to that demand,” said founder Steve Greenspon.
Ken Laner, founder of Buffalo Grove-based 6 Ideas, sells spray and aerosol bed-bug killer ($6.99); Porta-Jump, a $29.95 miniature battery that plugs into a car’s cigarette lighter to re-charge a car, and a $39.95 to $49.95 Table in a Bag for a quick picnic or outdoor concert meal on the grass.
Other companies from outside of the Chicago area offered futuristic items:
† ID Cook, a French company, touted its solar-powered oven and barbeque, whose aluminum and thermal insulation do away with the need for charcoal and gas. The products are not yet sold in the United States, but the company hopes they will be soon.
† Mark Feldstein & Associates, which introduced the first singing backyard-bird clock (different birds “sing” at the start of each new hour), is selling the Audubon song-bird clock. The company also sells “Peanuts” cartoon-strip-themed alarm clocks.