talking trade A fantastic collaborative event

Richard Walker, commercial director of housewares distributor Eddingtons, reflects on his recent invitation from the International Housewares Association to deliver the UK market overview presentation at its IBC 2019 Global Forum

Container Store, Sur La Table, Bloomingdale’s and Target, where homewares have a huge presence and depth of range, with spaces dedicated to store ready shippers and more elaborate in-store displays (such as the largest display of Lodge cast iron I’ve seen outside a trade show). At all times the high level of customer engagement was evident, from tasting stations and nut butter machines in grocery, to the offer of a Nespresso coffee or enrolment in a cookery class with the aroma of baked muffins temptingly wafting through the Sur La Table store. All these stores should be complimented for the high level of attentive service, greeting and customer engagement that I experienced.


was delighted and honoured to be invited to speak at the IBC (International Business Council) Global Forum, held at San Diego in September. Part of the International Housewares Association (IHA), the IBC meets annually to focus on export opportunities and address challenges for IHA members who are looking to export or who are already existing exporters, with experiences to share and learn from.

It is a fantastic collaborative event held in a

different location each year over three days, where invited speakers and IHA members come together for a series of presentations, networking events and creative workshops. My weekend started ahead of the Forum with the opportunity to visit several stores in the San Diego area. This was a great chance to see how some of our partner brands were presented at retail in their home territory. I started off at a new one for me: Lazy Acres, a wonderful grocery/health store which is part of a small chain with a focus on natural and organic produce. The zero-packaging concept was already well imbedded with stunning grocery merchandising and good presence in- store for a range of Full Circle cleaning accessories which ticked their obvious green focus box. Next on to Ralphs, [a supermarket chain which is] part of the Kroger portfolio. It was interesting to see the private label offer working so well here. Later, onwards to Whole Foods where the product adjacency style of merchandising prevailed; this really enhanced the customer store experience. Particularly noted here were our brands such as Regency Wraps and Full Circle. Next on to some usual suspects such as

October/November 2019

“My main takeaway was the infectious US sales positivity and warm industry personalities”

The Forum itself started with a speed dating session where prospective brands were able to reach out and explore opportunities of distribution directly with Eddingtons and other contributors - and a number of new leads were generated from this. A meet-and-greet followed with all Forum delegates, culminating in a drinks reception and opening dinner. The next full day consisted of some great insights into different export markets from the various IHA global offices.

The highlight for me, on day one, was a talk

by Patrick Lynch from the Thunderbird School of Global Management. This focused on the topic of global influencers and how they can be used to enhance the marketing of a product or brand.

The session culminated in an active workshop where we were divided into groups, selecting and allocating roles within each, to launch and market a fictitious product whilst using an ‘influencer’ to help increase sales. An interesting exercise. Needless to say, our team won the task - albeit there was a roll of the dice involved!

My session was on the final day. It began with

a brief introduction of my role within Eddingtons and the part I play within BHETA [British Home Enhancement Trade Association] as chair of the housewares committee. I was tasked with comparing and contrasting

differences between housewares in the UK and North America. I began by setting the scene with some basic demographics, filtering down through to advising on geographical challenges and logistics. I went on to highlight some housewares- specific contrasts within areas of regulation and standards, to some practical comparisons of US domestic kitchens and households versus those in UK. I was asked to comment on the current high

street retailer make-up and key players by channel, and I updated the Forum on some recent changes of ownerships and key acquisitions within the industry. This led into my view of the changing state of the high street, indicating some of the challenges we are seeing today, as well as commenting on how those that remain are striving to survive eg omnichannel retail, experiential shopping, technology-led initiatives and the influence of online in general. I then focused on the tremendous

opportunity that remains within housewares in the UK today, touching on emerging trends and areas where US brands can make a difference by embracing current trends. I moved onto key trading touch points within the UK, covering areas such as buying groups, trade fairs and associations, and the main trade publications. An overview of Eddingtons concluded my session, and I indicated how we might be able to further assist brands from North America in distributing in the UK whilst also managing wider pan-European opportunities. Throughout the event we heard from a

breadth of speakers from a worldwide skillset: retailers, distributors and mentors. The workshops were market-specific but also included a session on the Trump tariffs affecting US brands that manufacture in China. I left Brexit as a topic for another day. My main takeaway from the event was the

infectious US sales positivity and warm industry personalities - and also the acknowledgement from both sides of the water that despite our cultural differences, retail is changing, politics is changing and consumers are caring more than ever about the planet. Suppliers need to continue to innovate and

brands need to change shape and adjust their offer, from the heirloom ‘buy once’ cast iron pan from Lodge to the latest vegan wrap from Bee’s Wrap. In order to survive, we need to adjust. | 41

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