March 22, 2009

Housewares holding up in recession

This year's International Housewares Association show opened Sunday in Chicago amid expectations the economy would have little impact on the overall industry.

The annual paean to consumerism drew nearly 2,000 exhibitors to McCormick Place along with 60,000 registered attendees.

The housewares industry has a history of being somewhat resistant to deep downturns and this one seems to follow the traditional pattern, IHA President Phil Brandl said. People are staying home more, preparing more meals at home and doing lighter remodeling and home organization projects. Each of those requires housewares products.

Brandl said retail food preparation items are still selling well, especially products geared toward healthy cooking. In-home entertaining is once again in vogue over restaurant meals, he said.

One aspect that might give housewares a boost in this down economy is the emphasis this year on green -- environmentally friendly -- products, everything from bamboo towels and chemical-free cleaners to plastic containers free of bisphenol-A to a wall mounted heater that can double as do-it-yourself decorative art.

The trade show runs through Tuesday and is not open to the public.