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Houseworld Expo Has a Good Show : But the Attendance Turns Out to Be Disappointing

September 10, 1987|MINNIE BERNARDINO | Times Staff Writer

LAS VEGAS — Spuds McKenzie made it to the Las Vegas Convention Center last week, showing off his flashy red and white garb in Libbey's holiday barware items. But this time there was no crowd to see Spuds, the year's phenomenal party animal for Bud Light's ad campaign.

The retail buyer turnout was scarce at the First Annual Houseworld Expo, which ran for three days. Aside from Libbey Glass, there were about 400 houseware, giftware and home-furnishings manufacturers' booths. Disappointed manufacturers blamed the poor show attendance on the re-emergence of a second major national housewares show in Chicago in January after the usual fall show was canceled.

Produced by Interface Group Inc., the Las Vegas expo should be commended for the smoothness of the show as well as the choice of good speakers and interesting topics featured in the conference sessions.

'Explosive Fragmentation'

In a consumer demographics session, for instance, the requirements of today's Mr. and Mrs., or Mr. or Ms. housewares customers were discussed. The old theme of reaching the world with a single message is a fairy tale that's all over, according to speaker Channing Stowell, vice president of Central Region, Claritas L. P., Chicago. Taking its place is an "explosive fragmentation of America," which means that each group by differences in age, income, ethnicity, household size, mobility, urbanization and education should be individually targeted. Even the Latino group, which is predicted to be the largest in minority groups by 1995, will be fragmented. Also, what is exciting to the "dinks" (double income, no kids) may have zero impact to the growing "gray power" (senior citizens) or to the "golden pond" (aging blue-collar) group.

An easy target group that should inspire housewares retailers and manufacturers is the newlywed or the bride and bridegroom group. Billions of dollars are spent each year for wedding gifts and new household needs, outperforming other markets. In contrast to established households that have brand loyalties and take years to replace a housegood, newlywed couples are more open to brand selections.

In a color conference session, Leatrice Eiseman, executive director for Pantone Color Institute, spoke about a new arts-and-crafts movement in household design. This involves the use of vivid or vibrant pastels in a Santa Fe style, which is influenced by the Indian teal-type turquoise, including purples, or lavenders mixed with earthy browns.

Color Combinations

At this point the name of the game seems to be odd color combinations, particularly for fashion, which seems to dip into houseware colors too. For economic as well as creative reasons, Eiseman said, we're seeing outrageous color mixings such as pink and sagebrush or the taupe-green of the Banana Republic influence combined with past shade trends.

Other industry issues that caught the interest of retailers included sophisticated packaging and display trends, looking into the import crafts and the cookware successes.

For now here are some of the innovative products highlighted at the show, a few of which may not be available yet in the Los Angeles market.

Aside from a colorful presentation of food on skewers, the delicious smell of teriyaki glazed chicken wings attracted customers to Peter Boyle's booth. Attractively packaged in a wooden case, the Australian-born chef's invention is called the Outback Barbie Rack. It's a set of barbecue accessories that makes you feel like you've done your homework or prep work and can sit back and wait for compliments as you grill with ease.

The Barbie Rack consists of pins that can be used to thread almost any type of food or combinations, wooden-handled double skewers to cradle the pins, and metal raisers to keep the food out of the flames.

Wahl Clipper Corp. is just one of several companies that have brought out a clothes shaver this year. Called the Defuzzer Fabric Shaver, the small pistol-shape plastic gadget is battery operated. It removes fuzz, pills and threads from sweaters, clothing, upholstery and other fabric surfaces.

For Gisela Flick, owner of Delux Distributions International in Torrance, the response for her West German-made Warmdeck has been national and international, capturing the interest of restaurateurs and homemakers alike. Warmdeck keeps food and beverages warm up to 14 hours with an odorless and smokeless fuel that uses no alcohol. It features heat-retaining cast iron or enameled white or blue cast iron set on a wooden base.

Although not a brand new concept to Hawaiians and Asians, the Mini Ice Shaver kit from Flavor Time in Salt Lake City was a popular show item. Available in orange, pink, blue and green, the hand-cranked shaver has a sharp blade for shaving fine ice. It comes with plastic tubs for freezing blocks of ice and fruit flavored concentrates for making the syrup for Hawaiian shave ice.

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