Styling, high tech spark new lines

CHICAGO–Retailers shopping new lines at this week’s International Housewares Exposition will see a wealth of undercabinet mount electrics, more sophisticated irons, a palette of rich colors in cookware, dinnerware, and glass, along with a proliferation of thin profile clocks.

In short, manufacturers at McCormick Place and McCormick Place West have come up with a new wave of product ideas built on concepts that have been gaining industry acceptance in recent years.

On the undercabinet mount front, Toastmaster and Hamilton Beach are joining the fray, following the lead of General Electric, which pioneered the idea two years ago and was followed by Norelco, Robeson and Sanyo among others soon after. Toastmaster, however, is giving the concept a new twist with the first such toaster-oven-broiler.

Probably the most dramatic innovation can be seen in the electric iron classification, where the electronic has finally hit with such systems being featured in new Sunbeam and GE models; and West Bend has come up with what it claims to be the first cordless unit in the industry. Travel irons are being offered in streamlined versions to appeal to American’s growing mobile population.

The evidence that a new technological and styling wave has engulfed the housewares industry does not end there. In humidifiers, for instance, ultrasonic units from Corona and Douglas at $150 helped revive the classification last season, their first full year at retail. At this show, at least three firms–Robeson, Welbilt and Holmes–are set to move into the field with units retailing as low as $75.

The personal care industry appears to be on a flocking kick in hairsetters, curling irons and brushes. Thin profiles have now become the norm in clocks thanks to the quartz revolution.

But the more imaginative approach to housewares styling is not being restricted to small appliances. Like some electric categories, new cookware is being offered in richer hues, harking back to the color binge of the late 1960s.

Elsewhere in the cookware arena, the application of SilverStone coatings is being extended to microwave accessories for the first time this year.

Contemporary sytling seems to cut across virtually every product classifications. In clocks, for example, it is reflected in the increased use of dark solid woods and bright colored plastic cases. It is manifested in brighter colors in glassware, and growing use of bands in dinnerware.

Licensing, too, is shaping up as a growing force in new lines. Probably the best example of this is Westclox’s new line decorated with American Greetings’ Get Along Gang. Thermos and others who have taken the route before are expanding lines in this direction.

These are just some of the product trends that emerge in reviews of new lines being groomed for this, the first April housewares show that appear throughout this section.