2008 National Hardware Show Report

Innovation and invention were alive and well at the 63rd National Hardware Show®, held in May in Las Vegas, Nevada. Buyers, agents, distributors and of course manufacturers from all around the world gathered at the event for three days. They found an industry that was hungry for new products and which was focused on environmentally sensitive “green” products, from expanded low VOC paint lines to hundreds of safer lawn care and home cleaning products.

New additions

Joining the regular New Product World was a special Green Products World display, acting as a quick way for buyers to quickly determine which products and stands they wanted to visit. Smart buyers have always made the New Product display their first stop because it allows them to prowl the area and quickly identify new vendors or new products. Show management even produces a special small directory of all the items found in the New Product section, making it easy for buyers to get more details about interesting products.

No less than 35,000 visitors examined the offerings of 3,500 exhibitors, hundreds of them first-time exhibitors, while several educational seminars added to the excitement. These included research results by the Home Improvement Research Institute that found that business – although slow now in the U. S. – should pick up again in 2009 with an anticipated 2.9 percent gain. Similar gains can also be expected in international markets as the world’s economy slowly improves.

John W. Herbert, managing director of the European DIY Retailers Association (EDRA), said in his seminar that the Eastern Europe and Russian markets are growing far more rapidly than the mature western European markets. He also outlined some of the moves made by western home center chains into these emerging markets.

Emphasis on “New”

Whoever said that there is nothing new in tools obviously didn’t attend this year’s show. Many clever and visible changes were evident in many basic tools, while dozens of others were newly introduced. Hardware was offering new designs and finishes while Electricals offered new fans and lights of all shapes, sizes and finishes, as well as improvements in electrical fittings.

VOC levels were probably the dominant theme amongst paint producers, what with so much recent consumer concern over the environment. Indeed, several players introduced new formulations of familiar brands with the express intention of being more environmentally sound.

The show also featured an extensive lawn and garden section with massive outdoor furniture displays, patio supplies and even lawn ornaments. Along with the introduction of the expanded “green” products section, the Homewares section and the accompanying Gourmet Housewares Show was perfect for broad-line buyers.

More than 1,000 foreign exhibitors – most of them from Asia – were also located in a special Global Hardware Expo, where buyers interested in foreign sources could concentrate their search. Indeed, show management gave a lot of extra attention to international buyers, such as a special reception, a store tour conducted by the Worldwide DIY Council in conjunction with the Show, and special lounges and seminars of interest.

Smaller players

An important aspect for many buyers is the fact that the event is a showcase for many small and mid-size manufacturers whose products can help retailers and wholesalers differentiate themselves from giant retailers.

While firms like Wal*Mart, Home Depot and Lowes rack up sales in the billions – with other giants doing the same in other countries – smaller retailers must find categories and products that will set them apart and provide consumers with problem-solving new items and hard-to-find products. The National Hardware Show® is the ideal event for fulfilling that need.

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