Duke Ratliff

IHA Shoots For the Stars

Did anyone watch the Cosmos television show? The recently concluded Fox series, an updated version of the old Carl Sagan program, took viewers on trips to new, unexplored worlds.

The International Housewares Association last month unveiled a plan to boldly go where no home furnishings trade association has gone before--to the world of consumers.

Best known for its mammoth, annual trade show, the IHA is preparing an all-out consumer push with a consumer brand as well as a consumer-focused website.

The name of the brand hadn't been revealed at press time, but IHA officials said the effort was being done all in the name of providing consumers with information to facilitate the purchase of housewares products.

"It's not about promoting the IHA to the consumer," said Derek Miller, IHA's global marketing vice president. "It's not about bringing consumers to the show. It's about bringing our members and their products directly to the consumer."

The consumer-targeted website will feature constantly evolving articles on how housewares items can solve specific problems. Organized by categories such as cleaning, organization, personal care, cooking and dining, the articles will be written by third-party journalists.

The articles will often focus around holidays and special occasions with stories on tips for storing Christmas or Halloween decorations and birthday cake baking suggestions. Of course the articles will be accompanied by links to vendors--and IHA members--that offer items pertinent to the articles.

IHA members can create brand identity on the site with brand information along with the company's logo. At the same time, companies can include photos and descriptions of products suited to the article-reading consumers. Housewares companies also can include information on where to buy.

"We don't care where they buy the product," Miller said. "We just care that they DO buy the product."

Miller said the time is right for the IHA to focus on the consumer. For example, consumers have already exhibited interest in housewares items with plenty of visits to the already-existing, trade-centric website

"We get millions of people coming to our website every year," Miller said. "Just look at our industry--we don't have millions of people. So consumers are coming to our site looking for consumer information and they're finding business-to-business information. [The new website] will provide business-to-consumer information and provide them the tools and information that they need to purchase the product."

Social media opportunities also help set the stage for the IHA's consumer push. While the IHA's plan to go after consumers may be similar to marketing efforts by Cotton, Inc., and the "Got Milk" push, the Housewares Association will not attempt to copy their expensive consumer ad campaigns. Instead, the IHA will rely on cost-effective social media efforts on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

The consumer site launches on October 1, just in time for Halloween articles.

"We've traditionally considered 'buyers' to be distributors and retailers," Miller said. "Now our definition of 'buyer' extends onto the consumer."