"Brilliant"; "inspiring"; "excellent"; "thought-provoking and informative"; "time very well spent!"; "a great initiative - look forward to next year!" - just some of the comments received from delegates after yesterday's Housewares Conference & Innovation Awards.

Housewares Conference & Innovation Awards a resounding success!

“Brilliant”; “inspiring”; “excellent”; “thought-provoking and informative”; “time very well spent!”; “a great initiative – look forward to next year!” – just some of the comments received from delegates after yesterday’s Housewares Conference & Innovation Awards.

Housewares Conference & Innovation Awards a resounding success!

Feedback revealed that 55% of delegates would definitely recommend the 2013 conference, while a further 39% probably would – a 96% positive vote.

A capacity audience at the event saw a series of speakers give presentations on subjects ranging from high street trading to the influence of the internet to the next big thing in housewares. The Gold winners in the first Housewares Innovation Awards were also revealed.

The new programme of awards consists of three elements, honouring top retailers, top products and naming the Housewares Salesperson of the Year.

The Retail Innovation Award for businesses under £1m turnover went to Cook to Perfection of King’s Lynn, and for businesses with a £1m to £10m turnover to West Country cookshop chain Kitchens.

The Gold award for retailers with a £10m-plus turnover went to John Lewis.

The Rising Star accolade, which recognises excellent new retail businesses, was awarded to Papylon of north London.

The best recently-launched products in the industry were also recognised in the Housewares Innovation Awards. Here, in the Cookware & Bakeware category, Gold went to Alan Silverwood’s Victoria Surprise loose-based cake set, while Small Electricals Gold was awarded to the Nespresso Pixie coffee machine.

DKB won the top acccolade in the Foodprep category for its Cole & Mason Precision Mills System, and Joseph Joseph’s Arena Self-Draining dishrack won in Kitchenware. In the Tabletop category the winner was PHA’s KitchEssentials Siliconezone Egg Chair collection.

Finally, Housewares Salesperson of the Year was named as Kevin Towler of Rayware.

The first speaker at the conference – chaired by leading member of the housewares industry Pam Plant – was GfK’s Sam Kelly. She demonstrated how well small kitchen appliances are holding up in a tough economic climate when compared to other consumer durables. Coffee machines, deep fryers, food prep, irons and kettles are amongst the best performers, she said – and she predicted that growth in the sector will continue.

Kitchen Kapers cookshop chain director Gary Gordon took an in-depth look at the range of problems facing the high street, and stated: “Car parking is the biggest issue facing high streets, not the internet”.

However, positive moves were now being made to help beleaguered town centre retailers, he said, and he pointed out that the number of independent shops was increasing while that of multiples was falling. In addition, the turnover of cookshops had risen by almost 6% in the last quarter, he said.

He urged independent retailers to concentrate on certain specialist areas, have USPs in as many areas as possible and to become multi-channel businesses.

Multi-Michelin-starred chef Heston Blumenthal had his audience riveted as he explained some of the extraordinarily involved and precise processes food undergoes in his kitchen. He explained how he had worked with a physicist, perfumiers and even sound engineers to help him realise some of the most exquisite dishes ever produced.

Blumenthal also revealed that the sous-vide – which vacuum packs food before cooking in a water bath – had been “the biggest change in professional kitchens this century”, and predicted: “It has the potential to be the biggest change in domestic kitchens since the microwave”.

Colanders managing director David Eggison related his nine years’ experience of online selling, which now accounts for 80% of his turnover, largely supplanting his bricks-and-mortar cookshop business. He urged retailers looking to branch into ecommerce to seek out niche products, and products (such as ceiling racks) which could be handled more easily on-screen than in a shop.

But he had some strong words for suppliers, many of which, he said, were allowing some huge price differences to develop between online and bricks and mortar.

Dexam managing director Roger Morgan-Grenville gave a fascinating talk based around the life of a Dexam carving dish, introduced 50 years ago and still in production. He looked at the cultural and business environment into which it had been launched and compared it with today’s times – which had not altogether progressed, he argued.

Following up his presentation was Garden & Leisure Group director Carol Paris, who told her audience that there was “a natural synergy” between the garden centre and the cookshop markets. She revealed that only 50% of the company’s sales were now in “pure gardening” and that, for instance, it now sells more cookery books than gardening books.

However, this was incremental growth and not cannibalisation, she assured her audience.

The Housewares Conference & Innovation Awards and previous evening’s networking dinner took place at Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire and were organised by HousewaresLive.net and Housewares Magazine.

Our thanks go to all our speakers, Pam Plant and our sponsors: AIS; Spring Fair International and Autumn Fair International; Exclusively Housewares; Lakeland; EPE; Chomette; Home; Wilton; Jarden Consumer Solutions; BHETA; Salter; International Home+Housewares Show; Kitchen Craft; Haus; CATRA; Grunwerg; Brabantia; Nespresso; Sistema; Denby; Arcos; Tescoma; DuPont Teflon; Tradestock; WMF; Arthur Price; Oneida International; and Insight Housewares.

Thanks too to our supporters Steamer Trading Cookshop, Cook@Group and The Cookshop & Housewares Association.

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