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Outside innovation

Outdoor living takes front seat at 2011 National Hardware Show

Outside LivingFrom left, Meredith Hattori, Bronze Award, Nature Power Products; Victoria Ip, Silver Award, Nexgrill; Frank Smith, Honorable Mention, Bonide Products, and Alan Sadler, Gold Award, LeafCat.
From its "Breakfast of Retail Champions" to the large outdoor tailgate party to the massive exhibitors' area, the 2011 National Hardware Show certainly had something for everyone who was looking for innovative and necessary products for outside and inside the home.
     Billed as "nine shows in one," the National Hardware Show last month in Las Vegas showcased everything from hardware, tools, housewares, paint, plumbing, inventions, pet products, storage, lawn and garden/outdoor living.
     To kick off the show, Reed Exhibitions held an invitation only breakfast for its Channel Leaders Club. This group is made up of a who's-who of the top 200 retail groups from around the world. Reed Expo goes out of its way to make the shopping experience as effortless as possible for the more than 1,000 buyers in this exclusive club. At one table alone there were key buyers from Sam's Club, Amazon.com, Big Lots and Target.com. Although none of them could speak on the record, they all said they planned to expand their buying for outdoor furniture, lighting and accessories at this show. Ed Several, senior vice president and general manager, National Hardware show, welcomed everyone as breakfast was being served. He introduced Sonya Jarvis Ruff , executive director, who highlighted the members' benefits and described what they would see on the trade show floor. She and her team have worked hard to develop this powerful buying group that was assembled.
     Channel Club members can get early access to the trade show floor. There is a complimentary lounge with Internet access, food, beverages and comfortable seating to relax away from the crowds. There are award ceremonies, cocktail receptions and catered events they can att end. Their red name badge, which gives them priority at all the events, signifies their buying potential and power.
     Jarvis Ruff said the show has grown with more than 2,300 exhibitors from 30 countries. Of those, 740 exhibitors are new. More than 100,000 products were displayed at the show, including more than 800 new products. The Lawn and Garden Outdoor Living Innovation display included 45 new products. The tailgate section, directly outside the exhibit hall, nearly doubled in size from last year.
     Jarvis Ruff 's recommendations to the buyers in the room were to target the products they need, take time to view the new products area and ask for help if needed.
    Retailers in the Channel Leaders Club included several major buyers from the casual specialty retailer segment. Houston-based The Chair King had several executives in attendance as did Fortunoff , its sister company. David Barish, president, said the group likes to shop this show because they see things they would never find at other shows. "If they make it for the backyard, you will find it here," Barish said.
     "We hope to find things our competitors won't have in their stores. Plus it gives us a good idea what is being looked at by the mass merchants."
     Casual Living was a sponsor and supplied one of the judges for the inaugural Lawn, Garden & Outdoor Innovation Awards. Without the efforts of Cindi De Natale of Reed Expo and Rick Pontz of Lawn and Garden Performance Group, this deserving award may not have happened. The 45 entries all gave presentations to the judges and in which it was never more prominent that necessity is the mother of invention. From Caframo's outdoor lights, fueled by tea lights, to faux bushes by Real Life Products [designed to cover ugly air conditioning boxes outside a home], the products on display combined utility and innovation. After listening to the stories of development, there are many which should have broad market appeal.
     The winners of the Lawn, Garden & Outdoor Innovation Awards were handed their prize in an awards ceremony on the main show lobby stage.
     The winners were Leafcat LLC (gold); Nexgrill Industries (silver); Nature Power (bronze) and Bonide (honorable mention).
     During the show's final two days, award winners were complimentary about the increased traffic and interest gained for their company due to the exposure of the special display area set up for the entries at the entrance of the Lawn and Garden area.
     "We are some big buying groups that showed interest that we haven't talked to before," said Aaron Gharst of The Original Umbrella Stand. "They say they saw our product at the innovations area and want to come by our booth to learn more about it for their market. We would have never been able to get that kind of time with them if we had just called on them. This was great."
     James Olivere, CEO of Harvest Casual, said the show exceeded his expectations. "We are just getting started, as our company isn't a year old, but what a way to kick things off ," he said. "As you can see, there are very few furniture companies here, especially with our design-oriented look. Everyone who is looking for good, quality furniture has stopped by and asked who we are and how can we do business with you. We are excited as this was a good lead-in to the International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market in Chicago in the fall. The casual retailers will love these price points."
National Hardware ShowNational Hardware Show attendees are attentive at the fi rst Lawn, Garden & Outdoor Innovation Award ceremony.
     One of the highlights for the show was the outside tailgate area. There was steady traffic in the area throughout the show, but Thursday's tailgate party drew thousands of attendees. The party featured live music, food and free beer, courtesy of Corona Beer, the new official beer sponsor of the National Hardware Show. Coleman and Tailgater magazine were also premium sponsors. Corona distributed T-shirts at the event while Allegro Foods handed out samples of brisket, chicken and catfish, as well as 300 samples of marinade. In addition, the party featured the presentation of Tailgater monthly magazine's Game Day Ball Awards to Black Top, Cool Cups and Extreme Cooler - each of which received a Wilson official NFL "The Duke" leather football for their great displays. Char-Broil Grills brought its customized road warrior event trailer to allow attendees to play games, win prizes or sample some of the tasty morsels cooked on their new infrared grills.
     The 2011 National Hardware Show offered something for everyone who is part of the outdoor living marketplace: New products, top retail buyers, innovation awards, educational seminars and great socializing and networking events. This show really is nine shows in one.

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