Inventors enter Shark Tank
Las Vegas — New this year to the National Hardware Show was the Pitch Tank, where inventors got two minutes to demonstrate their new products to a panel of three experts for some criticism and advice. But there was no Simon Cowell skewering the amateurs in the glass-walled booth near the Inventor’s Spotlight section. Kevin Harrington of ABC’s Shark Tank and chairman of TVGoods, along with two other product development specialists and marketers, offered mostly positive feedback to a cavalcade of hopeful candidates.
The inventors of Tape Ease admitted there were already a number of tape measures on the market — but none of them came with a rubber end hook that clips on to pipes, lumber and masonry. This accessory fits on any standard 1-in. tape measure.
“Did you bring it to Stanley?” Harrington asked.
The answer was yes. But Stanley wanted to see some retail sales first. Harrington referred the inventor to a business associate at the show who handles licensees. “Get some sales first and then go back to Stanley,” Harrington said.
The panel really liked “Dot marks the spot,” a stick-on device that greatly simplifies hanging photos, shelves and other objects.
“That’s pretty cool,” said Steve Rogai, also from TVGoods. But he worried that consumers might have a hard time understanding how the product works. “Once they do,” he added, “it’s eureka!”
The panel advised the inventors, a married couple named Susan and Grillo, to consider lowering the price points.
“They seemed like they were very impressed and they asked a lot of questions, which was helpful,” Susan Grillo said after the session.
The Pitch Tank will hold an awards ceremony for the best inventions at the NRHA Village Stage on May 3, the last day of the show. The first place winner will receive a two-minute informercial product deal with Harrington’s company, TVGoods.
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Energy-saving products flood NHS
Las Vegas — Energy efficiency, a consumer focus that is influencing the residential building industry, is moving into the home improvement sector as well, judging from the exhibits at the National Hardware Show. Vendors with energy-saving products could be found in almost every category, and were marked with a special decal this year.
LED Lighting products flooded both halls, working their way through lawn and garden to electrical, homewares and even tools. Coast, a longtime maker of LED flashlights, brought models with a telescoping end that shapes the size of the beam. The Portland, Ore., manufacturer also debuted a patented multi-tool with a built-in LED light.
Heating and cooling costs are top of mind for homeowners, and a new generation of space heaters promises warmth with minimum energy consumption. Heat Storm introduced a quartz infrared wall heater that consumes only 1,000 watts. Other manufacturers focused on cooling, especially on patios and other outdoor living settings. Port-A-Cool displayed an entire line of evaporative coolers that can be used indoors and out, including as spot coolers in air-conditioned homes.
“You can use it to supplement air conditioning,” said Leon Aldridge, director of marketing and advertising. At 25 cents to 50 cents a day to operate, the evaporative coolers are an energy bargain.
A firm called EnerG+ promised to extend the summer with outdoor/indoor water-resistant infrared electric heaters that use standard AC wall units. A down-under company called Environmental Sciences Australia combined daylight and natural ventilation in one product via a directional exhaust ventilation system connected in a light pipe. The system uses no energy and creates a healthy home, the manufacturer claimed.
National Hardware Show rolls in Vegas
Las Vegas — The networking, the education and the product pitching began in spades at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning with the opening of the 2012 National Hardware Show.
Buyers and retailers come for many reasons, one of which was articulated by Dan Fesler, CEO of St. Paul, Minn.-based Lamperts: "You have to take a look at what’s out there every once in a while."
That advice is music to the ears of the show’s organizers. One of them, VP attendee programs Sonya Ruff Jarvis told Home Channel News the show is expected to be larger than last year’s event, plus attentive to the needs of the retailers. "Coming into this show, every indictor was pointing up," she said. "Pre-registered attendance was trending up, so we’re excited." She pointed to new areas for pet products, "Made in USA" products and energy-efficient products as examples of better organization designed to tap into retail trends.
Some 2,500 exhibitors are displaying products here at the Las Vegas Convention Center, including General Tools, a company celebrating its 90th anniversary with a birthday cake in its booth. At the booth, chairman Gerry Weinstein celebrated the pioneering spirit of his grandparents Abraham and Lillian Rosenberg who founded the company and carefully scouted factories throughout the Northeast. "They were the original outsourcers," he said.
What was their first product? That’s unclear. "We think it was the egg slicer," he said.
During a keynote presentation at the North American Retail Hardware Association’s Village Stage, former Wal-Mart executive Michael Bergdahl described the importance of risk taking in the early days of Wal-Mart and for the modern hardware store. "In the early days of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton took risks and nine out of ten times, he failed," said Bergdahl, who was director of people for the Bentonville, Ark.-based retail giant.
Companies that encourage employees to take risks, and accept the good along with the bad, are the ones most likely to win, he said. "You will take risks as a merchant. Some time, you will hit a home run."
On the same stage also on Tuesday, a panel discussion titled "Trends in the paint and sundries industry" revealed challenges and opportunities. Fuel costs and freight charges were cited as one challenge by the panel of vendors from Red Devil, Ames Research and Giani. As for opporunities? "The remodeling market is where the money is going to be for the next several years," said Peter Cary from Ames Research.
The event, which is attracting about 30,000 industry professionals, features some 800 new exhibitors. The show runs through Thursday.
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