With The Inspired Home Show postponed to August 2021, show organisers, the International Housewares Association (IHA) have announced two new virtual events for March and April.

“By the time August 2021 is here, it will have been a year and a half since the industry has been able to convene in a meaningful way,” IHA president, Derek Miller said.

“All of the retailers and suppliers we regularly communicate with are telling us that there is an immediate need to connect in the first quarter.”

Development for Connect 365, the 2.0 version of the current Housewares Connect 365 online marketplace, will be released to suppliers in early February with the final site to be launched in March for the buying community.

The new Connect 365 platform will feature an updated user interface, more refined search capabilities and e-commerce capabilities through a new partnership with e-commerce software company, Brandwise.

IHA is also working with Brandwise to develop a new platform called Connect COMMERCE, an e-commerce market that will enable retailers to place orders for many products found on Connect 365 and access manufacturer-trained salespeople.

“We are excited to offer this new e-commerce service to our members and the retail community. For more than a decade, Housewares Connect 365 has been IHA’s online marketplace assisting buyers in finding new products and suppliers. Adding Connect COMMERCE expands the updated platform’s functionality, marrying the robust search and discovery capabilities of the new Connect 365 site with the ability to complete transactions immediately online,” Miller said.

Brandwise co-founder and CEO, Todd Litzman said, “As we have had strong partnerships with IHA members for years, establishing this platform is a natural extension of that business. The current landscape demands new ways for the industry to connect. Partnering with IHA creates an opportunity for all industry stakeholders as it will bring together retailers, suppliers and salespeople in a single, fully featured online marketplace.”

A new virtual industry event called Connect SPRING will debut in March, when the Show would normally have taken place. The two-week event will begin on March 16 and run every weekday to March 26. In collaboration with The NPD Group and Springboard Futures, Connect SPRING will offer product demonstrations, educational content, industry expert consultations and one-on-one supplier/retailer meetings through five district tracks:

1. Keynotes and educational sessions – Industry experts will lead sessions focusing on the information and trends that will continue to drive the home and housewares industry into 2021 and beyond the pandemic.

2. Virtual product demonstrations – Select suppliers will showcase new and innovative products that address specific consumer-oriented themes.

3. IHA Market Watch Series – Authors of the IHA Market Watch Report will present products that address the overarching consumer trends of the next year.

4. Ask the experts – Buyers and suppliers will have the opportunity to schedule one-on-one meetings with subject matter experts.

5. Supplier meetings – Buyers will have the opportunity to schedule one-on-one virtual meetings with suppliers through their Connect 365 landing pages.

IHA’s other planned industry event is Connect GROCERY, in partnership with leading retail trade association, GMDC|Retail Tomorrow, focused on improving the shopper experiences in the non-foods grocery segment. Strategic meetings are planned between a select number of non-foods buyers and product suppliers during the week of April 19, 2021.

“The primary goal of Connect SPRING and Connect GROCERY is to connect buyers and sellers around new product innovations, education and expertise that address the evolving and emerging consumer needs from this unprecedented past year, providing direction for the road ahead,” IHA vice president for marketing, Leana Salamah said.

“It is critical that the Connect 365 platform and the new virtual events not only provide actionable information, but also showcase supplier innovations in formats that allow retailers to easily discover new products and companies they would not likely find on their own by simply browsing the internet.”

Opportunities to participate in Connect SPRING are available to all confirmed exhibitors in The

Inspired Home Show 2021 but product submissions must be received by February 5, 2021.