The National Hardware Show has been showcasing the hardware and home improvement industry for nearly 75 years; this year with over 2,800 exhibitors and more than 700 new exhibitors. Thousands of visitors flocked to Las Vegas on May 8-10 to see what’s new in the industry. Representing Priority Designs, Eric visited the Hardware Show which was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and filled two halls plus an outdoor lot. So, what’s new in hardware? Eric returns with a fresh look into a well-established industry.
A Recap of the National Hardware Show 2018
The Hardware Show, as with most trade shows, is an exciting, exhausting, and rewarding experience. I always look forward to visiting our existing clients, as well as the opportunity to meet new people in the industry, too. And as one might expect, the Hardware Show is a showcase for introducing new products, and a great opportunity to observe some of the shifts in the market and new product opportunities. This year, three main observations caught my eye, the first of which was the heavy presence of smart products.
Heavy Hitter: Smart Products
The smart and connected product market has been growing for quite some time now, and new products were more prevalent than ever this year. One could have mistakenly thought they were at the Consumer Electronics Show with all the technology on display!
Products ranged from self-guided, “Roomba-like” lawn mowers, to smart phone interactive products like deadbolts, watering timers and even a better mousetrap! This trend was best exemplified by the Smart Home Virtual Reality Experience, a VR exhibit that allowed users to “enter” a home and interact with a variety of smart and connected products.
With more and more companies finding ways to leverage smart and connected technologies, it’s hard to imagine we’re at “peak-smart-device,” yet. The real test, though, is going to be for companies to figure out what technologies and innovations are real benefits to consumers, and what are simply gadgets and gimmicks. As smart products continue to compete for consumers’ dollars and attention, we’ll be watching to see which products and technologies survive.
Subtle Shift: Inclusive Products
Throughout the show, I noticed more and more products being targeted toward an aging market. And by “targeted,” I don’t mean products that only appeal to the elderly. I mean products that are designed to include all user groups.
This is an important shift in product development. Historically, products designed for the aging market were of the “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” variety. These products, while useful, definitely had a stigma to them. These weren’t products for the general population, but for the elderly. Products designed to be inclusive understand that a product designed for anyone, is a product designed for everyone.
Corona, Melnor and Fiskars all had products that were designed with comfort and ease of use in mind. And while none of these products specifically targeted an elderly market, the fact that they were designed with basic ergonomic considerations at their core meant that anyone could pick up their products and have a good, productive experience. This is in sharp contrast to similar products that have a higher squeeze force, or wider hand grips, or require other motor skills that can trigger arthritis pain.
Of course, an extra perk is seeing products we helped develop on display in exhibitors’ booths! This year, Melnor had two lines of products we helped with, including their new line of RelaxGrip watering nozzles, which Priority Designs helped research, design and prototype. The RelaxGrip line was recently awarded the Ease of Use Commendation by the Arthritis Foundation.
In addition to ergonomic considerations, we saw a greater investment in battery powered solutions. Companies such as Briggs & Stratton, Generac and Karcher were either offering new battery powered solutions, or they were investing more in the battery powered products they already had. And while a battery powered string trimmer, for example, may not specifically target an aging market, it requires less strength and dexterity to operate than the gas powered, pull cord variety. These changes may seem subtle, but their inclusive nature without calling out an aging demographic is an intentional and pointed shift.
"Products designed to be inclusive understand that a product designed for anyone, is a product designed for everyone."
Gaining Steam: A Greener Lifestyle
A perfectly green lifestyle includes an all-organic, zero-waste, zero-carbon-footprint existence. And while those goals might seem pretty lofty for the average consumer, there were more green products on display than ever that all consumers can benefit from.
Composting and rain collection, which used to be purview of the farmer, are seeing greater presence with products that are distinctly more urban and consumer friendly. There was also more innovation in products that encourage urban planting and gardening.
In addition to product innovation, I saw a move toward more responsible products. These products ranged from gardening products that utilize recycled and compostable materials to timers and battery powered products that encourage resource conservation. If what we’re seeing is any indication, we should expect to see more and more green-friendly products in the future.
That's A Wrap
With thousands of products making an appearance at the National Hardware Show, it was an active, and busy, show floor! With new technology hitting the industry, aging populations, and environmentally-conscious consumers, product features are changing to keep up. As we see new products addressing these changes, I expect to see thoughtful, user-centric products rise to the top, while gimmicks fall to the wayside. We’ll be back in 2019 to check in and follow hardware throughout the years to come.
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About The Author
Eric Fickas, Sr. Industrial Designer
He loves solving a puzzle no matter the challenge: mechanical, aesthetic, or maybe just figuring out how to do something no one has done before. He’s also your go-to-guy for anything related to pop culture minutia!