Monday, March 30, 2009

QuickFix: Where oh where has the Handle gone?

What's Right: The NEW Chill salad bowl with servers in Crate's Spring 2009 catalog has utensils, bright fresh colors, and a removable ice pack that pops into the bottom!

What's Wrong: You never have a hand free when you're "travel[ing] to the picnic table or beach."

QuickFix Solution: Incorporate a simple and secure locking handle. This might be a challenge in PP, but it's a necessity.

Economics 101

I actually suffered through section 4 of Economics 101 in college with about 250 other bored souls...but I did learn a few basics despite the uninspiring material. These days, retailers are re-learning the lessons of Supply and Demand and they're finding out that survival and/or profitability in 2009 will require taking responsibility. No more early orders, over-ordering or blatant speculation allowed - they need products that are winners, and in the right amounts.

Suppliers will have to sweat their way through the year as small or portioned orders trickle in, and the smart ones have already anticipated this. Usually, a goods maker is looking for that one big order or launch partner to make the year a success. That would be helpful this year too, but it's less likely to happen, and there's a higher chance of buy-backs and losses from heavy discounting of overstock.

Instead, I'd have my sales team courting every small retail commitment out there. Usually these smaller orders are regarded with some disdain but this year they could add up to success.

Read more in the Times

Friday, March 27, 2009

IHA 2009 Video Faves

While I couldn't fly to Chicago this year for IHA, I've been following the highlights from a distance. Some of my favorite items are posted on YouTube, of course - some ingenious, some ridiculous, and all very entertaining. I embrace creativity in all it's forms.

Why is it named such? I have no idea. I wonder how they're creating the lip, can't tell in the video. Pricing and cleaning concerns will be their biggest hurdle.

Quick, easy...the inventor seems a little lost about the business side of the concept - i'd take it Semi-disposable before the big boys get there first.

Corn tools. mom-ventors are adorable. The name says it all!

Microplane's Resounding Endorsement for Design
Not sure if it sounds like they're going to spend much on design, although they sure do like the nifty award, thanks!

OXO Pop Containers get their Due
Everyone's DUH moment last year for food storage.

(My son would love playing with this)
Too much learning curve for their target market.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Lure of Cottage Industries

Almost every designer I know has something going on the side. Sometimes you're trying to make ends meet with a little extra income. But often, designers and crafty people at large are looking for an outlet that's not so burdened by business complications. has built an amazing large business by taking advantage of this unmet need - add a bunch of small businesses together and you get a big one.

I have friends selling soft goods, painted and paper items, and even vinyl small-productions through Etsy. I haven't done it first hand but I sure understand the appeal. While my son and I enjoy making our own thank-you cards, I'm not driven to devote time and energy to create my own products for resale. It requires a good dose of traditional craftsmanship and I always outsource my model-making.

That said, businesses like Etsy and self-publisher represent something important in the evolution of business. We now have the timing and technology to allow anyone to have their own small business with little to no risk attached. That's incredible! What a relief! But why can't a designer find this feeling of freedom and accomplishment at "work?" What's wrong with all of the other businesses, the traditional jobs that we're always supposed to have? Most of them are just stuck in routines that are completely archaic...but some of the good ones have started figuring this out.

Small business means empowerment. Etsy and Lulu show us that empowerment doesn't even require the creator to have complete control over the finicky details - we can accept rules and limitations and still feel a giddy sense of ownership. A good creative environment should be a living Etsy - a bunch of small businesses, run under set parameters, but with the same level of empowerment. Who doesn't want their designers to come to work every day with energy and passion? When's the last time you stayed late to finish something because you just couldn't stop working? Etsy producers often do - they create their goods in their own personal time, evenings and weekends, and there's a reason. People create because they want to, not because they have to. Smart managers and owners know this...and I'm betting on their businesses to make it to 2010.

Etsy: Lead testing enforcement delayed for now

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

StoreSpy: Does BB&B's Verdi Market make sense?

BB&B is sporting a new nook called the Verdi Market (subtle use of Italian to otherwise say Green Market). At the store I visited, it's centrally located and complete with wood, cardboard and other natural materials for staging. The message is clear: these are fresh, green, organic, ecologically responsible products.

It gets a little more confusing when you look closer. This is an assortment of pre-packaged, often processed foods. It doesn't include a fresh foods/produce section which would normally be the heart of any organic foods endeavor. It's like a cleaned up version of your grocery store's dry goods aisles. I noticed consumers floating through the section, picking up things and looking around but not staying for long.

Is BB&B sticking one tentative toe into the grocery market? I doubt it'll prove to be worth the real estate devoted to it, but it's something to watch.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snobject: Ankle Brace Air Cast

I've been a little too busy to blog this weekend. Hubby broke his ankle, but the good news is his air cast is pretty cool! Ages ago when I broke my own ankle, I got sealed inside a burgundy fiberglass monstrosity, which was only marginally improved by hand-painting the entire surface.

Luckily, today's soft tissue damage and stable fractures can be secured in these great air casts, which have been evolving over the last decade to be durable, practical, and not too shabby overall. Early versions didn't have the underlying skeletal structure and could be difficult to position - these are no-brainers and make showering a breeze. Next, I'll be eager to see casts that provide pockets for freezer packs so that you can reduce swelling while stabilizing the joint. Seems like that feature would be practical and affordable to integrate.
Hubby looks good, although Rose McGowan does dress it up a little better.

More info here