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... Brilliant spots in housewares.

FRANKFURT, Germany--Last week's Ambiente, traditionally a harbinger of European color and style trends bound for the U.S. housewares market, did not disappoint.

However, like its American counterpart held in Chicago in January, Europe's leading housewares trade fair provided pockets of inspired new products amid a more general climate of line extensions and subtle refinements to mainstay assortments.

Many European vendors noted a marked drop-off in the number of American retailers attending this winter's event. Ironically, talk of a decline in American attendance came at a time when many European companies are making a greater effort to tap the U.S. market. [Story, page one]

Always a venue for stainless steel cookware-- a dominant portion of the domestic German cookware market--this year's show also served as the launch pad for several new U.S.-bound stainless steel lines. Among the companies showing lines, most of which are expected to reach the U.S. in the next few months, were Bodum, WMF, Sitram and Berndes.

Bodum, known for its French press coffeemakers, has been testing its first cookware line at one of Crate & Barrel's stores. It showed its Maestro line of 18/10 stainless here in preparation for broader distribution throughout the U.S. With dimpled, brushed metal handles and aluminum disk bottoms, a seven-piece set is priced to retail at $199. In addition to the seven-piece set, the line contains 13 open-stock SKUs, which include a selection of nonstick fry pans with DuPont Silverstone.

"Bodum is attempting to become a resource for the entire kitchen," said Stuart Burge, vice president of sales and marketing for Bodum Inc.

WMF, a leading German manufacturer of cookware, cutlery and tabletop products, will bring three assortments of stainless steel cookware to the U.S. aimed primarily at gourmet-and specialty-store distribution. The company plans to offer competitively priced open-stock items only, using "Your Choice" type promotions with prices as low as $39.99 and $49.99 for some smaller cookware pieces, according to Peter Braley, national sales manager for WMF USA.

Sitram, which already markets both stainless and nonstick stainless steel cookware in the U.S. showed its first triply stainless steel cookware line here. The line incorporates a new handle concept that Sitram is also using on its new Velvets collection, a line of nonstick on enamel-on-steel in graduated colors of matte green and blue.

Sitram's new stainless line, called Axial, features a tri-ply construction of stainless steel on the exterior and interior surfaces, wrapped around a steel core. With phenolic handles and steel rimmed glass lids, the line is priced to retail an 8-piece set at $199.

The new handle concept allows consumers to balance kitchen tools atop a concave shape on pan lids or slide the tool through a hole in the pans' uniquely designed side handles.

Also constructed of 18/10 stainless steel is Sitram's new Fun Cooking and Table Decor lines of tabletop and kitchen accessories. The Table Decor line includes bowls, a serving tray and plate mats. The Fun Cooking line includes fondue kit, pizza and lasagna pans.

"We may put together some bowl sets with handles that match our Le Dome line for some special promotions," said Chris Boyhan, a principal of Sitram U.S.A.

Berndes, a German cookware manufacturer which at present markets only cast aluminum cookware in the U.S., will be expanding its assortment in the States to include stainless steel, according to John Leighton, newly appointed president for Berndes/Kaiser, the U.S. marketing arm.

While it is too soon to reveal specifics, Leighton said, the company will look to maintain the same type of high-end distribution for its stainless entries as it does for its cast aluminum lines.

Berndes will also begin bringing more color to its U.S. cookware assortment, Leighton noted. The company showed two new colors here, matte blue and matte green, which it will bring to the U.S. on an open stock selection of fry pans.

"We've been looking at the sea of silver and gray on the cookware market and we think there are some opportunities for more color there," said Leighton.

T-Fal showcased several new colorful items including metallic burgundy on a new line of cookware that features removable handles. The new handle design, which will find its way to the U.S. in time for the 1997 housewares show, according to Andre Hottlet, president of T-Fal USA, allows cookware pieces to be nested inside one another for easier storage.

The company also was showing a new pressure cooker with a glass viewing window built into the top, which is also slated for 1997 U.S. introduction. For the upcoming gourmet show, T-Fal was showing here a line of cookware called Perfection, which features nonstick coated exteriors and interiors. The line takes T-Fal's Armaral concept of steel disk reinforcement to the pans' bottoms and extends the disk to encompass the full bottom of the pan.

The line, shown here in metallic gray, "will be coppered like bronze," in color, when it makes its U.S. debut, Hottlet noted.

Always a venue for new color trends, this Ambiente showcased a far more eclectic range of color selections from European manufacturers than in years past. Everything from metallics to earth tones could be found while crossing the show floor.

"Carribbean" colors, bright blues, yellows, greens and oranges presented to look much like frosted glass, found their way into the assortments of several housewares companies. Bodum for example, is bringing the color to the U.S. on several sizes of its French press coffeemakers. Other manufacturers were showing the colors on kitchen tools, colanders, bowls and glassware, though not necessarily for the U.S..

Also in the color arena, cast iron cookware manufacturer Le Creuset was showing a new assortment of "Pueblo" colors aimed at the European market, but which were also shown to select American retailers here, according to Lacy Devereaux, vice president, factory outlet stores at Le Creuset of America.

Pueblo colors, include an earthy selection of deep browns, blues and greens on pans' exteriors, with interiors the color of desert sand. The company is also bringing a new red color to the U.S. which will make its first U.S. appearance at Bloomingdale's in the fall, according to Devereaux.

Chrome-look carafes were also much in evidence and are finding favor with a growing number of consumers, according to Monica Schnacke, president of Frieling USA, which imports Emsa Kitchenware, Zenker bakeware and Soehnle kitchen scales.

In addition to chrome, the company is bringing in new carafes in yellow, two shades of blue--a muted, slate blue and a translucent blue--black and yellow.

Frieling is also dramatically expanding its assortment of Zenker bakeware with the addition of several new shapes and sizes including multitiered cake pans, an expandable baking sheet and new novelty pans.

Also expanding on its current strength, Fagor--which has built solid distribution for its pressure cookers in U.S. department and specialty stores--added several new sizes as well as units with new decorative schemes.

"We are totally committed to the pressure cooker business in the United States," said Patricio Barriga, executive vice president of Fagor. "We have developed a solid program built around customer service, training and a full range of product."

In cutlery, Wusthof Trident showcased its new Silverpoint cutlery line, an entry priced complement to its forged Grand Prix series. The line, which got a showing at Chicago's housewares show last month, was on display here in new clamshell packaging, with complementary counter top displays.

The company also showed for the first time here a new set of poultry shears, that has been added to its Grand Prix series. The shears are priced to retail in the $59.99 range and have ergonomically designed phenolic handles.

J.A. Henckels used this show as the European debut for its Twinstar line, introduced last spring in the U.S. Getting its first showing anywhere at this show was a multi-purpose set of shears, priced to retail around $40, according to Karl Pfitzenreiter, president of Henckels' American subsidiary. The shears feature micro-serrations on the blades.

Also on display was an assortment of contemporary styled knife blocks, some in wood and others in stainless steel. According to Pfitzenreiter, some of the high-end blocks might prove to pricy for the U.S. market. However, the company will likely test some as a block only offering with knives sold separately to hit a more attractive price-point.
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Title Annotation:housewares exhibited at Frankfurt, Germany, show; Ambiente Serves Up the New
Publication:HFN The Weekly Newspaper for the Home Furnishing Network
Date:Mar 4, 1996
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