The innovation continues

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The innovation continues
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Nearly 200 hardware manufacturers and distributors exhibited their latest products at IWF 2008 in Atlanta. In the kitchen arena, this year’s show was driven by seamless cabinetry with assorted slides and guides for soft-close drawers and doors, along with one-touch opening for both. Complete kitchens were on display, which were void of knobs and pulls.

Products associated with providing improved accessibility and maximizing the use of space, not only in the kitchen and bathroom, but also in the high-end closet- and garage-storage markets, were received well by attendees.

No matter what type, style or size of hardware that exhibitors were pushing, it was clearly evident that the hardware market is continually changing and extremely competitive. There was an abundance of new items that have debuted in recent months at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS), National Hardware Show and IWF 2008.

“The cabinet is evolving from a very simple type of drawer slide 10 years ago, to a mono-line underneath the drawer-to-drawer slides on the sides now, completely hidden and soft closing,” observes Mark Mrozik, national sales manager for Hettich. “Now we’re taking it to the next level and saying, ‘Hey, I want you to open it by yourself, I don’t want to have to pull you. So you will close by yourself nice and soft and now I’d like you to open by yourself nice and soft.’ So from an evolution standpoint, hardware is allowing us smoother, quieter, more precise action.”

“Obviously, the closet industry is a very important market we’re looking at over the course of the last year or two, as well as garage components and organization,” says Greg Sheets, senior product manager for Häfele. “We are very big in kitchens and always will be. We’ve put a lot of emphasis on kitchen components, kitchen accessories, hardware and so forth. But again, evolving and changing with the market and our customers, closets have really, over the course of the last few years, [taken off].”

Although many of the products displayed at IWF are geared toward the high-end market, a number of companies targeted cabinetmakers that do business with clients who have a medium price point.

“We try to have a grocery store mentality, a little something for everybody, and we believe in partnering with some of the strong companies, and you will see a lot of branded products in our catalog,” says Debbie Crouch, purchasing manager for Outwater Plastics and Architectural Products. “At times, when it makes sense, we may have a less expensive option, maybe not as good as a brand where we offer a customer another solution. What we try to do is not compromise the brand, but put another solution out there for customers who are on a budget, because we do have some customers who are really soft right now.”

“Our customers don’t want to wait [for new products],” says Peter Ross, vice president of marketing and product development for Knape & Vogt. “This year’s turn is drawer slides, and next year’s is something else. So we know we have to develop in every category … it’s a very competitive market and there’s a lot of good innovation going on, and we want to be on the front end of it instead of trying to catch everybody.”

Here is a look at some of the new hardware products manufacturers and distributors brought to IWF this year:

Accuride introduced its model 3832 Easy-Close, 100-lb. full extension, side-mount slide designed to bring drawers to a smooth, gentle close. The slide is designed for commercial or institutional settings, and high-end retail stores. In residential applications, the quiet performance is especially valued in a child’s room or baby’s nursery. This product is available in even lengths of 14" to 28" in clear zinc, black and white finishes.

The company’s Quick Lift, a complete hardware assembly that installs a retractable flat panel television into cabinetry, was on display. The model CB-Lift 050, is operated by remote control, accommodates televisions 50" diagonal and 33-1/2" tall, has built-in cable management that keeps wiring clear of the mechanism, and has an auto-reverse feature that stops lift movement when an obstruction is encountered as the unit is lowered.