Home World’s 2021 People To Watch

Home World’s 2021 People To Watch

Originally published on Home World Business ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2020

The industry figures in this 15th annual “People To Watch” issue are expected to have a significant impact on the housewares industry going forward.

In selecting the “People To Watch,” HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® editors culled the list from a large group of candidates that included suppliers, retailers, designers and industry-affiliated organizations. The group is diverse, not just in the scope of their businesses and responsibilities, but also in their individual experiences and contributions to the industry. All, however, play a role in shaping the housewares industry.

Janet Hayes – Crate & Barrel Holdings, CEO

CREDENTIALS: Janet Hayes officially joined Crate & Barrel Holdings, Inc. on August 1 as its new CEO. A seasoned executive with over 25 years of retail experience, Hayes brings a track record of developing and repositioning brands with deep expertise in the home category.

Hayes was president of the Williams-Sonoma brand from 2013 to 2019. She directed a reposition of the Williams-Sonoma’s position as an authority for high-performance and fashionable cooking and dining tools for an emerging generation of consumers by curating key selections of premium nationally branded product complemented by an expanding assortment of exclusive Williams-Sonoma-branded goods. Hayes also presided over Williams-Sonoma’s pioneering omnichannel development, which resulted in it being among the first national retail brands to balance digital and brick-and-mortar sales. Prior to William Sonoma, Hayes was president of Pottery Barn Kids and Teen.

WHAT TO WATCH: Hayes’ reputation as a brand builder suggests an intensification of Crate & Barrel’s private label strategy, already prevalent in furniture and historically a hallmark of its imported tableware and kitchenware selections. Expect even more private label development across home and housewares as Crate & Barrel, like other specialty retailers, seeks to cultivate an exclusive, design-driven, lifestyle retailing experience against e-commerce platforms that have gained even more prominence during the COVID pandemic.

The appointment of Cathy Beaudoin, former president of Amazon Fashion, to Crate & Barrel’s supervisory board shortly after Hayes was announced as CEO portends a determined move by Otto Group, holder of the Crate & Barrel, CB2, Crate and Kids and Hudson Grace brands, to scale up the group’s digital commerce, technology and marketing operations.

PERSPECTIVE: “Crate and Barrel has embraced the digital experience for customers with more than 50% of its sales already online… I am delighted to lead Crate & Barrel Holdings and its family of brands at this pivotal time in retail and work alongside an immensely talented team building on over 55 years of experience. My passion for great brands with meaningful heritage makes this an extraordinary opportunity,” said Hayes.  —Peter Giannetti

Derek Miller – International Housewares Association, President

CREDENTIALS: Derek Miller, president of the International Housewares Association since 2018, joined the IHA in 1999 as director of international business development, then was named vp/international services in 2001. He became IHA vp/global marketing in 2014. Miller has been central to the recent move by the IHA to add a stronger consumer lifestyle connection to the association’s core role as a B2B bridge between housewares sellers and buyers. That evolution was to be celebrated this past March with the debut of the newly named Inspired Home Show, which was canceled due to the pandemic.

WHAT TO WATCH: Miller recently announced the IHA, in expectation of a more contained COVID situation by the middle of next year, is rescheduling the 2021 Inspired Home Show from March to August 7-10. That decision keeps the near-term spotlight on IHA efforts implemented during the pandemic to keep the industry connected through virtual product and trend exhibits, online educational webinars and peer meetings and frequent updates on government programs and assistance during the pandemic.

The inaugural IHA Market Watch Report, released through a recent webinar series, was developed to align with the new consumer lifestyle focus of the IHA and its show. Revised to account for shifting attitudes and behaviors spurred by the pandemic, the report examines how five consumer trends— Time, Space, Experience, Wellness and Responsibility— shape life decisions, home product purchases and the opportunities for housewares developers and retailers.

PERSPECTIVE: “The single greatest need by the industry is to have a successful show in 2021. The industry needs this gathering of like-minded professionals to showcase and source new products and innovations,” Miller said. “Even though planning for next year’s (rescheduled) show continues to be challenging in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, we are dedicated to creating a safe and productive event for the industry. We’re taking each day as it comes, solving each problem at hand, while also looking to the future to ensure IHA remains a meaningful partner with and service provider to the home and housewares industry.”  —Peter Giannetti

Samantha Rose – GIR (Get It Right), Founder and CEO

CREDENTIALS: In 2012, Samantha Rose began her journey to founding GIR (Get It Right), a silicone-based kitchenware company. In her quest to find a spatula that would stand up to her kitchen needs, she decided to design and create her own prototype. It was her attempt to create a spatula that would “get it right.”

The spatula that was once a prototype soon appeared on Kickstarter campaigns which fueled rapid growth thanks to customer feedback. Rose soon found her spatula, and additional silicone kitchen tools such as a spoonula, turner, tongs, ladle and whisk, all in vibrant colors, sold in small independent stores and online. In 2018, the company developed a capsule collection that was launched into 550 Target locations, as well as the retailer’s website.

WHAT TO WATCH: While Rose grew her business from a direct-to-consumer and specialty store model to one that has a larger omnichannel presence, she remains a strong supporter of the independent and gourmet channels, which she has called the lifeblood of the business. That grass roots, community effort is also part of what prompted Rose and her team to pivot their manufacturing capabilities earlier this year and develop silicone masks in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Rose has said that her company’s name is a mission, a core belief that guides the team, adapts and engages customers.

GIR has also kept its new product momentum, introducing kitchenware that goes beyond prep tools and offering solutions such as reusable straws and food storage lids. With the company’s brand awareness and openness to share its story and core beliefs, both of which are essential to reach today’s consumer, the company is in a unique position to continue its growth and help shape the kitchenware category.

PERSPECTIVE: “I think what’s resonating about GIR are our core beliefs: one, that kitchens should be colorful— not just in the food we eat, but with the tools we use to prepare— and two, that the things we make should be beautiful but also sustainable and built to last a lifetime,” said Rose. “We want to meet our customers where they already are, whether that’s online or at their local gourmet store or at a hardware store. It’s an omnichannel approach that boils down to: we’ll come to you.”   —Lauren DeBellis

Jay Zilinskas – Legacy Companies, Consumer Division, President

CREDENTIALS: Jay Zilinskas, a 30-year housewares industry veteran, assumed Legacy’s newly created consumer products leadership post in August 2019.

Zilinskas previously was president and CEO of cookware manufacturer and marketer Columbian Home Products. Prior to that, Zilinskas was COO at Buddy Valastro Entertainment, heading new business development, licensing and merchandising for the popular “Cake Boss” franchise.

Zilinskas previously spent 19 years with cookware and kitchenware developer, producer and marketer Meyer Corp., serving in a variety of senior leadership positions with responsibility for strategic planning, business expansion, product development, marketing, e-commerce, operations and profitability improvement. Zilinskas helped expand Meyer’s business and brand portfolio, increasing revenue and driving market share gains.

WHAT TO WATCH: Zilinskas is tasked with growing a stable of consumer appliance and housewares brands that through successive acquisitions by Legacy in recent years includes West Bend, Omega, Chef’s Choice, Avanti, Excalibur, Vinturi and Zeroll. He identified three primary objectives: stronger engagement with key retail customers in multiple channels; a recommitment to new product development across the company’s diverse brand offering; and the creation of “A-plus” content to support a widening base of retail e-commerce customers, including pure-play e-com operators and omnichannel retailers.

Noting stronger than initially expected sales during the COVID pandemic to meet the increased appetite for cooking and snacking by homebound consumers, Zilinskas said the pandemic forced an acceleration of the company’s e-commerce capabilities and responsiveness.

PERSPECTIVE: “We have been a story of acquisitions the past several years,” Zilinskas said. “First there are all of things you need to settle during the (post-acquisition) transitions: the systems, the people and other operational concerns. Now we can put the focus on the best way to grow these brands and bring them together in a cohesive, meaningful way. During the next 12 months, our retail customers and consumers will see a dramatically differing look from our brands.”  —Peter Giannetti

Ed Vlacich – Lasko Holdings, CEO

CREDENTIALS: Ed Vlacich was named CEO of Lasko Holdings in December, bringing more than 30 years of consumer products experience. He previously was region head of Henkel Beauty Care North America and president of national brands at private equity-held Sun Products. Vlacich also brings an engineering and operations background to West Chester, PA-based Lasko, which markets products under the Lasko, Air King and B-Air brands and features U.S. manufacturing operations for much of its portable fan lineup.

WHAT TO WATCH: Vlacich’s diverse consumer product leadership background checks all the boxes for the private equity ownership joint venture led by consumer product management and investment veteran Jerry Levin that in 2016 acquired a Lasko business that had been family owned for more than 100 years. Vlacich said Lasko, with 90% aided brand awareness in home comfort appliances and coming off a strong season supplying consumers during the pandemic, will continue to leverage its retail position in seasonal appliances and its domestic manufacturing capabilities to service retail customers with a wider selection.

After its 2019 acquisition of Intertex, maker of B-Air commercial air movement products for the water/fire damage restoration market, Lasko is exploring cross development that can extend its retail program, which has moved into air cleaners and humidifiers. Vlacich said Lasko also is widening its domestic manufacturing program with a plan to introduce its first-ever U.S.-made heater in time for the 2021 season. And the company is exploring digital marketing advancements— including possible applications that alert people to impending weather— to further support retail customers and consumers.

PERSPECTIVE: “Having a CPG mindset, and the agility to react to where demand is, creates more opportunity for Lasko and its leading position (in the retail home comfort market)… We’ve been able to meet increasing demand though our fast-running (domestic production) lines. We’re set up to be even more agile… We help people through bad weather. And as people continue to work from home, the absolute need for our product will grow,” said Vlacich.  —Peter Giannetti

Ben Gadbois – Corelle Brands, President and CEO

CREDENTIALS: Ben Gadbois was named president and CEO of Corelle Brands in June. The company, which is backed by Cornell Capital, is home to the Pyrex, Instant Pot, Corelle and SnapWare housewares brands. Gadbois, who will also sit on the Corelle Brands board of directors, brings to the position more than two decades of experience driving growth for leading consumer brands. He was most recently the global president and COO of Spin Master and previously spent 13 years in various leadership roles at Newell Brands.

WHAT TO WATCH: Gadbois will continue to lead Corelle’s strategy to more directly reach the Millennial and Gen Z consumers, as both groups are evolving into home ownership. The company has been rolling out more direct-to-consumer programs via the Corelle Brands website in order to engage consumers. The company most recently introduced limited edition licensed glass food storage and tableware goods featuring Mickey Mouse and Star Wars, both available exclusively on the company’s website. The pop culture licenses are more relevant than ever with the Millennial and Gen Z consumer.

Gadbois is tasked with leading a company during the continued global pandemic. However, both glass food storage and tabletop have gained attention with consumers as they continue to prep, cook and dine at home. Gadbois is in a unique position to not only lead Corelle Brands to its next level, but also serve the needs of consumers who are open and willing to purchase such goods for the home.

PERSPECTIVE: “This year, people are spending more time cooking, baking, serving meals and storing food at home than ever before and our brands are well-positioned to meet consumers’ evolving needs,” Gadbois said. “The consumer experience is at the heart of everything we do at Corelle Brands. We are always excited to hear from so many new and long-time consumers about how they have been getting creative in the kitchen with our brands over the last few months. As we embrace our next chapter of growth, we will focus on accelerating our consumer-driven innovation. We are all in unchartered territory right now, but we will come out of it and build the future together.”  —Lauren DeBellis

Joana McKenna – Walker Edison, President

CREDENTIALS: Walker Edison recently named Joana McKenna president. She reports directly to Brad Bonham, the company’s co-founder and CEO and will work with him and the company’s other co-founder, Matt Davis, COO, to enhance and drive the company’s growth initiatives.

McKenna was most recently vp/growth at Walmart, where she led marketplace business growth strategy, fueled development of its e-commerce business and spearheaded successful advanced initiatives. She also held senior positions at Amazon and Johnson & Johnson, not to mention running her own e-commerce layette and juvenile furniture business. At Amazon, McKenna participated in the strategic development of its marketplace as well as global brands registry and protection.

WHAT TO WATCH: Walker Edison hired McKenna to help usher in the company’s next decade and generation of growth, which includes building human capital and technology as well as expanding growth channels. She will help the company build private brands, boost international growth, explore a distinct direct-to-consumer element and develop new sourcing. In addition, she will aid in tackling issues such as sustainability and diversity in the context of Walker Edison operations.

PERSPECTIVE: “Walker Edison designs furniture for everyone, at every stage of life, no matter where you live,” McKenna said. “As we look to the second half of fiscal year ‘20 and fiscal year ‘21, our number one focus is our employees and meeting our team wherever they are. From working remote to flexible schedules, benefits that support their health and wellbeing, to the tools and technology they need to be productive and drive innovation. Walker Edison is poised to become the market leader in RTA, and we are focused on driving innovation with new categories and product assortment, exploring direct-to-consumer, and optimizing our supply chain to proactively support our year-over-year growth. This is only possible by building upon an organization that sets the pace for best-in-class employee benefits, career development, and diversity and inclusion. Walker Edison will continue to innovate our designs and produce furniture that meets the trends and demands of our partners and consumers.” —Mike Duff

Andreas Hansen – Plum, Global President

CREDENTIALS: Eleven months ago, Andreas Hansen took the reins as global president of Plum and decided to fundamentally transform how consumers enjoy wine. Hansen is a respected executive in the appliances industry, having worked with high-end brands such as Thermador, Gaggenau and Bosch in some 30 markets around the world. He has nearly two decades of experience in strategic planning, product and brand marketing, market intelligence, sales management, distribution and merchandising. Hansen most recently was president of Liebherr Appliances for the Americas for Liebherr Group. Hansen also held leadership roles at BSH Home Appliance Group, Electrolux, Legacy Companies and La Cuisine International.

WHAT TO WATCH: Plum is a three-year-old entrepreneurial startup that introduced the first wine appliance that automatically preserves, chills and serves wine by the glass. Hansen’s appliance background allows him to build on his relationships, establishing Plum with some 300 retail stores, including Williams Sonoma, Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. Wine is a $72 billion market; 40% of Americans consume wine, and Plum is tapping into this potential. Plum continues to add to its executive team and focus on product innovation, with former Serta Simmons CEO Michael Traub stepping up as CEO; freeing up founder and chairman David Koretz to take on the new post of chief product officer.

PERSPECTIVE: Plum features pioneering technology and is “uniquely positioned to become the new ‘must have’ in the modern home,” Hansen said. “There is no other product that combines preservation, dispensation and refrigeration in an all-in-one appliance. Plum is also on the forefront of AI-powered wine recognition that allows for a virtual sommelier, automatically identifying the vintage, varietal, region, winery and wine, connecting to rich content that lets you step into the tasting room without leaving your home. Wine consumption has gone up, online retail is here to stay and we want to be part of both. We are accelerating the shift of wine from bottle to glass, the same way coffee went from pot to cup. We are aiming to become the preferred way to consume wine.”  —Donna Boyle Schwartz

Marvin Ellison – Lowe’s, President and CEO

CREDENTIALS: Marvin Ellison took the president and CEO role at Lowe’s two years ago and, at the same time, joined the company’s board of directors. He moved to Lowe’s from J.C. Penney, where he served as president and chairman of the board. Ellison has more than 30 years of retail experience, much of it with Home Depot and Target.

WHAT TO WATCH: Ellison has applied a broad retail experience to Lowe’s. In the COVID-19 pandemic, the company boosted its marketing with an emphasis on community and worker-related messaging versus brand, and to some effect, driving store traffic higher at a faster pace than even Home Depot recently. The company also has been focused on boosting small business, including minority owned and rural small businesses. In a conference call, Ellison pointed out that, for this year, Lowe’s has pivoted in its direction, updated objectives and created a cross-functional COVID-19 task force, in effect, reshuffling priorities to fulfill its community obligations as an essential retailer operating in the pandemic. As such, he has placed Lowe’s in a position to be flexible, which could come with some benefit in navigating the company through the shifting sands of a marketplace dealing with the short- and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

PERSPECTIVE: Lowe’s has had a reputation of looking at the do-it-yourself customer more broadly than is typical in its retail channel. Whether it is the female customer, or the more casual DIYer, the company, while not neglecting the pro clientele, has looked for ways to make its store experience friendlier without compromising effectiveness. Ellison has taken that a step further, looking at the business in light of opportunities to embrace the full range of talent available in the retail sector while reinforcing the company’s ability to serve the community, in part through his emphasis on omnichannel operations, but also as a neighborhood resource that reflects the full range of American demographics, whether it’s in an ethnically diverse urban or deeply rural landscape.  —Mike Duff

Chris McDonough – Corkcicle, CEO

CREDENTIALS: Corkcicle appointed Chris McDonough as its new CEO in late June. He succeeds Ben Hewitt, Corkcicle’s co-founder, who will remain on the company’s board of directors. Before joining Corkcicle, McDonough spent the last four years at L.L. Bean as chief sales and brand officer. McDonough helped develop a comprehensive brand relaunch and channel transformation model that led to profit, margin and new customer growth.

WHAT TO WATCH: As McDonough succeeds Hewitt, he is faced with the challenge to not only continue the brand’s momentum, growth and goals, but also to put his own unique mark on the company.

Corkcicle has differentiated itself in the marketplace not only with the quality of its double walled stainless steel lidded tumblers, canteens and other hydration vessels, but also with its approach to design-focused colors and styles that speak to the modern consumer.

This momentum has helped the company expand its reach as well as its product line, as it recently introduced barware, various totes and backpacks, as well as food storage, in an effort to position itself as a one-stop-shop for a consumer’s busy, on-the-go lifestyle. It has also dabbled in mixed mediums, adding tumblers crafted of glass and stainless steel in an effort to bring new technology and innovation to the category and appeal to consumers that prefer glass-based hydration products.

In addition, the company has launched licensed collections such as the Rifle Paper Co. line, and with Vineyard Vines, both strategic partnerships to reach the loyal consumers of those brands.

As the hydration category has turned with more of a focus to capture the attention of outdoor enthusiasts and urban jungle dwellers alike, it will be worthwhile to observe what McDonough can add to Corkcicle from experience at L.L. Bean.

PERSPECTIVE: “Sustainability is a key pillar that makes up Corkcicle’s brand ethos and DNA,” McDonough said. “As a growing part of our ongoing strategy, we’ll look to continue amplifying brand awareness through strategic partnerships that reach our core consumer audience, along with large scale events and digital extensions that create an everlasting impact from now and into the future.”  —Lauren DeBellis

Mark Tritton – Bed Bath & Beyond, President and CEO

CREDENTIALS: Mark Tritton became Bed Bath & Beyond’s new president and CEO late last year and immediately faced the challenge of extending a turnaround strategy initiated by the board of directors but under the influence of new executives he brought on board soon after arriving. Tritton arrived at the retailer with more than 30 years of experience in the retail industry, including most recently as evp/chief merchandising officer at Target, with other executive stints at Nordstrom and Nike.

WHAT TO WATCH: Bed Bath & Beyond had launched a turnaround strategy before hiring Tritton based on specific elements: stabilizing and driving top-line growth, resetting the cost structure, and reviewing and optimizing the asset base. As to the asset base, the company has already spun off the One Kings Lane business and Tritton will be evaluating additional asset sales. Since his hiring, Tritton has overseen a range of major executive appointments including, for example, former Avon CFO Gustavo Arnal as evp/CFO and treasurer.

Essentially, Tritton has been charged with taking what has been a viable if declining retailer, one that had become stale in merchandising execution while, at the same time, running adrift in the digital function and unable to execute on often good ideas on the operations side, and narrowing focus to leverage its position as a go-to housewares retailer. Tritton has to run down various set priorities to return Bed Bath & Beyond back to its former prominence in housewares retailing. COVID-19 and related store closing have complicated matters but also created opportunities for the retailer to reconnect with a more home-centric consumer.

PERSPECTIVE: “We redefined our purpose: to make it easy to feel at home,” Tritton said in a first quarter conference call. “This is a defining role of our business place for our customers, the Northstar that guides all our actions. To achieve this purpose, our mission is to reestablish our authority and be the preferred home destination driven by teams consistently delivering balanced, durable growth. We believe this mission is more relevant today than ever when home is everything and being safe at home with family is essential.”  —Mike Duff

Mike Evans – Bestar-Bush, President and CEO

CREDENTIALS: Mike Evans has enjoyed a long career at ready-to-assemble furniture maker Bush Industries during which time he assumed multiple executive roles including supervising the company’s product leadership and global sourcing, and business development functions. In 2014, he and three other Bush executives purchased the company, at which time Evans became chief marketing officer. In 2018, the group sold the company to Lorraine Capital and Evans became Bush president and CEO. Early this year, Bush was acquired by Novacap, a Canadian private equity firm, through its portfolio company Bestar, an RTA furniture manufacturer with plants in Quebec. Evans then became president and CEO of Bestar-Bush.

WHAT TO WATCH: Bestar-Bush continues consolidating its various functions while at the same time responding to demand for its furniture prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and consumers doing more at home, including office furniture but also in other product segments. The company has been working hard to simply keep pace with demand. The company is building out product segments that it has been entering over the past couple of years from office seating to fireplace furniture. And the company is building off of and refreshing best-selling lines to continually extend market success, all of which means that Bush will push hard to gain traction across its expanding product portfolio.

PERSPECTIVE: “Bestar-Bush is having another fantastic year with continued growth across all categories with a recent surge in sales in the home office category,” said Evans. “We have added more new products in the first six months of 2020 versus 2019 as a whole. We are continuing to drive our category expansion plans with several exciting new introductions in universal storage, bathroom collections and a modular entryway program. Our biggest hurdle is ramping up domestic and import inventories to keep up with demand and replenish our inventory base. We are continuing the integration of our two companies and have begun cross-selling products between the portfolio of brands. Over the next 12 months, we will be merging our distribution network to improve efficiencies and delivery dates. We will also be focusing on key acquisition opportunities.”  —Mike Duff

Greg Cairo – Le Creuset Of America, CEO

CREDENTIALS: Greg Cairo spent 14 years at Groupe SEB, USA, in a variety of roles, including high-ranking positions as vp/sales as well as president. In 2019, Cairo was tapped to lead Le Creuset of America after the retirement of long-time CEO Faye Gooding. Cairo brought his knowledge of brand development and distribution channel strategy, looking to take Le Creuset to the next level.

WHAT TO WATCH: The coronavirus pandemic spurred sales of cookware as more consumers were spending time at home. These consumers were taking the time to invest in their kitchens and, in conjunction with the breadmaking boom, Dutch ovens were seeing high sales across the U.S.

However, there is still an issue brewing in the background— U.S.-imposed tariffs on French goods. While the company has gone to great lengths to fight against the potential business threat, the Trump Administration announced on July 10, 2020, that it will impose a 25% tariff on some French goods. Wine, cheeses and cookware are seemingly off the docket, for now, but it could shift.

In the meantime, Cairo will continue leading through innovation. Le Creuset has taken on various partnerships in the last year, including one between the brand and wedding registry site Zola, and has pushed the brand to continue to work on its dursability and quality story with the release of its latest non-stick cookware line. Cairo understands the heritage and nostalgia that Le Creuset has with consumers and is continuing to strike the balance between the company’s traditions and new initiatives.

PERSPECTIVE: Cairo has an admiration for the quality and design of Le Creuset products, especially the beloved Dutch ovens that have become a staple in the kitchen of home cooks. He explained that in his role, he will continue to deliver exceptional products in all categories that are well positioned in the marketplace. However, he said that a thorough and aligned brand will bring increased value to the consumer.

“When buying Le Creuset, you are buying into more than just a product,” Cairo said.  —Emily Cappiello

Pamela Stafford – Hestan Culinary, Director

CREDENTIALS: A long-time veteran of the housewares industry and brand building, while working for Brady Marketing, Pamela Stafford was tapped by Stanley Cheng, founder of Hestan Smart Cooking and Hestan Culinary, to bring this new cookware brand to the market

WHAT TO WATCH: Stafford is continuing to grow the brand two ways— using its boutique, high-end story while working to create a true partnership between Hestan and the channels of distribution that carry the brand.

In addition, Stafford is also navigating new consumer shopping preferences. She was instrumental in the launch of Hestan’s newest technology, the Cookware Concierge program. The service works by allowing consumers the ability to browse Hestan’s selection of products online, while choosing a convenient time to be contacted by a brand representative. During the appointed time, Hestan’s cookware specialist will contact the consumer by phone to review questions and help him or her determine what’s best for their cooking needs and lifestyle.

The company has plans for expansion as well, and is looking to debut complementary housewares lines under the Hestan Culinary umbrella.

PERSPECTIVE: Stafford is planning to continue opening up doors for Hestan, like its latest partnership with Food52, and finding new avenues to bring the brand to the serious home cook. Stafford feels strongly that Hestan’s personal touch, combined with the intricately designed cookware, is what will really help create loyalty from the top of the supply chain down. Stafford often sends personally-written “thank you” cards, bottles of wine from Hestan Vineyards, and is always looking to coordinate efforts for launch events or in-store initiatives. The effort of the brand to make things as personal as possible is designed to come through all of its omnichannel outlets, even in the digital world where no one expects it.  —Emily Cappiello

Bob Maricich – International Market Centers, Chairman and CEO

CREDENTIALS: Bob Maricich has a long history in the furnishings business including a stint as president and CEO of Century Furniture. Prior to that, he was president of American Drew and American of Martinsville after holding senior positions at companies such as Flexsteel and Texaco. He took over Internationals Market Centers leadership in 2008.

WHAT TO WATCH: Maricich has taken IMC and its trade show enterprises forward through the purchase of buildings in High Point, NC, that serve a critical role at the High Point Market, the acquisition of AmericasMart, home of the Atlanta Market and other shows, and that of the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. In doing so, he helped position the company as the foremost trade show player in the home furnishings industry and a significant one in other sectors. At the same time, he has overseen material upgrades to properties and strategic extensions of products including into the gift business at the IMC’s Las Vegas Market. The main challenge he faces now is navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic, which has shut down or forced the repositioning of trade shows and has constrained the company’s operations.

PERSPECTIVE: “In the short term, we are rising to the occasion by reengineering our physical markets, introducing new ‘Together Safely’ health and safety guidelines and protocols for in-person gatherings and pivoting to provide digital programming that maintains industry connection and community,” Maricich said. “Buyers want physical markets, and we are doing all we can to be imaginative and evolutionary and to be flexible as the current situation changes. Digital is an important enhancement to physical. Our development of IMC’s new digital innovation division has enabled us to provide our customers with interim technology to help them weather current disruption to physical markets. Ultimately, we are focused on making commerce more efficient, effective and compelling for our customers. Despite the pandemic, we are moving forward with capital projects such as the opening of the Expo at World Market Center Las Vegas and the Atlanta Next renovation and remerchandising that will improve the physical market experience in Las Vegas and Atlanta.”  —Mike Duff

Mark Rosenzweig – Shark Ninja, Founder & Mark Barrocas – Shark Ninja, President

CREDENTIALS: Mark Rosenzweig and Mark Barrocas have teamed to steer SharkNinja into a floor care and countertop kitchen appliance powerhouse with annual sales of around $2 billion. Rosenzweig founded Euro-Pro in 1994, and he scored a major breakthrough with Shark-branded steam cleaners and upright vacuum cleaners using what would become the company’s trademark formula of inventive, high-performance product at competitive pricepoints and backed by a vast TV ad spend showcasing infomercials. Barrocas arrived in 2009 with a deep corporate leadership background to support the surging growth of the company, which changed its name to SharkNinja in 2015 after an aggressive expansion using the same TV-driven approach into food prep and more recently cooking electrics under the Ninja brand. Barrocas previously was president of the WearGuard division of Aramark Uniform Services and before that of Broder Bros. sportswear.

WHAT TO WATCH: While Shark Ninja continues to advance its floor care program, including moves into robotic vacs, the kitchen electrics business has seen even more action in the past couple of years through the escalating rollout of the Ninja Foodi collection of multi-cookers, grills, air fryers, ovens and blenders. This has set the stage for an extension by SharkNinja into non-stick cookware under the Ninja Foodi brand, the approaching launch of which recently was previewed briefly on the SharkNinja website with few details. The company earlier signaled a potential cookware play by bringing in former Meyer Corp. managing director Darrin Johnston, whose LinkedIn profile indicates he joined SharkNinja in January as global general manager.

PERSPECTIVE: If the SharkNinja marketing history is a guide, expect the company to deploy an aggressive media strategy, led by infomercials, to support a Ninja Foodi cookware rollout, possibly in time for the 2020 holidays.  —Peter Giannetti