The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show

March 2–4, 2025 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

The World’s Leading Home + Housewares Show
March 2—4 | McCormick Place | Chicago, IL

IHA talked with author Carol Schroeder, co-owner of the Wisconsin specialty store Orange Tree Imports, to learn about successful retail strategies that she will discuss at the 2020 Show. The Inspired Home Show’s Innovation Theater will feature 21 presentations over four days. Topics will include successful retail practices, consumer research findings, digital commerce, sustainability and global market trends.


Schroeder and her husband Dean have been co-owners of the award-winning gift and gourmet shop Orange Tree Imports in Madison, Wis., since 1975.  (editor’s note: Madison is Wisconsin’s state capital and is the home of Wisconsin’s largest public university, with 45,000 students, which is also the state’s largest employer). In 2017, the store was chosen as one of four national finalists for Retailer of the Century by Gifts and Decorative Accessories magazine.

In addition to running the store, Schroeder writes extensively on all aspects of bricks and mortar retail.  A newly updated and expanded edition of Specialty Shop Retailing: How You Can Succeed in Today’s Market, her best-selling handbook for shopkeepers, debuted in 2018.  It is available wherever books are sold, including the website of her weekly blog for independent business owners:


Schroeder has written more than 100 columns for Gifts and Decorative Accessories and is a popular speaker at gift shows including Los Angeles, New York, Las Vegas, Dallas, Minneapolis and Alberta, Canada.  In 2019 she presented seminars about the future of retailing at the International Home + Housewares Show and the Fair Trade Federation conference.


Carol and Dean Schroeder

Carol, after 44 years of running your store, what is the most exciting or rewarding part of your work?  What fuels your inspiration?


I am passionate about helping my fellow retailers succeed, both locally and internationally. The challenges facing independent retailers today are unprecendented – but so are the opportunities.


Can you name a pivotal event or project that impacted your career or company?


We were fortunate to be featured in Hattie Bryant’s PBS series, “Small Business 2000,” which drew national attention to the participative democracy form of management that fuels our high-energy style of retailing.


In the past few years, what has changed most in your business?


There is no doubt that competition from Amazon has been a huge factor for us and other retailers. We are fortunate in owning our buildings, but we know that high rents are making it difficult for other shopkeepers. The third biggest challenge is finding – and affording – employees so that we can offer great customer service. Customer engagement and employee empowerment are key to being competitive in today’s changed marketplace.



How do you de-stress and find balance in the demanding 24/7 workplace?  


My husband and business partner, Dean, and I have always maintained separate days off, which helps keep our life at work fresh. And we each have many interests outside the store – which is very important in keeping ups and downs of retailing in perspective.


Tell us what you will be speaking about and how this topic is important for Show audiences.


I’ll be sharing successful promotional ideas from our award-winning gift and kitchenware shop, as well as other types of retailers in the housewares industry. Attendees will learn how to use social media and email blasts effectively to draw shoppers, and ways to cooperate with other businesses, vendors and reps to keep the cost low and the excitement level high. I hope we’ll also have a robust session of sharing best practices and ideas.



What are some of today’s trends or issues that new product development professionals and/or retailers face in the housewares market?


There is more and more cross over between functional and decorative items for the home – which is good news for independent retailers, because it is fairly easy to buy a strictly functional item online. The sense of serendipity and discovery that customers love when they visit an innovative retail store requires products that are creative and design forward.  We depend on our suppliers in the housewares market to offer products that make return visits to our shops worthwhile!


Find Carol’s articles at



Thank you, Carol, for giving us a peek into your exciting shop. Your infectious enthusiasm will energize the independent retailers in the audience with great tips to try at home. Your decades of success certainly show that you and Dean know what works! We look forward to learning from your stories on Monday, March 16 at 1:30 p.m. in the Innovation Theater.


Inspire Customer Engagement Through Creative In-Store Events and Activities

Monday, March 16, 1:30 –2:20 p.m.

Lakeside Center – Innovation Theater – Room E350


Be sure to attend the free executive-level educational sessions at the Innovation Theater to hear about successful retail practices as well as the latest research and analysis of home trends and forecasts for products in the smart home, kitchen and health care categories.  These programs will give you a fresh perspective as you walk the Show and will inspire, inform and improve your business. All programs will be audio-recorded and will be available at The Inspired Home Show after the Show.