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 tabletop industry expert Laurie Burns and HFN editor Allison Zisko to ask about what they will discuss at the 2020 Show regarding challenges and opportunities for the tableware industry. 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.


Laurie Burns has a unique background in the home products industry. Having spent her entire career in tabletop, she has sourced product, sold product at wholesale and retail, been an exhibitor and held an executive position in show management. Beginning at The Atlanta Market Center, Burns brought it to 100% leased, which included more than 120,000 sf of tableware brands on display. Relocating to London, she worked retail sales at Thomas Goode. Moving to Hong Kong, and then to Bangkok, she began sourcing product in factories throughout the region for top brands such as Claire Guest, Christofle, Ralph Lauren Home, Calvin Klein Home, Vera Wang, Jasper Conran and Kelly Hoppen Home Collections. During this time, she also secured distribution for luxury brands such as Herend, Oliver Weber by Swarovski, Schiavon and Vietri across Asia. Burns returned to the U.S. and took the helm at Forty One Madison as SVP and director where she led leasing and marketing for the New York Tabletop Show. Burns currently consults with tableware, home textiles and home products clients providing sourcing, branding, business development and marketing solutions.

HFN (Home Furnishings News) is a total home resource for top retail decision makers, providing news, analysis, trends, exclusive statistical data and special reports across the broad spectrum of the industry. It been around for more than 90 years. Editor-in-Chief Allison Zisko first joined HFN in 1998 and spent many years covering the tabletop category before widening her scope to all home furnishings. In her current role, she oversees all aspects of HFN, including its print and digital products, and represents the brand at home and abroad through presentations, panel discussions and HFN’s podcast, The Inside Scoop.


Laurie and Allison, what is the most exciting or rewarding part of your work? 


Laurie: The most rewarding part of my career is seeing my customers do well and achieve their goals. People and their ideas fuel my inspiration.  Embracing the differences in people and their ideas for product and new ways to do business excites me. 

Allison: My days and tasks are really varied but the best days are the ones where I can hunker down and write a complex story that explains the reasons why something is happening and offers multiple perspectives on a topic. Those can be incredibly challenging to write, but also the most satisfying. I really enjoy interviewing people—it’s one of the best things about my job because I get to talk to so many interesting people. I’ve learned a lot.


Laurie Burns

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

Laurie: When I moved to Atlanta from Missouri after university, I applied for three jobs and was hired by commercial real estate entrepreneur Jae Portman.  He opened my eyes to the great wholesale industries that have given me my career, many friends and smart, inspiring and generous colleagues who have taught me so much. 

In the past few years, what has changed most in your business? How has your company met these challenges in the way you do your work?

Laurie: The casualization of how people live and shop has impacted the tableware industry. Casual doesn’t have to mean lower prices; it is a way of life. Consumers buying two sets of dinnerware through bridal registries has declined and it has been difficult for many companies to nimbly adapt to the changes. The economic downturn of 2008 compounded those challenges. Great creativity came out of those times and we now see stronger companies with market-forward product that consumers want.

Allison: Like most industries, the internet has dramatically changed the way we gather information and produce the magazine, as well as how people read HFN. We are proud of our print products, which provide a comprehensive overview and an analytical perspective on the home furnishings industry, while our website, multiple newsletters and social media feeds keep the industry abreast of news and trends on a more immediate basis. HFN, which is more than 90 years old, actually started out as a daily publication and in many ways we have gone back to our roots.

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

Laurie: Taking a walk always destresses me. I grew up on a farm so getting back to nature for a walk changes my state of mind. Taking a walk through home stores also works!   Taking the time to have a proper cup of tea or coffee in nice tableware gives me a recharge too, ideally with a friend or family member to keep it real.   

Allison: I think I am fairly good at keeping my work and my home life separate; once I am home I try to turn off my work brain (although as they say some of the best ideas come in the shower or when you are chopping vegetables for dinner, and I completely agree). And I always make time to read (as anyone who knows me would attest). I find it really relaxing and transporting.


Laurie and Allison, tell us what you will be speaking about and how this topic is important for Show audiences.


We will be speaking to retailers about how to include tabletop in their assortment and sell it at a profit.  We will give tips on how to buy it, how to display it and how to keep customers coming back for more.  We’ll discuss how consumers want to shop for the category and will offer suggestions for how traditional housewares stores can successfully add tabletop in a relevant way.

Allison Zisko

What do you see as consumers’ biggest concerns regarding housewares products or how to shop for them?


Laurie: Consumers have so much information at their fingertips in today’s connected world. Even so, many lack the knowledge and confidence to make purchases for their homes. Consumers used to visit a store where a knowledgeable salesperson would give them that confidence. Now they rely on online comments from people they do not know, yet trust. The trend to buy and own less is also a concern and the market will right-size. If a consumer will buy one item versus three, how to make your product be THE item is a challenge. Your product must be of value, your messaging must reach your consumers how and when they want it, and you must deliver swiftly and free.


Allison: I think consumers are searching for housewares and tabletop products that truly address the way they eat and live, and that are available wherever they shop, even in nonconventional places.


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


Laurie: Trends are exciting and in our busy world it can be difficult for retailers to carve out time to understand the trends, establish their point of view and commit. Those that do are succeeding.  


We used to live our lives around meals and today’s consumers are fitting in their meals around their lives. Developing product for this lifestyle and retailing it both exciting and challenging.


The mindset that a dinner set or coffeemaker must last a lifetime is in marked contrast to the sheets that we replace every two years, or our wardrobes or cars that we change regularly. It is okay to change your tableware and housewares items too!


Allison: I think the focus on zero-waste and regenerative agriculture are two of the most interesting trends right now, though I don’t think you can call them trends because they are more like long-lasting initiatives and part of the ever-growing sustainability movement. Sometimes that’s hard to translate into consumer goods, but sustainable initiatives can absolutely be embraced by everyone, and in numerous ways, from product design to packaging.




Thank you, Laurie and Allison, for sharing your perspectives on the challenging tabletop market. Your conversation is sure to be intriguing and will spark creative concepts for makers and sellers of tableware products. We look forward to learning from your experience on Monday, March 16 at 2:30 p.m. at the Innovation Theater.


Tabletop 20/20: What It Takes to Increase Sales and Profits in a New Decade

Monday, March 16, 2:30—3:20 p.m.

Lakeside Center – Innovation Center – 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.