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All Win When Independents Fight To Survive

The summer gift and gourmet trade show circuit recently concluded, leaving behind the footprints of independent specialty retailers fighting staunchly against the economic tide to outfit their stores with products to help those stores live to see another day.

Nothing new there. That is the struggle independent retail proprietors have embraced for generations. 

Even as many of these retailers have sought to infuse more strategic merchandising and operational sophistication into their businesses, the day-by-day existence of independent retailing remains both an exhilarating and excruciating challenge.

Alive & Well

To watch these buyers and their vendors in fervent action at the summer shows was to see the essence of merchandising alive and well.

This was not the principal domain of corporate buying entourages looking to program merchandising matrices. Or for housewares suppliers ill-equipped to serve a 1,200-square-foot shop that needs something you won’t find in the supercenter or department store down the road.

Instead, this was where you still saw moms and pops— and maybe their teenage children and stroller-bound infants— sacrificing a day or two in their stores to write actual orders. It is where vendors eagerly promoted three-digit minimums that might have to ship in days, not months.

The vitality of the independent retail channel still depends on spot decision and immediate response. Many of these retailers remain the chief proprietors of traditional merchandising virtues that at times have been muffled in an era of consolidated mass retailing. 

And they might just be the type of role models for players at all levels of housewares marketing and merchandising willing to explore beyond spreadsheets to uncover growth potential.

Distinctive Needs

It is encouraging that several predominantly broad-market housewares suppliers have developed freestanding business arms dedicated to the distinctive product and customer service wants and needs of independent retailers. 

As the clamps tighten in mass channels, the collective sales volume opportunity of the independent channel no longer can be dismissed. Rededicating to independent retailers might even inspire fresh perspectives on revitalizing development for larger customers.

Enthusiastic Caretakers

In the meantime, let’s continue to recognize independent retailers for what they are: enthusiastic caretakers of authentic merchandising.

While it often seems they might get swept away by the economic tide and lost in a sea of big-box superstores, their determination to stay afloat and survive another day is a reminder of just how vital they are to the housewares business and to the consumer.


A reminder: Entries are open for the 10th Annual Housewares Design Awards, which will be presented during a special gala, January 29, 2013, at the New York Marriott Marquis overlooking Times Square.

Visit for a complete multi-media history of the awards and convenient access to the online entry form. Entries must be submitted by October 26, 2012. 

We invite you to enter the 2013 Housewares Design Awards and to become part of this special celebration honoring the housewares industry’s innovative design spirit. 

For more information on entries, contact Cathy Steel at (631) 371-4749; or email