I write this with the heaviest of hearts.
But my schedule tells me this column is due by the end of a day that started with the murder of 20 children and six adults inside the elementary school of a bucolic New England town, darkening a season of joy with unthinkable grief.
Magazine columns suddenly seem far less urgent.
So, for those slain in Newtown, CT— and every innocent bystander in the recent paths of senseless human violence and unstoppable natural destruction— let’s pause from this string of words for a moment of reflection…
…The turn of the year remains a time of promise, as difficult as that might be to grasp in the wake of heartbreaking tragedy.
For the housewares business, January marks the beginning of a busy trade show season. The focus soon will move optimistically to new products and new programs that could drive retail growth during the coming months.
Financial reports tell us the retail market as a whole continues to advance steadily, even if the housewares industry as a whole swears business remains difficult.
Difficult doesn’t mean impossible. Indeed, difficult is the new price of progress.
Steadily rising consumer economic confidence, while encouraging, now comes with safeguards that must be factored in if developers, marketers and merchandisers want to captivate shoppers this year and beyond.
For example, the national brand is re-emerging as a persuasive and valuable force to a warier generation of consumers demanding added product security.
It will be interesting to see how merchants of all types and sizes manage their stakes in such brands in this era of full digital transparency and availability. And how vendors manage the resources required to make their own brands more valuable to consumers while differentiating the brands for key retail customers.
For all of the retailers projecting a continuation of healthy gains through 2013, the start of this year finds several struggling to regain lost market share and reclaim their futures.
Can JC Penney, as it “comps” against its huge declines of 2012, begin to show the positive sales momentum needed to fuel its re-inventive turnaround?
Can cash-strapped, cost-slashing Sears Holdings secure enough trade credit support to buoy its Sears and Kmart operations?
Can new management or a new owner recharge Best Buy with smaller stores, a refocused mix and overhauled service?
In Due Time
These questions and many more will be answered in due time, perhaps in 2013, perhaps later.
Excuse me as I write this, however, if it all seems far less urgent at the moment. A heavy heart makes a happy new year difficult. Even if difficult doesn’t mean impossible.