Monday March 5th, 2012 - 11:51AM
The International Home + Housewares Show in Chicago was busy, as was the activity at housewares trade shows to start the year in Atlanta, New York and Frankfurt.
Retailers seem to be in full-blown shopping mode, a sign, perhaps, that many expect the steady sales progress of 2011 to gain more momentum in 2012.
One Big Question
One big question remains: What are these retailers looking for at the shows?
The stock answer has always been new products. And of course, the discovery of promising new items is at the core of every buyer’s agenda.
But it might not be as simple as that anymore.
It is an unfortunate reality that many buyers, despite a genuine zest for new products, find themselves hamstrung when it comes to making firm commitments to such product. The cloud of risk often overshadows the promise of reward, or at least that’s what many have been conditioned to believe in this inventory-wary retail environment.
Just ask any upstart supplier trying to open a vendor number with a chain retailer. It’s not easy to crack the buying matrices of retail operations these days, no matter how intriguing a new item might be.
Buyers crave new items, but they don’t always have an appetite for new resources.
For such suppliers, third-party distributors with vendor-of-record status can be an effective solution. And, of course, there’s always e-commerce.
Increasing the chances of landing a secure place on the shelves today, however, might require a more determined shift in the mindsets of suppliers.
The merit of great new items alone might not be enough to keep the buyers on the hook.
No Sure Thing
Today’s risk-averse buyers need convincing that every supplier can be counted on for a merchandising opportunity more substantial, more persuasive and more sustainable than the promise of the latest product.
The challenge certainly confronts smaller suppliers, yet it is also faced by the largest of players for which incumbency is no longer a sure thing. The worth of any supplier can be compromised if its identity and sales proposition can’t transcend individual items.
The last thing a full-line kitchenware supplier wants to be known as in this market is a good peeler company. Established, multi-line suppliers with fragmented offerings are in jeopardy of surrendering share to fresh-thinking companies that can combine often-disparate products and categories into concrete themes.
Being cherry picked is neither a desirable nor a sustainable objective in this retail climate. Great new items remain the building blocks of growth in this business. Even so, suppliers, from the smallest to the largest, need convincing, achievable strategies for long-term programs.
Build The Program
Credit the retailers working the shows assertively in an effort to identify the most productive opportunities for the rest of this year. And credit those demonstrating a willingness to give housewares vendors the early commitments needed to optimize those opportunities.
What’s the best way to command the attention of these retailers? Lead with great items. Sell the concept. Build the program.
That ought to keep the buyers busy.