Some might see a connection between the two annual special reports in the July 23, 2012, edition of HomeWorld Business®: “Impact Merchants,” showcasing some of the most proficient housewares buyers; and “Hot for the Holidays,” showcasing some of the most promising housewares trends and products for the back half.
The connection, of course, is that merchants making the biggest impact usually have the biggest appetite for the hottest new products.
To be sure, the buyers and merchandise managers selected by vendors as this year’s Impact Merchants are lauded for their commitment to new ideas and products.
The hurdles to such commitment seem to mount each year, however. And there are signs this upcoming holiday season will present its fair share of challenges for retail buyers looking to assemble programs that stand out on the shelves and on the bottom lines.
The U.S. economy slogs ahead while Europe’s debt troubles and China’s hiccups remind everyone the global fiscal crisis is far from over. The spring and summer swelter across much of the U.S. was in direct contrast to chilling consumer confidence and retail sales.
Throw in the consumer apprehension that often precedes a presidential election, and the general conservativeness that has become a staple of retail planning in recent seasons could be morphing into even more preventative uneasiness as the back-half nears.
Somebody’s doom and gloom, though, is another’s opportunity.
Retailers might feel compelled to further tighten the inventory screws, resist untested products and jump-start holiday discounts in the face of the latest economic headwinds. Impulsive, defensive adjustments might mitigate near-term shortfalls, but they won’t necessarily reinforce a retailer’s long-term foundation.
Retailers best equipped to navigate the chop of the current marketplace shouldn’t have to scramble for life preservers to save their years. They’ve taken what they’ve learned from the downturn to reset business models that balance the increased need to be fiscally cautious with a calculated assertiveness to implement new programs that project a much higher reward than risk.
This year’s Impact Merchants certainly earned their status on the merits of their own insights, methods and performance. Their prowess in many cases is a direct result of employers that, despite the compulsion to retract in today’s market, have allowed merchants to deploy their skills confidently.
The difference between trying to build distinctive, productive assortments and managing balance sheets is narrowing. Perhaps with good cause.
Give credit to buyers, merchandise managers and senior retail leaders finding ways to keep the needle from swinging all the way to the side of fiscal prudence. That effective merchandising requires more precision today doesn’t mean it should rely any less on working with established vendors and identifying new resources to cultivate new ideas, products and programs.
The first half of this year introduced housewares retailers to plenty of products with the potential to become hot sellers this holiday season.