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Recognizing The Surprising Retailers Of 2010

We put a wrap on 2010 with this annual HomeWorld Business Year in Review issue.
A read through the December 20, 2010 – January 9, 2011, edition confirms the housewares industry stayed on its course during this pivotal year to deliver value-added household solutions, navigating around challenges of a still-tender but healing economy en route, hopefully, to new growth opportunities.
Perhaps this wasn’t a year awash with revolutionary product, marketing and merchandising strategy. But it was a watershed year for fine-tuning, polishing, reinventing and taking just enough calculated, evolutionary risk to put the housewares business in an enviably sturdy position as the retail marketplace turns the corner toward what many expect to be a more consistent growth path in 2011.

Recovery Dollars

As much as housewares suppliers find themselves in a pressurized clash for fewer retail slots, expect retailers that endured the downturn in the best condition to compete ferociously for recovery dollars. It will be interesting to see if this results in measurable market share shifts in key housewares categories by individual retailers, as well as further blurring of what used to be clearly defined distribution channel lines.
Consumers cross channels more freely than ever. Suppliers and brands must, as well, for the sake of selling to the most reliable customers regardless of channel.
Consider the 10 retailers that were honored for their merchandising excellence during the 2011 Housewares Design Awards gala February 2 in New York City. Chosen by category, these retailers are cited for their commitment to new product and merchandising innovation.
Some selections might seem puzzling at first glance based on perceptions of retailer and channel strengths and weaknesses that have been ingrained the past several years. But this is now, a new beginning. Retailers face a new opportunity to redirect traffic through their doors by deconstructing and rebuilding consumer and trade perceptions.

Ambitious Exclusive

• How can Office Depot get the nod for furniture merchandising excellence, some might wonder, with office superstore traffic in the tank? Because Office Depot is trying to oil the front door with ambitious, new exclusives in RTA workstations and office seating.
• Macy’s as a floor care honoree might be a head-scratcher because the fashion department store channel abdicated its top-of-mind presence in vacs years ago. In case you haven’t noticed, though, Macy’s is recapturing electric cleaning share by aligning with new brands and products in the expanding steam segment.

Early Adopter

• Most gourmet housewares stores don’t have the floor space and productivity patience to compete broadly against the big boxes for kitchen electrics. Even so, honoree Sur La Table is jockeying for incremental sales as an early adopter of the latest high-end specialty electrics.
• What did an off-price retailer, Home Goods, do to earn recognition as an innovative lighting retailer? Probably more than any other mass merchant by leveraging the off-price segment’s mounting traffic to develop a stylish, versatile and right-priced destination lamp department that blends first-run programs with opportunity buys seamlessly.
• What kitchen tool honoree Whole Foods Market lacks in sheer product scope compared to the superstores it makes up with a well-edited upscale mix, tidy presentations and the creative conversion of typically vacant store space into productive impulse selling space.
These and the other retail honorees seized the opportunity in 2010 to reset merchandising foundations. Yes, some are surprising choices. It’s their ability to surprise while consumers rediscover where and how to shop that could propel these retailers next year and beyond.