A Feel-Good Retail Story Everyone Needs

Need a feel-good story about brick-and-mortar housewares retailing as we head into the heart of the holiday shopping season?

Visit just about any Marshalls, TJ Maxx or HomeGoods store and marvel at all those real people waiting in all those long lines.

E-Commerce Resistance

TJX Companies remains the standard bearer for the e-commerce resistance by an off-price retailing segment that defies the new-normal marketplace of shrinking chains, shuttered storefronts and omnichannel ambition.

As such, it is surprising to see the slumping TJX stock, apparently caught by association in the net of doubt cast by retail-shorting investors.

Worry not, most Wall Street prognosticators declare. TJX continues, they say, to be an outlier among the brick-and-mortar establishment with the right business model, execution and foot traffic to keep posting solid sales and profit gains against digital commerce headwinds. It’s no different than how TJX grew against the current of so much department store and big-box expansion.

You don’t hear much whining about TJX from vendors these days.

Vendors of all classes for years tried to avoid, deny or mask direct dealings with TJX for fear of disenfranchising so-called mainstream customers. Now they’re more likely to flaunt their success with the company’s divisions. And many that aren’t developing programs for TJX admit they need to.

Clear Differentiation

That TJX is building an e-commerce platform for a business effectively insulated from e-commerce might seem odd. It merely affirms the inescapable reality that any retail business without a reliably productive digital presence is at a disadvantage. Retailers, and not just off-pricers, are watching closely to see if and how TJX recreates its in-store experience and mix online without marginalizing the very stores so vital to its retail differentiation.

Similarly, TJX needs a clearly differentiated in-store strategy as it rolls out its HomeSense format as an additive alternative to its long-standing HomeGoods operation. Early feedback to the first U.S. HomeSense stores applauds the seemingly more curated and programmed— though not cookie-cutter— off-price shopping experience that stands on its own against the intentionally crammed shelves and racks of HomeGoods, Marshalls and TJ Maxx.

Customer Engagement

Others point to the expansion and mounting advertising strategy by TJX to elevate its Sierra Trading Post unit, well positioned to capitalize on the outdoor lifestyle boom that has propelled such experiential super-outlets as Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops.

Meanwhile, TJX’s gift-giving initiatives and loyalty card program have improved customer engagement.

TJX is more mainstream than ever. But it still thrives on being different… and making a difference. Ask any TJX store employee in Puerto Rico continuing to receive a paycheck for stores that have been closed for weeks in the wake of recent hurricanes.

Indeed, TJX continues to be a feel-good story for brick-and-mortar retailing that everyone needs.

And it’s OK to admit it.