Back To School

It didn’t take long, traveling through a full slate of year-opening trade shows and conferences, to get schooled on the housewares business outlook for the year.

So, what did we learn already this year?

We learned that housewares retailers of all shapes and sizes powered into the year with a head of steam. Many reported a strong November/December that, depending on who you talked to, helped make up for an up-and-down first 10 months of 2018; or sent results well over the top for the whole year.

Traffic Increases

Clearly visible traffic increases at the key January gourmet housewares markets— which cater mainly to independent retailers but also attracted notable chain buyers— meant vendors enjoyed year-over-year gains in retailer visits and a rewarding uptick in actual order-writing during the shows.

We learned that despite the pressures of a compressed winter show calendar leading toward an earlier International Home + Housewares Show, the industry has worked overtime to be ready with a spate of new products and programs to feed retailers hungry to keep the positive momentum going.

We learned that little can deter the housewares industry’s passion for developing creative and unique housewares products.

Winning Hand

This year’s winners of the Housewares Design Awards were announced at a special celebration to close out January at the Las Vegas Market. The winners on hand, naturally, were jubilant to receive recognition that affirmed their efforts to advance this industry through inspired product development and marketing.

What was even more telling about this industry’s determination is hearing finalists that didn’t win, despite their obvious disappointment, express gracious appreciation to have been among the contenders, fueling their enthusiasm to give it another shot next year.

We learned that there is still no certainty about the impact of recent tariffs now in full flow for many sectors of the housewares business. Vendors said that despite the widely held belief that price increases through to the consumer are inevitable if the punitive tariffs aren’t lifted soon, some big retailers are warning suppliers they’re out if they raise their prices.

We learned that just when you think you’re prepared for whatever business can throw at you, something will surprise you that will test every bit of your strategic and tactical resolve.

Pass The Test

One vendor recounted at a recent show how its third-party warehouse closed without notice in mid-October, rendering the business unable to take orders or ship product for six weeks during the holiday season. How scary is that? Undeterred, the vendor was confidently back in the game by the start of the year with a new warehouse, ready to be stocked with an expanding lineup of products.

Consider that test passed.

Yes, school is in session for the 2019 housewares campaign. And no matter how much we learn in this business, the lessons keep coming.