The July 22 issue of HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® features the 20th annual Impact Merchants special report. Housewares suppliers, representing the categories that HomeWorld covers, once again were asked to nominate buyers and merchandisers believed to have made a significant impact during the past year.
The selection of the Impact Merchant winners is not intended as a definitive list of the best merchants in housewares retailing. Votes went to several more merchandisers than those featured. This year’s honorees represent buyers in given categories that received the majority of votes by vendors polled.
Voters were asked to give added weight to merchandising creativity, trend and marketing astuteness, attention to detail, openness to risk, flexibility, relationship building and the ability to deliver a profitable program for both the vendors and retailer while providing value to consumers. One thing this year’s Impact Merchants share is a vote of respect by their vendors. In today’s unpredictable retail environment, that vote really counts.
Carolyn Feuer, Office Depot, Senior Category Merchant
The office superstore category has been a dynamic retail channel over the past few years, but, at Office Depot, Carolyn Feuer has stood out for her ability to keep the furniture business there moving forward.
Feuer has participated on both the Office Depot and the OfficeMax side of the business as the operations merged in 2013. In the years since, the company has had to integrate the two, including the furniture business, while at the same time reconfiguring to new market realities, including adding additional corporate services, and dealing with increasing online competition.
A vendor who nominated Feuer characterized her as a rational and strategic thinker who is open to new concepts. The vendor added that Feuer is willing to test products and analyze results, then take those results and move forward with conviction when it’s appropriate.
Another vendor described Feuer as a true e-commerce professional and partner. The supplier added that she is collaborative and always open to trying different marketing approaches. She takes the time to understand her product portfolio and the importance of gaining input from other teams internally and externally as she seeks to build efficiencies. Feuer is very process oriented and thorough in her approach to managing the business over which she presides, the vendor added.
Given the complex nature of the marketplace, today, the nominating vendors suggest that Feuer has been able to develop methods of analysis and decision making that ensure that the Office Depot furniture operation has advantages as demand from the consumer and commercial sides of the business evolve.
Feuer told HomeWorld Business that important trends she addressed in her job through 2018 included integration of home offices into the general design scheme of consumer homes.
“In 2018, I took a critical look at my core assortment and made decisions to diversify the product offering to better serve our home office customer,” she said. “Shoppers are looking for their office furniture to blend into their overall home aesthetic, which extends beyond traditional dedicated office furniture. I also saw the active furniture segment experience significant growth with increased demand for desk risers and sit/stand desks. Customers desire functional solutions that enable them to effortlessly switch between sitting and standing during the day, enabling an active lifestyle while working.”
This year, larger considerations have made Feuer’s work just that much more complex.
“Thus far in 2019, the tariffs imposed in China have had an impact in both sourcing and profitability. I’ve had to evaluate alternative procurement options to optimize cost and do a deep evaluation on our promotional depth of discount,” she said.
2019 HomeWorld Business Impact Merchants (click on name for profile):