The summer gift-and-housewares trade show circuit is in full swing, presenting, as these mid-term shows typically do, a valuable first chance for exhibitors and retailers to begin mapping out the next year.
For independent specialty retailers— such as those spotlighted by HomeWorld Business sister publication Gourmet Insider— these shows also test their opportunistic instincts and capabilities to seek, discover and buy products that can be added in time for the fast-approaching holiday season.
Such merchandising and operational flexibility, despite the constant pressure of a vast mass marketplace, can be a competitive advantage for independent merchants willing to take measured risks.
E-commerce advancement, meanwhile, is enabling web retailers of all sizes and scope to post new products onto their platforms virtually overnight.
Consolidated, programmatic chain-store retailing, on the other hand, has moved so far from its opportunistic, open-to-buy days that squeezing something into holiday layouts this late in the year is all but impossible. Even the suggestion of it may be laughable to many.
Vendors lament, generally with good cause, that big retailers are shifting most of the inventory burden and risk to the vendors. Executives from several housewares companies reported early this year that key customers slammed the brakes on reorders last December, interrupting a strong holiday run.
Some retailers, rather than risk excess inventory on post-holiday balance sheets, likely short-changed incremental sales and market share. And vendors were left holding the bag on goods earmarked for retailers who backed off earlier commitments.
A much-needed compromise remains elusive despite efforts to streamline supply chains and to infuse sales forecasting with sharp market data and analytics.
Relatively few housewares vendors manage domestic production— such as those featured throughout this special “Made In The USA” July 8 edition— that can be ramped up and down on short notice to serve fickle retail ordering. And importers, despite bruising tariffs, have had little choice but to order goods well in advance of the prime selling season.
Open To Buy
With the possible exception of off-pricers, corporate chain buyers typically don’t shop the summer shows for last-minute buys that can be unloaded in time for the holidays. There might be a lesson to be learned, though, from independent stores that can jump on unexpected opportunities.
There are always risks, and execution won’t be easy. However, if vendors must be prepared to deliver goods on demand, more retailers would do well to be equipped for and open to opportunistic buying as the all-important holiday season nears.
Laugh all you want.
The potential cost of missing an opportunity is a serious matter.