Housewares Impact Still Begins With People

HomeWorld Business presents its 2018 Impact Merchants in the July 23 issue, featuring profiles of top retail buyers and managers nominated by housewares suppliers for their merchandising proficiency.

This year’s selections, as with previous Impact Merchants, represent a cross section of housewares retailing experience, categories and channels. There are repeat honorees, and there are first-time selections. Senior merchandise managers and category buyers.

Personal Interaction

What they share is a commitment to category analysis, a talent for detailed execution, an appetite for new product and— this one’s key— a record of personal interaction with vendors that makes them accessible and attentive even if suppliers don’t always get their way.

This industry has lamented for years that buyers and merchandise managers have been stripped of buying power by corporate retailing bean counters. Informed intuition, creativity, flexibility and a bit of risk, which have collaborated often to discover and build big winners, sometimes seem like artifacts of retailing’s merchant-driven past.

Remember open-to-buy?

Housewares vendors cling greedily to buyers willing and skilled to balance old-school merchandising instincts and practices against retailing’s new-school, risk-averse restraints. They see emerging buyers all-too-often shuffled to other departments just as they are beginning to demonstrate a flair for housewares.

Such concerns among vendors aren’t new. They have been ramped up to more pressing levels, however, with the rise of e-commerce. Algorithms now can spit out assortments, program discounts, payment terms and even the e-mails to suppliers advising them of their requirements.

Helpless Feeling

Digital retailing technology is counted on to facilitate procedure and productivity. However, vendors could be rendered practically helpless— and the housewares business as a whole could be shortchanged— with limited access to real people on the retail buying side to which new opportunities can be explained fully and with which challenges can be overcome cooperatively.

Automation of the retail buying and selling relationship might save time and money up front. But it shouldn’t blunt the merchandising intuition, creativity, flexibility and measured risk needed by retailers of all types to distinguish themselves during this demanding period.

Dedicated Merchants

We named this special feature Impact Merchants when it debuted 18 years ago to underscore how the best retail buyers and managers do more than buy product well. In an era of striking retail change, dedicated merchants can still have profound impact on their companies’ housewares performance and on the entire housewares industry.

Congratulations to this year’s HomeWorld Business Impact Merchants. They stand as an important reminder that success in this business still begins with people.