Jay Cunningham, Kitchenware Buyer, T.J. Maxx/Marshalls

The July 13, 2020, issue of HOMEWORLD BUSINESS® features the 21st 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.

Jay Cunningham, Kitchenware Buyer, T.J. Maxx/Marshalls

With a career spanning more than 30 years at TJX and a reputation to match, Jay Cunningham has been recognized by kitchenware vendors as a 2020 Impact Merchant.

As a kitchenware buyer responsible for kitchen tools, gadgets, as well as flatware, cookware and bakeware, Cunningham’s versatility and multi-category knowledge have helped him build a reputation of being a strong ally to the housewares industry.

Cunningham began his career at TJX in 1986 and has since been a buyer for multiple categories, including children’s basics and accessories, boy’s apparel, and toys. His experience navigating trends and challenges in categories outside of housewares has helped give him a strong point of view of the TJX customer’s shopping habits.

Today, Cunningham buys for more than 3,000 U.S. T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores. His ability to trend spot, merchandise and plan programs is one of the many reasons vendors praised his dedication to the housewares industry.

In addition, his range of experience with creative merchandising, inventory management, forecasting, and his strengths in multi-channel retail, proved to be a welcomed support by vendors in the last few months as the country faced the uncertainty of the pandemic.

While the company, which was forced to temporarily close stores amid the crisis and reported an unexpected loss for the first quarter due to the closures, it was quickly able to regroup, reopen stores and its e-commerce channels, putting plans in place to welcome shoppers back. —Lauren DeBellis

2020 HomeWorld Business Impact Merchants (click on name for profile):

Jay Cunningham, T.J. Maxx/Marshalls

Adam Gregory, Target

Karen Rapier, Walmart

Elena Weckerle, Ulta Beauty

Ryan Yarnell, Meijer

Deb Danielson, Target

Sarah Dipietro, Macy’s

Jeff Branz, Wayfair

Taylor Martinez, Costco

Rachel Tsupros, Wayfair

Korey Reed, Walmart

Susette Johnson, AAFES

Becky Blake, Walmart

Gretchen Dexter, Everything Kitchens

David LeClair, Staples