Placing Bets On The Retailers To Watch

The holiday retail predictions are in.

Consider this sample of year-over-year holiday retail sales forecasts: National Retail Federation, up 3.6% to 4%; and Alix Partners, up 4.1% to 4.9%.

However the 2017 holiday season finishes, it will culminate a year of perplexing contradiction for many dependent on the retailing business. Reports of rising economic fortunes haven’t aligned with the ground-level struggle by traditional retailers and suppliers to cope with cautious consumerism and the complicated transition to a shopping environment shaped by e-commerce.

Guarded Consumer

Traditional variables factored into predicting holiday sales growth don’t seem as bet-the-ranch reliable as they once did. It is difficult to account for an underlying guardedness among consumers that stews despite any outward expression of growing confidence.

Gauging the next two days, let alone the next two months, has become near impossible in a retail arena preoccupied with trying to anticipate the next two clicks.

Swift adaptability is an overwhelmingly requisite retailing quality when consumers have (or believe they have) more choice and control. That is not necessarily the forte of a retail establishment whose basic model of accumulating real estate and choosing what consumers could buy went virtually unchallenged for brick-and-mortar generations.

Adapt To Disruption

The truth is retailers impacted the most by the e-commerce shakeout still don’t know where the bottom lies. That leaves them with something less than concrete on top of which to reset their strategies confidently. That leaves them vulnerable, prone to reactive, short-term problem solving over proactive, long-term commitment.

Speculation abounds about which retailers will merely survive this shakeout and which will adapt to the disruptive forces well enough that they might begin to forge the next disruption.

This all sets the stage for the launch in the November 6 edition of a “Retailers To Watch” report, slated to become an annual HomeWorld Business feature. Executive Editor Greg Sleter and Senior Editor Mike Duff profile eight retailers to keep a close eye on during the coming months.

In The Home Depot, Overstock.com, Target, H.E.B., Ollie’s Bargain Outlet, Burlington, Kohl’s and West Elm, this year’s selections encompass key classes of retail trade for the housewares business.

Assertive Moves

Some, like Ollie’s, Burlington and Overstock, represent a mainstream off-price uprising in stores and online barely anticipated a retail generation ago. Some, like Target, The Home Depot, Kohl’s, West Elm (a division of Williams-Sonoma) and H.E.B. represent the assertive moves required by veteran retailers to reclaim share.

The selection of these retailers based on their ambitious plans is a prediction of neither success nor failure. The results of their efforts, though, should factor into the retail forecast well beyond this holiday season.

Bet on it.