The final numbers are in for 2014, and a holiday rally helped bring some respectability to a year that started with a thud.
Last year’s overall retail growth may have been marginal, and December sales underwhelmed. But the 4% year-over-year holiday gain reported by NRF, if it’s on the money, provided a bit of a tailwind heading into the planning period for the back-half of 2015.
The positivity in the air feels different than the hope at the start of recent years. Yet, there are many unresolved issues that are sure to color the mood at the forthcoming international housewares trade shows from Frankfurt to Chicago.
• How much will e-commerce gain as a share of sales?
• Will Macy’s consolidated store/online buying organization operate effectively? (Vendors are already predicting potential strain caused by shared responsibilities for two very different buying models.)
• Can Target begin to steady its core U.S. business without the distraction of its failed Canadian entry?
• Will a merged Family Dollar/Dollar Tree revive a segment that shook its big-box discount rivals’ world not that long ago?
• Is Bed Bath & Beyond’s third-quarter earnings slip just the anomaly of a one-off coupon binge?
• Can JC Penney sustain its same-store growth?
• How long can Sears Holdings hold on?
The answers to these and many other questions will factor heavily into the performance of the retail housewares market in 2015.
At this early stage in the year, though, the discussions need to focus without distraction on what’s new in development, marketing and merchandising from the housewares business. These are the primary building blocks of sales momentum that should be formed and evaluated on their own merits before factoring the myriad unanswered questions impacting their intended retail destinations.
Vendors do lots of heavy lifting to ready new product for retail buyers this time of year. The first step is to extract the true value potential of a product: Judge the product before the pricepoint.
This year got off to an encouraging start for housewares if the activity and tenor at winter gift and home markets in Atlanta, Dallas and Las Vegas are accurate barometers (NY Now wraps up this week). Vendors came with more new products than has been customary at these specialty markets. And many left with more orders (generally from independent retailers) than they expected.
The housewares business each year navigates through many questions about its retail customer base. The way a year begins offers no guarantees about how it will end.
Even so, starting the year with positivity is better than hoping for it.