So, What’s Your Business?

What’s your business?

Think about this before you answer:

I’ve had the privilege this year of participating in several video webinars, panel discussions and other online industry sessions, for which I have been asked to share my insights on the impact of the pandemic on housewares retailing.

These virtual sessions have also provided me with a bounty of insights to help guide HomeWorld’s editorial direction at a time when up-to-the-minute industry news and analysis has never seemed more essential.

Biggest Challenge

One such example for me occurred during a recent video meeting of the San Francisco and Seattle contingents of the International Housewares Association’s CORE program of regional executive networking groups.

Before I went into a presentation on how HomeWorld Business headlines the past several months illuminate the rapid evolution of the industry’s pandemic response, attendees were asked to introduce themselves by describing their companies and biggest challenges.

Each attendee described his or her company in terms of the types of housewares products offered. Then each, to a person, said supply-chain management and logistics present a primary challenge, especially ahead of a critical holiday season as surging demand confronts clogged supply lines.

I ordinarily wouldn’t give a second thought to the way people describe their companies. But this isn’t an ordinary time. Nor is it a time for ordinary thinking.

I thought back to a conversation several years ago with a home products executive from Amazon, which at the time was viewed generally as an online retailer. The executive, almost bristling at the suggestion it was merely a massive e-retailer, declared Amazon to be a “technology company.” It was an important distinction in the Amazon organization that has since become more evident across the business world.

Redefining Moment

It makes me wonder if the housewares business is (should be) on the verge of a redefining moment.

It wasn’t long ago when housewares companies, looking to update traditional manufacturing- and sales-focused reputations by asserting modern marketing sophistication, started referring to themselves as “consumer product companies.”

There no doubt is (should be) great pride in being a successful housewares company. Housewares is a valuable business whose inventive spirit has overcome downturn after downturn through the years. Its essential place in homes has never been more evident than during the pandemic.

Responsive View

But defining a housewares business is no longer as simple as highlighting the products it sells. Businesses seen through such a narrow scope are vulnerable to upstarts and outsiders with a wider, more progressive and more responsive view of their opportunities, capabilities and advantages.

It makes me wonder how many industry executives in a webinar five or 10 years from now might be more inclined to introduce themselves as leaders of logistics companies that specialize in housewares, instead of leaders of housewares companies facing a logistics challenge.

So, what’s your business?

Think about it before you answer.