Sorting Through The Trends For Retail Clarity

It can be a challenging exercise to distill from  the thousands of products at the International Home + Housewares Show the trends that will translate to retail prosperity in the coming months.

HomeWorld editors, for example, came away from the show with no fewer than a baker’s dozen of trending scenarios, from small-space living and connectivity to natural eating and cleaning (read about all 13 trends at homeworldbusiness.com). Pantone’s Lee Eiseman, in her annual color forecast during the show, identified 16 moods to which home product colorways for the year could relate. That’s right, 16.

Can’t Miss

It underscores that there hardly is a singular, catchall answer to the inevitable questions asked during the Housewares Show about what’s new and what’s hot. If only it was that easy for the housewares industry and for housewares retailers to lock into a can’t-miss program built around a can’t-miss trend that will drive can’t-miss sales growth.

Despite all the risk- and inventory-aversion out there, this is still a business that will be won and lost on the decisions made by retailers. It might be unsettling to have to choose a merchandising direction from among 13 different lifestyle trends or 16 different color moods. But the difference between progress and stalling can be the difference between committing to an informed choice and feeling you have to choose all of the above.

Crunch Time

In a market where just about everything is available to purchase with the tap and pinch of a smartphone, most retailers (bricks and clicks) actually face more pressure to claim and sustain strong, clear identities and resist trying to be all things to all people.

General merchandising is a vulnerable place in retailing today. It is becoming a race to low common denominators few can win.

It’s crunch time for many retailers to reset how they can and should be more relevant— to embrace and cultivate with conviction a trend direction that could separate them from the pack and is sustainable.

Kohl’s, for example, is pinning a comeback on the reboot of its flagship Sonoma house brand, which the chain’s management admits became a disjointed commodity in an undisciplined push for the brand to cover more ground and hit lower prices. The keep-it-simple restoration plan for Kohl’s Sonoma brand: A tighter mix of stylish, versatile, practical, better-quality, right-priced basics.

Retail Headwinds

Whether or not this is the answer to Kohl’s slumping sales, it’s still a decisive gamble that will be watched closely by other department store operators and retailers slammed by last fall’s retail headwinds and perhaps their own jumbled merchandising identities.

It’s challenging to sort through all the trends that are motivating shoppers. Committing to a clear direction, though, might be the catchall most retailers need to prosper in the coming months.