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The Entire Game Counts

The retail housewares year is played in halves, like college basketball games.

And anyone who follows college basketball closely— those of you with some insight into my sports allegiances know I’m a college hoops die-hard— often hear from the uninitiated there is no reason to watch the first half or even most of the second half. They say games are decided in the final five minutes.

Winners & Losers

The business year for retailers and their suppliers can look the same to the casual observer. The first half of the year, replete with myriad trade shows, planning activities, sourcing trips and follow-ups, can seem like a plodding setup to the second half of the year, when the action picks up in anticipation of the rush of the final five weeks that determines the winners and the losers.

We know, of course, it’s not like that at all. We know a well-coached business team sets the foundation for a winning year well in advance of the busy season. We know precise, consistent execution throughout the year, with the flexibility to adapt and change the game plan at a moment’s notice, are more necessary than ever for repeatable success. And, yes, we know the last few weeks present a flurry of action that can fill the wait for the final results with anxiety.

This first half of this year began in the afterglow of a late 2017 rally by some slumping mainstream retailers who had not fared well against the relentless full-court press of Amazon. Perhaps that validates the idea that things can swing suddenly and surprisingly during the final ticks of the clock. Or maybe it shows that such rallies resulted from winning moves implemented weeks and months ahead of the actual holiday-season victories.

On The Offensive

We were left to wonder if the positive momentum would carry into 2018— if the success was sustainable, or if it was just the result of some lucky bounces of the ball. Recent retail financials indicate some of these turnarounds are sticking, fueling optimism that key retailers, after several years on the defensive with faint hopes of a comeback, are back on the offensive.

Sure, some important retailers haven’t figured out how to win, and maybe they never will. Their mounting losses tend to dampen the crowd’s spirit more than the retail turnarounds brighten the overall outlook. “It’s really tough out there,” is still a common refrain.

The Clock Has Started

No one said winning would be easy in today’s retail game. Was it ever?

In college basketball, every play of every second counts. A rebound during the first five minutes of the game might be as vital to victory as the buzzer-beating jump shot to end the game.

The second half of this retail housewares year is about to begin. The clock already started for the winners and the losers.