The Off-Price Secret Is Out

The success of off-price retailing isn’t a new story. But it’s no longer the dirty little secret it once was to a housewares industry that wouldn’t dare discuss dealings with off-price stores for fear of rankling so-called mainstream customers.

Today, some housewares suppliers proudly hail off-price retailers as vital front-line customers.

Prime Targets

Once relegated to secondary, aging, lower-rent locations away from the shiny, new power strip centers, off-price stores are now prime targets for prime retail real estate. Moreover, it’s not uncommon now to find adjacent off-price superstores— Burlington one door down from Marshalls or HomeGoods abutting a Nordstrom Rack.

So fashionable is the off-price market that Macy’s and Kohl’s are jumping in with formats. And Saks and Nordstrom, early off-price converts among traditional department store operators, are stretching their deep-discount derivatives from outlet malls into primary retail corridors.

Off-price retailers have made a sizeable dent in the HomeWorld Business Top 100 Housewares Retailers rankings featured in this September 14, 2015, edition, holding six spots for an aggregate housewares volume in 2014 of nearly $3 billion. 

The post-downturn economy aligned perfectly for the off-price retailing surge examined in the September 14 issue’s cover story. The thrill of seeking and finding a designer polo shirt or a premium cookware brand at a deep discount spans household income brackets.

Consumer Delight

Moreover, off-price retailers don’t have to fight as hard for brick-and-mortar relevance with an ever-changing mix that varies from store to store and is all but impossible to replicate in a digital-commerce model. The sport of shopping is alive and well inside off-price stores, where consumers delight in the potential of surprising, one-off bargains on top-flight products lurking around every corner.

Housewares suppliers, meanwhile, delight in the nimble, open-to-buy decisiveness of many off-price merchants. Ask suppliers what they prefer— a committee of buyers, merchandise managers and planners from a leading department store that can’t/won’t make a decision without weeks of back-and-forth; or a single buyer from an off-price chain ready, willing and able to deal on the spot?

Toe The Line

As more traditional retailers angle for a piece of the growing off-price pie, it will be interesting to see if they can deftly toe the line between liquidating closeouts, overstocks and other opportunity buys and securing a stable foundation of programmed goods developed for the off-price channel.

Leading off-price retailers continue to refine the balance between opportunistic and programmed merchandising, and it’s paying off as they move up the housewares sales rankings. 

There is no shame, nor should there be any fear, among housewares suppliers increasing their business with the off-price channel. 

The secret is out: Off-price retailing has never been more mainstream.