The Race Is Just Beginning

After a winter that seemed would never end fades deep into the background, the housewares race is heating up as the all-important second half nears.

There is no turning back at this point. But a recap of some of the first-half developments that set the pace for 2015 provides some guidance.

Promising Start

The year for retailers began with the promise of surging consumer confidence, declining unemployment and some extra discretionary cash fueled by cheaper gas.

That promise was stunted, though, when consumers decided they were not in a rush to splurge. Frigid weather and a West Coast port impasse that lingered into the spring didn’t help.

Meanwhile, stock market strength defies overall economic tepidness, causing some pundits to predict a forthcoming leak in the bubble.

The housewares industry during the first half presented several initiatives that project positive results while raising still-unanswered questions.

• Will Paula Deen’s media comeback revive her licensing power at retail? And is the new wave of licensed culinary media brands ready to overtake celebrity chef brands?

 • Will sell-in and sell-through of all those new “smart” housewares products match their hype?

• Can Keurig Kold, with help from Coca-Cola, put some fizz back into the cold beverage maker segment?

• How will Oxo’s entry affect kitchen electrics and cookware resets?

• Can the acquisitions of Reed & Barton by Lenox and WWRD by Fiskars stoke the tabletop business?

Intriguing Development

These are just a handful of the big housewares news stories chronicled by HomeWorld Business during the first half of this year. Many other stories, some not yet written, will factor into the back-half results.

One retail episode, in particular, that stirred much intrigue was Williams-Sonoma’s report that its corporate online revenue in 2014 exceeded brick-and-mortar sales, the first such occurrence for a major national chain.

That spotlights the looming “what now?” dilemma for retailers giddy about their growing e-commerce sales as they worry about eroding same-store productivity. This will make nimble and precise omnichannel execution even more compulsory, not just for retailers but for their vendors, too.

Off Price

First-quarter wobbles from Walmart to Macy’s underscore how brick-and-mortar retail challenges for the remainder of the year— and beyond—are not limited to any one channel (except, perhaps, the hardy off-price segment that Macy’s is poised to enter).

If getting through the first half seemed like a slog after the promise of a fast start to the year went unfulfilled, find solace in knowing the race is just beginning. Then hope you have plenty of kick left as you near the finish line.