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Unwrapping A Promising Holiday

The annual HomeWorld Business Top 100 Housewares Retailers edition (September 10) arrives on the verge of what, by many accounts, is a promising holiday retail season.

Emerging Clarity

Recent financials of several major retailers have been more than encouraging. They suggest clarity is emerging from the rubble of the mass disruption of retailing institutions by the e-commerce insurgence. Despite an ongoing threat, winners that have rationalized store bases, sharpened logistics, refreshed in-store assortments and experiences and cemented e-commerce platforms are separating from the losers.

The most successfully transforming retailers are also distancing themselves from growing doubts that clouded expectations by many downtrodden operators this time last year. Few then anticipated what could be the turning point that occurred during the 2017 holiday quarter, when a number of retailers that had spent previous seasons on the defensive moved into a more offensive stance.

So, we arrive at the next stage that could tell us if a broader retail revival that began for several operators last fall and continued through the first half of this year, has the staying power not just to post another round of solid holiday sales, but also to sustain positive results for quarters to come.

The cover story accompanying our exclusive special Top 100 Housewares Retailers report offers an in-depth sneak peek into what the 2018 holiday season could unwrap for housewares retailing. It is a period primed by swelling enthusiasm. But it arrives with no assurances— the firm realization that in a volatile marketplace evolving at cyber speed, it is difficult to anticipate the next threat lurking around the corner and its impact.

Ultimate Test

It serves up the ultimate test of dexterity that is a pillar of retail progress today. How do you build or reinforce strong foundational identities that can support layers of frequent adaptations to accommodate sudden shifts in shopping preference and process?

With reasonable economic, business and consumer optimism comes the caveat of an unpredictable retail climate, compounded by emergent factors casting shadow on the outlook for the forthcoming season and beyond. Chief among them, of course, is the potential for sweeping tariffs to reset pricing at the expense of consumer discretionary income. And don’t discount the risk that many retailers have assumed by bringing in more-than-usual early holiday inventory to stock up ahead of possible tariff-related price increases.

Complicated Strategy

Locking into a retail strategy is increasingly complicated, as is ensuring a long-term recovery.

Some things are certain, though. Pressure on traditional retailing won’t abate any time soon. Additional casualties eventually will fall, likely including companies on HomeWorld’s latest Top 100 Housewares Retailers list.

Even so, seeing several retailers approach the holiday on offense more than defense certainly is promising.