What We Learned In Q1

greg sleterAs the spring weather warmed much of the country in mid-May, the housewares industry digested the first quarter earnings reports from a host of retailers.

And as leading chains revealed their respective results, there were several interesting takeaways.

  • What happened in February? I don’t recall any major weather events, but apparently, no one went shopping. Sales were so bad in the year’s shortest month that the “rebound” described by some retailers in March and April combined could not offset what appears to be a dramatic 28-day dip in February.
  • If you’re a retailer fighting for your existence, don’t fight with your vendors…or the media…or anyone else for that matter. Sadly, it feels as if we’re just watching the sands in the hourglass on Sears Holdings. I would bet that most people are rooting for Sears to survive, but the bombastic approach by its chief executive Eddie Lampert to call out vendors looking to protect themselves and media reporting on Sears’ struggles is not the way to make friends at a time when you need lots of friends.
  • Walmart sees growth in stores and online. Quarterly comp store sales at Walmart were up a modest 1.4%, but compared to others, that number is sizzling. In addition to more merchandise moving through its store’s registers, its e-commerce sales were also up. The battle between the Bentonville behemoth and Amazon will be fascinating to watch.
  • Home is a savior. One constant heard throughout first quarter reports was the strength of home. Home Depot’s U.S. comp store sales were up 6%, TJX reported strong sales growth at HomeGoods and J.C. Penney— despite an overall decline in first quarter sales— noted continued sales growth in appliances and other home categories. With consumers showing a renewed interest in investing in their homes, this can only be a good thing for housewares.