Independents Go 'Home' For Profitability

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As I mentioned in our last print issue, independent retailers “are embracing, or should embrace, what TWICE likes to call ‘non-traditional’ product categories.”

TWICE@Home, a special report that begins on p. 19, should give everyone a pretty good idea of what we mean. They are categories that, as Brand Source’s Bob Lawrence told TWICE, “fit [dealers’] core mix or complement it.”

This report is an overview of some of the categories that independent retailers have turned to during the past couple of years, or are considering, to maintain or increase store traffic, net sales and profitability.

For regional independents large and small, and even for publicly held companies like Conn’s, furniture and bedding are vital parts of their mix. And there are others, such as lighting systems, grills, generators, outdoor TVs, video-surveillance systems and home-control systems, as well as smart major appliances.

Executives with BrandSource, Nationwide Marketing Group and Mega Group all told TWICE that outdoor products of many types will be highlighted at their conventions to be held this month.

Rick Bellows of Mega Group USA, whose organization is more weighted towards furniture and major appliances, said his members realized “they are retailers first … and you have to be able to satisfy the wants and needs of your customers.”

That’s not to say that traditional electronics/appliance retailers — many of which have competed for years and years against Sears, Best Buy, The Home Depot and Lowe’s — are going to cut back on CE or majaps severely any time soon. The new categories are creating more traffic for CE and smart appliances, and vice versa.

As a matter of fact, the erosion of Sears’ market share in recent years may have helped accelerate the trend towards carrying these home-related categories. For years, independents have competed against Sears — which reported another depressing fiscal fourth quarter and annual financial last week — and still provide the type of sales and service the legendary retailer was once known for.

So, many of these local and regional retailers have adapted to changing economic times, with the help of their buying groups.

As for the national chains, due to their size, it’s just not that easy even when they are still adapting.

Best Buy’s management team, led by CEO Hubert Joly, shows it is not impossible.

Best Buy went “home” in a sense — to its strengths — and has added departments, emphasized the web, added promotions, while streamlining its operations. The result was profits for its fiscal year and fourth quarter last week.

Best Buy’s team knows more work is still needed, but that’s not bad for a retail chain left for dead by many around 18 months ago.

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