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HFN editors have years of experience covering products and retail for housewares, tabletop, floor covering, furniture and textiles. They share their opinions here.
  • Sear-ing

    David GillMounting doubts about whether Sears Holdings will survive have reached a crescendo thanks, ironically, to a release from the company earlier this week announcing it would post a second-quarter profit. Now before you in the home products manufacturing community stand up and cheer—and you certainly would feel an impulse to do so, given that the last time Sears reported positive net income was 12 quarters ago—take a good look at the fine print. When you do, you’ll see that the reason Sears expects to make money in the quarter is due to the proceeds from the sale ... Read More
  • Sink or Swim?

    Maureen AzzatoAs human beings it’s important to know who we are and, more importantly, be true to ourselves. Let’s face it, people who are self directed and prepossessing—clear about their likes and dislikes, and their goals and aspirations—are compelling. If they are clear communicators to boot, that makes them even more attractive. Well, the same holds true for retailers. They must be true to their culture, strategy and brand identity, while allowing themselves enough flexibility to employ winning tactics against emerging trends so that they can anticipate consumers’ changing needs. But it certainly is a fine balance ... Read More
  • Of Outlets and Outages

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORWelcome to the retail format du jour: outlets. If you’re getting a little taste of déjà vu here, it’s quite understandable. The rush for full-line stores—mostly from the department store world—to move into the outlet and off-price channel is a veritable feeding frenzy these days, capped off with the news that Macy’s will be the latest entrant into this world. Upscale stores like Nordstrom, Saks and Neiman have been playing this card for years. Macy’s sent its kid sister, Bloomingdale’s, out there first a few years ago to test the outlet waters ... Read More
  • In Praise of Knockoffs ...

    Bill McLoughlinPlagiarize. Webster’s dictionary describes it as, “to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another as one’s own: use (another’s production) without crediting the source.” Anyone who’s been in the housewares industry for more than a few years knows that if it weren’t for knockoffs a significant portion of many retail shelves would be empty. Few successful products go uncopied and even patent protection is only as powerful as a company’s financial and logistical ability to enforce it. And while I would not advocate copying the work of others as a business ... Read More
  • Your Total Home and Housewares Resource

    Maureen AzzatoIt is a privilege to join the team of such an iconic business-to-business brand as HFN. In the month I have been on the job, it has been so gratifying to hear from and speak to readers and clients who have such a strong affinity to HFN, and who rely on it so fully for their on-trend business decisions across the home and housewares categories. We thank you for your readership and trust, and we plan to build on that wonderful legacy in the future. There are few media brands that have been around as long as HFN (we will ... Read More
  • Blah Blah Blah On the Retail Blahs

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORSo, The Gap is closing 175 stores. Radio Shack closed more than half its thousands of locations. Anna’s Linens is liquidating. Dollar stores, office supply stores...the list goes on and on. And at the end of every list is the kicker: America has too many stores, we’re overstored and the Internet is going to kill brick-and-mortar. Well, try telling that to Uniqlo, H&M, Zara, Amazon, Warby Parker—and more retail start-ups than you can imagine—that America has too many stores. America has too many stores that don’t work anymore, aren’t in touch with ... Read More
  • It’s Nice to Share . . . It’s Better to Be Shared

    Bill McLoughlinWe live in an age of digital communication and reaching consumers on their laptops, tablets and cell phones has never been more critical. Housewares marketers looking to navigate this digital maze must recognize that the rules of the game have changed. Traditional advertising methods and messages don’t apply. The Internet user is a content consumer. Whether it’s information on a potential purchase, news or quirky videos, digital devotees devour content. The term “sharing economy” has emerged in recent years to define the use of technology to facilitate the sharing of goods and services, much like Uber’s ride ... Read More
  • The Great Retail Disconnect

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORBuried in all the financial doubletalk and heavy-handed retailspeak of the most recent earnings reports from big stores and even bigger mall operators, there was an absolutely fascinating dichotomy that says an awful lot about the state of retailing in America today. Big store after big store reported that they had relatively disappointing first quarters largely because traffic was off in their stores and they couldn’t get enough bodies through the front door. Some pulled out the old weather yarn about a harsh winter impacting things and of course that was beyond their control. No doubt the winter of ... Read More
  • The First Housewares Commandment: It Shall Work!

    Bill McLoughlinI’ve been in the housewares business long enough that I’ve seen the trend pendulum traverse its inevitable arc between fashion and function; design and utility; aesthetics and performance, many a time. And while there are always products that embody both, or those that sell well when the pendulum appears to have swung in the opposite direction, I feel the need to sound a warning as we head toward the latest swing in the direction of “design.” I use the term in quotes specifically to reference an emerging movement to employ design principles to create housewares as “art.” Increasingly ... Read More
  • Making History

    Duke RatliffThe home furnishings business has lots of long-time vendors with plenty of history. A week barely goes by that HFN doesn’t receive a press release from a vendor announcing a significant anniversary. Older companies often play up their heritages as an important part of their marketing strategies. Usually, the storied companies are known for more traditional styles and designs. Recently, some of home furnishings’ most long-running, traditional brands have taken distinct diversions from their normally traditional paths. It’s no coincidence that the tabletop category is leading the way with companies that are breaking away from the past, at ... Read More
  • Bare Minimums

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORIt was a taboo subject when unemployment was high and people felt they were fortunate just to have a job. That was a long stretch, even longer for workers who didn’t keep up with inflation and gas prices, much less get a raise. But over the past year that’s all changed and with employment numbers back at solid levels, the concept of paying people more this year than last has taken hold across a broad spectrum of American business. Nowhere more so than in retailing, where perhaps at least one in ten American jobs are located. The numbers ... Read More
  • Best Intentions

    Duke RatliffStraight from the No Good Deed Goes Unpunished Department, Starbucks received tons of press—mostly bad—for its Race Together campaign last month. The gourmet coffee pioneer/potentate had its employees write “Race Together” on its coffee cups. This, Starbucks’ CEO Howard Schultz said, would facilitate a much-needed discussion on race. The Race Together campaign, which obviously came with the best intentions, can be seen as a perfect example of how a corporate entity should NOT dip its toe into the complicated waters of social issues. On the surface, the timing seemed right for a major company to make an ... Read More