follow us

Is it really that bad

October 3, 2007

Yesterday, a trade rag reporter was interviewing me for an upcoming article. The article was to be about how bad the year had been for the industry. I had been hearing rumblings that the season had not been a good one. Even so, I was surprised that a major trade mag was getting a story ready about how bad it was.

Now, I know, my store does not represent what is going on around the country. New Orleaneans are recovering from Hurricane Katrina by rebuilding homes and replacing lost furniture, both indoors and out. The 15 months immediately following Katrina were block busters for us. 2007, is only slightly down, but compared to non-hurricane years, we are still doing record numbers.

I have heard from my Texas based reps that the rainy summer slowed the season down. However, as soon as the rain subsided, the season picked up and my equal 2007. My Florida based reps are complaining about a slow down in business, though.Much of that is due to the effect hurricanes have had on the area’s economy (i.e. rising insurance rates, residents exiting for less hurricane prone cities, etc.) I guess the down turn in the economy might start hurting them soon.

But, as a member of CFR, I get to interface with lots of retailers from all over the country. I am getting positive vibes from all of them. Since these same retailers have never hesitated to complain when business is slow, I don’t think they are trying to hide anything from me.

For years I have been hearing from manufacturers that the industry is hurting; witness the number of bankruptcies of big retailers and manufacturers. Yet, as I talk to all of my vendors, each and every one of them has said 2007 was a good year for them. In fact, I just got an email from a vendor saying the 2007 Chicago Casual Furniture Market was the best attended he has ever seen.

In the course of my interview, I told the writer not to research this article to prove her hypothesis that 2007 was a bad year for retailers. Instead, it was important to have an open mind. A biased reporter would write about pockets of positive results. If the evidence proves it, I think it would be the other way around: pockets of negative results.

What about you? Has it been a good/mediocre/bad year? What do you attribute that to? (I remember my grandfather, who had retail jewelry stores, telling me that retailers always had a reason for a bad year but could never tell why the year was good.) Finally, if your year was less than stellar, what did you do to try to improve it?

Updated 10/05/07.  I have been informed by my rep that Homecrest has closed its doors for good. HOmecrest was one of the oldest players in the industry. On the other hand, in the October 1 issue of HFN, page 32, there is a story about the Chicago Casual Market. The headline reads, "Business at Casual Market Comes Up Roses." Joe Logan, executive director of the International Casual Furniture Association is quoted as saying, "Attendance at the market was ’strong’. . . and while vendors and retailers in some areas of the country, notably Florida, are experiencing difficulties. . . the market overall is doing well." My father always taught me you can’t have it both ways. Apparantly our industry never learned that lesson.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce