There’s no place like home. The infamous line out of an iconic film tugs on emotional heart strings, but its practicality is inescapable. Perhaps no time in modern history have so many people around the world been reacquainted with the importance of establishing a livable, enjoyable home space as they are now doing more than a year after a global pandemic halted both outside and inside public activities.
The transition from a frightening experience in early 2020, when exterior areas that once bustled with activity were practically ghost towns, to a new hope for reopening, has been gradual and welcomed. That said, few expected the various lockdown mandates to last this long. Coping has been a struggle, between setting up remote workspaces, keeping kids entertained between online learning, and just generally curbing options for pursuits such as shopping.
But something else happened along the way. Consumers increased the already growing rate of online shopping – not just for staples, but for infrastructural home goods aimed at turning a living space into a pleasant permanent shelter. This was an unanticipated boost for merchants peddling related items. And the news gets better: estimates say up to 40 percent of customers who rarely bought online are now seriously considering it as a way of life.
Whether it’s textiles, décor, furniture, hardware, or anything else in the home goods category, shoppers have found the silver lining in COVID-19’s dark cloud by skipping annoying trips around town, in search of the right item. Spending so much time indoors has drawn attention to the living experience people want to enjoy, and this is a golden opportunity for online retailers of home-centered merchandise.
Home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond, for example, reported a rare uptick in 2020 sales, despite four consecutive prior years of losses. Their digital sales increased 80 percent. That’s gargantuan, and inspiring.
Your online business may not be in the league of a BB&B or a Lowe’s, Target, or other big-time entities. But you have a product to offer, and if you pay attention to strategy, you may reap the benefits of this mass conversion to digital commerce in the home goods sector.
It’s critical to strike now, while the proverbial iron is hot. Large-scale job losses have spurred government unemployment spending, including decent-sized federal subsidies. Those are slated to end in August, but they already have been extended twice. What happens next is anyone’s guess. Your job today is to meet the needs of shoppers with capital.
The lesson here is to learn how to reach this new brand of consumer. Use the standard strategies of strong marketing, updated product inventory, catchy advertising, and fiscal health checkups to be sure your mechanics are in place. Tailor your advertising (and all communications) to those who have reevaluated the state of their home centers, and pitch with provocative language geared toward making permanent the current focus on home sweet home.
For inspiration and ideas on how to make your online store work for you, hit up Shopify. They’re always good for fresh, motivating content.
Put away your airline mileage card and skip the scheduling resets to be out of the office, because one of the big events attracting retailers every year is set to unfold over a computer screen. After a full year of scaled down sales, drastically altered strategies, and personal sacrifices, the National Retail Federation’s Retail Converge 2021 conference is still on, scheduled for June 21-25. The best part? You won’t need to leave home (or work) to attend.
The NRF bills itself as the “Voice of Retail.” Its annual Converge event offers networking, team building, trend information, and a host of useful ideas for making a new or existing retail business successful. Like most industry-based annual shindigs, it features a litany of great speakers from varying walks of life.
The best industry soirees take place in summer, so count on Converge to kickstart a busy sales season while focusing on tweaked strategies that adapt to the current state of consumerism. It’s increasingly happening online. With educational sessions, sponsor-led sessions, lunch-and-learn sessions, product demos, and interactive roundtables, few stones are left unturned.
Note that NRF’s 2021 marquee event is over, having attracted an impressive crowd. “Forward Together” provided inspirational material and guest speakers to whet the palate of all sellers. But they aren’t done, and the Converge event is a great way to discover how others in the retail biz are coping with this uncertain, chaotic time in history.
Get a feel for the timing and nature of each individual event on this page. It offers an easy-to-read schedule that will allow you to zero in on whatever intrigues you.
Are you feeling more connected to merchants operating in brick-and-mortar locations? You should. It seems as if each year that passes, the chasm between ecommerce and commerce-commerce shrinks. This is a telling moment in time, and a perfect opportunity for the two disparate entities find common ground.
The Converge conference is self-explanatory, as it draws a variety of merchants together to address issues related to commerce in general, including asset protection, supply chain, data privacy, marketing, corporate strategy, and leadership. It also incorporates ecommerce, digital, and mobile, to reflect the merging platforms on which merchants sell.
Tune in for motivational deliveries from Valerie Jarrett, a former senior adviser in the Obama administration, and Elizabeth Spaulding, president of Stitch Fix. Save time for the Speaker Spotlight address by the inimitable Diane von Furstenberg, an icon who has had to adapt to shifts in trends and regulatory influences over the decades. Other notable industry influencers are also slated to offer their expertise.
The Retail Converge conference may ignite a spark to cure the blues many are enduring after a year of uncertainty. Fees range from $395 for $595 for individuals, dependent on date of registration, and $250-$350 per person for retail team members (also contingent on timing). Register to participate here, and come prepared to experience invigoration.
The National Retail Federation’s mission statement includes the following language: “The (NRF) has represented retail for over a century. Every day, we passionately stand up for the people, policies and ideas that help retail thrive.”