Opinions

HFN editors have years of experience covering products and retail for housewares, tabletop, floor covering, furniture and textiles. They share their opinions here.
  • The Total Home Retail Renaissance

    Maureen AzzatoIt’s scary. It’s exciting. It may rip your guts out now and again, but that’s okay, that’s evolution. Home retailers, you stand on the precipice of explosive change and new technologies that promise to disrupt and revolutionize everything you thought you once knew. HFN stands with you. You hold the proof in your hands of HFN’s commitment to you and the home industry with our new redesign. As painful as change is, the good news is it also creates mind-bending opportunities—new innovations, fresh perspectives, and better business practices with new leaders emerging who see ... Read More
  • 7 for 17

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORNo, that doesn't mean I'm batting .411. What it does mean is that I’m about to identify seven big things to watch out for in 2017. These aren’t predictions … I’m not silly enough to put my already shabby reputation on the line by predicting things that can be traced back to me. Instead, they are areas of prime interest that will greatly affect both the local home furnishings industry and the greater global economy. And, between you and me, I don’t have a clue how any of them will turn out a year from ... Read More
  • Three Black Friday Takeaways

    Bill McLoughlinSome people look forward to the turkey on Thanksgiving. For others it’s the football. For me, it’s the Black Friday ads (not the shopping, just the reading). There are few better indicators of the housewares industry’s mindset than this annual ritual of retail self-immolation. It’s always fascinating to see just how low prices will go in the effort to create a pre-sunrise riot on the day after Thanksgiving. Did you know for example that you can get a 5-cup coffeemaker at Kohl’s for less than it costs for two cups of coffee at Starbucks? Or ... Read More
  • Rainmakers and Disrupters

    Maureen AzzatoWhen in grade school I was often chastised for being a chatterbox, a class disrupter. But back then it did not carry the positive connotation it has today in the business world. If it did, I probably wouldn’t have been grounded quite so much in my youth. All kidding aside, to be labeled a business disrupter today means you are shaking things up, pushing the envelope to the extreme where others are afraid to go. It means you see business opportunities in change—perhaps even chaos—and can translate your vision into new business. Not all disrupters are rainmakers ... Read More
  • The Roof Leaks … But It’s Not Falling Down

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORA curious thing has happened on the way to world domination by the World Wide Web. It’s not happening quite the way they drew up the plan. Don’t get me wrong: online retailing has utterly and completely changed the way America shops and that’s not going to change. This is not a generational or temporal disturbance: it is a profound and fundamental seismic change. But it’s not the end of physical store retailing. Need we be reminded: Between TJX, dollar stores and Aldi, there will be thousands—that’s thousands with a “t”— of new stores ... Read More
  • High Point Inspired

    Maureen AzzatoI returned home from High Point Market truly inspired by the many wonderful and refined furniture designs I saw. So many were infused with texture, form and function; had a balance between neutral and bold colorways, with many using hardware as evocative decorative elements. In fact, one furniture designer from Sauder’s showroom, Rachel Whittaker, aptly referred to hardware as “furniture jewelry.” But hardware is not the only area that stepped up its game. Saturated and rich jeweled colors such as emerald, amethyst, garnet and sapphire were also abundant at market, as were softer etherial colors such as muted pinks ... Read More
  • Stunt Food

    Andrea LilloIt’s the Kodak moment of today. Instead of a family standing in front of America’s monuments or natural wonders, consumers—Millennials in particular—are aiming their smartphones at their entrees. Within moments, these images hit the internet. Today’s consumers are educated foodies armed with smartphones, and as a result, restaurants and kitchens have become photo studios as well. Having a photo-friendly environment has become part of the conversation when designing a culinary space. All-white home kitchens, for example, not only make a small space seem bigger, but provide the perfect backdrop for shooting food. A restaurant’s ... Read More
  • Paging Ron Popeil

    Bill McLoughlinHang on to your hats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. We’re heading into the peak price-cutting season and rumor has it the knives are going to be particularly sharp this year (please excuse the bad cutlery pun). Truth be told, this is nothing new. Toasters for $3? Been there done that. Twelve-cup coffeemakers for $9.99? That’s so last year. And if you think a $35 upright or even a $29 lightweight upright, is going to pique price-savvy shoppers then I have a percolator I can let you have cheap. The winners this year and ... Read More
  • Disruption Takes Many Forms

    Maureen AzzatoThis issue’s cover story is a tale of two retailers—Ikea and HomeGoods—who are taking divergent paths into the future. Ikea has its sights set on becoming the “world’s leading multichannel home furnishings retailer.” Meanwhile HomeGoods, whose upward sales and profit trajectory is leaving its home retail competitors in the dust, has no intention of chasing e-commerce in any form or fashion. In fact, its off-price model doesn’t support it, at least not yet. While HomeGoods has a website, it is a browsing platform for its treasure-hunting shoppers; no purchases can be made there. Shoppers can ... Read More
  • The X Factor

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORAh, the plight of the Generation X-er … what a sad lot indeed. Caught between the two biggest, loudest, most high-profile demographic groups in the history of- well, in history itself – this generation is the Rodney Dangerfield of consumer marketing. They just don’t get any respect at all … not to mention much attention either. We all know about the Baby Boomers, who burst into the world of conspicuous consumption and remained front and center for the past 25 years … only to be supplanted by the emerging Millennials who have now surpassed them in size—and press coverage. Lost in all ... Read More
  • West Elm Hotels? Why Not Williams-Sonoma Food Trucks?

    Bill McLoughlinLast month you may remember reading here about the growing competition for consumer discretionary dollars—not among retail segments, but between those selling products and those selling experiences. With that in mind it might not be surprising to see that West Elm recently announced plans to enter the boutique hotel business and use that as a form of product merchandising. (Turn to news on page 26.) West Elm consistently thinks outside the box and behaves much more like a local entrepreneur than the division of a multi-billion dollar retail conglomerate. The retailer’s decision to create boutique hotels and furnish ... Read More
  • Bringing Brand Power To Furniture

    Maureen AzzatoHats off to Pierre de Villeméjane. The CEO of Heritage Home Group, our cover story this issue, is transforming the furniture manufacturer and retailer into a brand powerhouse. That’s quite a feat in an industry with little to no brand recognition. De Villeméjane is no stranger to taking over and turning around beleaguered companies. We saw him do it for tabletop giant WWRD Holdings Ltd., which includes the Waterford and Wedgwood brands. His toil there quadrupled private equity firm KPS Capital Partners’ initial investment when it sold to Fiskars last year. While at first blush WWRD and ... Read More
  • The Total Home Retail Renaissance

    Maureen AzzatoIt’s scary. It’s exciting. It may rip your guts out now and again, but that’s okay, that’s evolution. Home retailers, you stand on the precipice of explosive change and new technologies that promise to disrupt and revolutionize everything you thought you once knew. HFN stands with you. You hold the proof in your hands of HFN’s commitment to you and the home industry with our new redesign. As painful as change is, the good news is it also creates mind-bending opportunities—new innovations, fresh perspectives, and better business practices with new leaders emerging who see ... Read More
  • 7 for 17

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORNo, that doesn't mean I'm batting .411. What it does mean is that I’m about to identify seven big things to watch out for in 2017. These aren’t predictions … I’m not silly enough to put my already shabby reputation on the line by predicting things that can be traced back to me. Instead, they are areas of prime interest that will greatly affect both the local home furnishings industry and the greater global economy. And, between you and me, I don’t have a clue how any of them will turn out a year from ... Read More
  • Three Black Friday Takeaways

    Bill McLoughlinSome people look forward to the turkey on Thanksgiving. For others it’s the football. For me, it’s the Black Friday ads (not the shopping, just the reading). There are few better indicators of the housewares industry’s mindset than this annual ritual of retail self-immolation. It’s always fascinating to see just how low prices will go in the effort to create a pre-sunrise riot on the day after Thanksgiving. Did you know for example that you can get a 5-cup coffeemaker at Kohl’s for less than it costs for two cups of coffee at Starbucks? Or ... Read More
  • Rainmakers and Disrupters

    Maureen AzzatoWhen in grade school I was often chastised for being a chatterbox, a class disrupter. But back then it did not carry the positive connotation it has today in the business world. If it did, I probably wouldn’t have been grounded quite so much in my youth. All kidding aside, to be labeled a business disrupter today means you are shaking things up, pushing the envelope to the extreme where others are afraid to go. It means you see business opportunities in change—perhaps even chaos—and can translate your vision into new business. Not all disrupters are rainmakers ... Read More
  • The Roof Leaks … But It’s Not Falling Down

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORA curious thing has happened on the way to world domination by the World Wide Web. It’s not happening quite the way they drew up the plan. Don’t get me wrong: online retailing has utterly and completely changed the way America shops and that’s not going to change. This is not a generational or temporal disturbance: it is a profound and fundamental seismic change. But it’s not the end of physical store retailing. Need we be reminded: Between TJX, dollar stores and Aldi, there will be thousands—that’s thousands with a “t”— of new stores ... Read More
  • High Point Inspired

    Maureen AzzatoI returned home from High Point Market truly inspired by the many wonderful and refined furniture designs I saw. So many were infused with texture, form and function; had a balance between neutral and bold colorways, with many using hardware as evocative decorative elements. In fact, one furniture designer from Sauder’s showroom, Rachel Whittaker, aptly referred to hardware as “furniture jewelry.” But hardware is not the only area that stepped up its game. Saturated and rich jeweled colors such as emerald, amethyst, garnet and sapphire were also abundant at market, as were softer etherial colors such as muted pinks ... Read More
  • Stunt Food

    Andrea LilloIt’s the Kodak moment of today. Instead of a family standing in front of America’s monuments or natural wonders, consumers—Millennials in particular—are aiming their smartphones at their entrees. Within moments, these images hit the internet. Today’s consumers are educated foodies armed with smartphones, and as a result, restaurants and kitchens have become photo studios as well. Having a photo-friendly environment has become part of the conversation when designing a culinary space. All-white home kitchens, for example, not only make a small space seem bigger, but provide the perfect backdrop for shooting food. A restaurant’s ... Read More
  • Paging Ron Popeil

    Bill McLoughlinHang on to your hats, it’s going to be a bumpy ride. We’re heading into the peak price-cutting season and rumor has it the knives are going to be particularly sharp this year (please excuse the bad cutlery pun). Truth be told, this is nothing new. Toasters for $3? Been there done that. Twelve-cup coffeemakers for $9.99? That’s so last year. And if you think a $35 upright or even a $29 lightweight upright, is going to pique price-savvy shoppers then I have a percolator I can let you have cheap. The winners this year and ... Read More
  • Disruption Takes Many Forms

    Maureen AzzatoThis issue’s cover story is a tale of two retailers—Ikea and HomeGoods—who are taking divergent paths into the future. Ikea has its sights set on becoming the “world’s leading multichannel home furnishings retailer.” Meanwhile HomeGoods, whose upward sales and profit trajectory is leaving its home retail competitors in the dust, has no intention of chasing e-commerce in any form or fashion. In fact, its off-price model doesn’t support it, at least not yet. While HomeGoods has a website, it is a browsing platform for its treasure-hunting shoppers; no purchases can be made there. Shoppers can ... Read More
  • The X Factor

    Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTORAh, the plight of the Generation X-er … what a sad lot indeed. Caught between the two biggest, loudest, most high-profile demographic groups in the history of- well, in history itself – this generation is the Rodney Dangerfield of consumer marketing. They just don’t get any respect at all … not to mention much attention either. We all know about the Baby Boomers, who burst into the world of conspicuous consumption and remained front and center for the past 25 years … only to be supplanted by the emerging Millennials who have now surpassed them in size—and press coverage. Lost in all ... Read More
  • West Elm Hotels? Why Not Williams-Sonoma Food Trucks?

    Bill McLoughlinLast month you may remember reading here about the growing competition for consumer discretionary dollars—not among retail segments, but between those selling products and those selling experiences. With that in mind it might not be surprising to see that West Elm recently announced plans to enter the boutique hotel business and use that as a form of product merchandising. (Turn to news on page 26.) West Elm consistently thinks outside the box and behaves much more like a local entrepreneur than the division of a multi-billion dollar retail conglomerate. The retailer’s decision to create boutique hotels and furnish ... Read More
  • Bringing Brand Power To Furniture

    Maureen AzzatoHats off to Pierre de Villeméjane. The CEO of Heritage Home Group, our cover story this issue, is transforming the furniture manufacturer and retailer into a brand powerhouse. That’s quite a feat in an industry with little to no brand recognition. De Villeméjane is no stranger to taking over and turning around beleaguered companies. We saw him do it for tabletop giant WWRD Holdings Ltd., which includes the Waterford and Wedgwood brands. His toil there quadrupled private equity firm KPS Capital Partners’ initial investment when it sold to Fiskars last year. While at first blush WWRD and ... Read More