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This editorial is better than you think

BY Ken Clark

No question about it: rising foreclosures and falling home prices combine to pose a serious threat to many of us in the home channel. But around the industry, people are saying they are fed up with what they believe is excessive negativity in the mass media, and not just the executives at the National Association of Home Builders.

In a recent interview with Lyle Heidemann, the True Value CEO expressed the desire that the media stop communicating that the economy is lurching toward a recession. (You can listen to the interview at www.homechannelnews.com . Just click on our 2008 podcast series button.) Many others have pointed to the self-fulfilling nature of such prophecies.

It might be too late. The last time I passed a newsstand, the headline on the cover of the issue of U.S. News & World Report screamed out at me: “Why the housing crisis is bigger than you think.”

(Question: how does the magazine know what you think?)

Adding insult to injury, the cover image depicts a house sinking into a hole, bringing a map of the United States down with it. Get it? The cover story’s inside headline paints an even more frightful scenario: “Nightmare on Main Street.”

This industry cannot afford to run and hide from bad news. And it hasn’t. But it is certainly within its rights to lament the chilling effect on spending that results from nightmarish headlines.

It’s worthwhile here to compare the tone of mass media headlines to that of the CEOs of the biggest home channel retailers, who in recent weeks delivered their assessment of the economy to investors and shareholders. (See articles on page 3 and 8)

Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock: “We remain focused on what we can control.”

Home Depot’s CEO Frank Blake: “We should be judged by the discipline we bring to executing on our key priorities and the discipline we bring to stepping away from activities that aren’t priorities.”

At Sears interim CEO W. Bruce Johnson: “We will work to improve and tighten our management of costs and inventory levels in 2008.”

Tightening, focus, discipline. Here are the sensational concepts that will guide the industry through 2008, and probably 2009.

Speaking of magazine covers. The news at True Value reflects a back-to-basics retailing movement that’s taking place at the Chicago-based co-op. The company is “re-energized” with a new look in the form of a Destination True Value prototype; and saw a sales jump in its most recent quarter. (Our special section begins on page 15.)

Successful retailing doesn’t come over night. “It’s not that we’ve now created a store prototype, and everyone gets it,” said Heidemann. “It doesn’t work that way. Retailing continues to be a journey.”

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Orchard Supply names new execs

BY HBSDEALER Staff

San Jose, Calif.-based Orchard Supply Hardware (OSH) has announced the appointment of Robert Burgess as associate vp-consumer marketing; and Janis Healy as associate vp-visual merchandising.

Burgess has a 20-year career in developing consumer strategies, having held senior marketing positions with Verizon, West Marine and major consumer marketing agencies, including Rupp Collins and Bunn Forbes.

Healy has a 30-year career of leading store theater and visual brand positioning at several retailers, including Petco, West Marine and Best Buy. Healy most recently served as associate vp-visual merchandising and store design at West Marine.

Both positions will report to Tom Carey, chief marketing officer at OSH.

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Sears launches ‘ReImagine You’ campaign

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based Sears has launched a new marketing campaign in an effort to boost excitement about the brand in the wake of the company’s less-than-optimistic year-end financial results.

The campaign, called “ReImagine You,” launched March 1 and will run to the end of May. The push is aimed toward helping consumers find interesting and economical ways to improve their homes.

“ ‘ReImagine You’ aims to inspire imaginations and provide the tools and advice to make practical dreams a reality,” the company said in a release. Specifically, the company plans to use spokespeople including Eric Stromer, host of HGTV’s “Over Your Head,” and Ty Pennington, handyman for ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”

Sears has launched a Web site, reimagineyourself.com, featuring tips from Stromer, Pennington, NYC interior designer Eric Cohler and an expert on “green” home improvements, Deborah Barrow.

The company also plans to renovate the homes of 70 veterans of the armed forces on April 26 as part of National Rebuilding Day.

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