• Warren Shoulberg

A Baker's Dozen for '12

SO, IT'S A NEW YEAR and while the ceremonial turning of the calendar page is a momentous occasion, the realities of 2012 are very much like the ones we dealt with last year.
     That said, there are several notable situations that will come to pass this year and so, in some particular order, here's a Baker's Dozen worth of things to be on the lookout for in 2012.
     1. Surfs Up for Ron Jon. It's all about Ron Johnson and what he will do at JCPenney this year. Frankly, 2012 is going to be one big mess down in Plano as he sorts out the good, the bad and the ugly. It will mostly be the latter two this year before the former starts to kick in.
     2. Can Walmart Find its Way Back Home? Some suppliers say they are starting to see the Boys from Bentonville getting their act together in home. Unfortunately, we've heard it before and it remains to be seen if they can find a sustainable strategy ... and stick with it.
     3. The Big Move. Like the Corleone family that moved its operations west, there's a big question about how the relocation of Bed Bath's merchandising staff will impact things. As Michael told Tom Hagan, "It could be a little dangerous."
     4. The Cotton Hangover. It's been a wild ride for the single most used commodity in home textiles and now we'll see if things calm down and the cotton headaches subside.
     5. Who is Next? While we haven't seen a major retail bankruptcy in years, rumors are starting to surface about one or two second-tier operations. We hope not, but it's getting harder to compete with the big boys.
     6. Cheap Chic Shrieks. Target has always disguised a fairly pedestrian merchandise mix with a couple of high-profile headliners. It's worked nicely, but that balancing act is getting tougher and tougher to pull off. Big Red can't afford another Missoni mess.
     7. Life After Martha. How Macy's handles the Martha wind down will say a lot about its merchandising savvy. Her departure already said a lot - and not in a good way - about its legal department.
     8. Just a Hiccup? Everyone wants to know if the disappointing numbers coming out of Kohl's recently are just a blip or the start of something more troubling.
     9. Milling Around. The last two remnants of the American mill structure - Springs Global and WestPoint Home - continue to lose off the top line, but each has a strategy to be smaller and more profitable. Is this the year that actually happens?
     10. Is L&T for Real? Right now, there are two Lord & Taylor Home stores, a flashy floor in the Fifth Avenue flagship and some small shops in some branch stores. We'll see if this is the start of something big ... or just window dressing.
     11. SOS (Same Old Sears). It's closing stores. It's firing people. It's cutting back on toilet paper in the ladies room. Hey folks, that's been the strategy ever since Fast Eddie pulled into town. This is not the end game.
     12. Show Business. Virtually every major market center and trade show operator in the home business - save for Atlanta and Dallas - has had at least one major change over the past year. This will be the year it settles down ... or not.
     13. November 6. Election Day and what happens will say a lot about the direction the country -and its economy - will take in 2013. Very fitting for the thirteenth in this Baker's Dozen.
     See you then.

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