8 businesses that are actually successful at selling well (& 4 that aren’t)

If the last two years have taught us anything, it’s that unpredictability reigns supreme. Still, as we leave a year behind and enter a new one, it’s worth taking a look at the ups and downs of home furnishings retail in 2021 and exploring how. these market forces will shape the year ahead. In this four-part series, Retail Watch columnist Warren Shoulberg takes stock of the current state of affairs, the characteristics that will define success in 2022, the winners (and losers) of retail in today’s climate, and which companies are on track to make waves in the new year. Here he describes which home furnishings retailers are successful and which are not.

It’s the New Abnormal – and in the latest installment in this series on what it means for the industry, we’re going to name some names that home space retailers are truly the best in the business on. We’ll also discuss which brands aren’t here yet and may not be long-term players after all.

The criteria for judging these businesses are the Magnificent Seven, described in last week’s column, the Business Attributes necessary for retail success today. In case you need a refresher course, these are:

1. Omni-all

2. The store as a destination

2. The good things

3. Satisfied cows

4. Hospitality

5. Supply chain management

6. Yar-tailing

By ranking retailers based on these criteria, we assigned each a score, assessing how many of the Seven they adopt and employ in their business. For housekeeping purposes, we have reserved the list for national retail operations, rather than regional or local players, and have included both specialty home furnishings brands as well as retailers. general merchandise that sell products for the home. In a world of intangibles, infinite variables, and the vagaries of hitting a moving target, it’s as exact a science as it gets – an objective process based on a subjective basis.

We’ve grouped these retailers into three categories: the good, the bad, and the ugly. The first two are straightforward judgment calls, but the third is more about uncertainty and ambiguity than a statement about their viability. They might be successful… but then again, they might not.


These are the eight retailers that performed the best in the rankings, although many of them have Achilles heels.

1.Target: Its combination of in-store and online offerings is extraordinary, with a range of best-in-class omnichannel capabilities.

2. HR: Shows the importance of physical locations, combined with DTC’s print and digital initiatives.

3. Amazon: In a class of its own online, but increasingly recognizing the importance of stores, especially with its “just walk out” technology.

4. TJX brands (TJ Maxx, Marshalls, housewares): Consumer affinity combined with superior trades and spins, although its weakness online is an outlier.

5. Williams-Sonoma brands: The unique positioning of its multiple nameplates, in store and online, makes them remarkable.

6. Big discounters like Aldi and dollar store chains: The consumer wants a good deal and no one does it better, but again, these players are vulnerable online.

7. The clubs: Both Costco and Sam’s Club have higher operational efficiency than most, and the built-in membership program gives them an instant advantage.

8. Good independent retailers: The local store movement is benefiting small specialty stores, especially if they have developed an online component.

The bad

These retailers had the worst scores in our rankings and may not have a future post-pandemic.

1. Sears and Kmart: They hardly exist anymore except to warn those who forget to change or let private equity control the retail process.

2. Department store chains: There are only a few left, but their business model is beyond repair.

3. Strange Zombie Marks: These dead companies are taken over by third parties in the hope of relaunching, but most fail again.

4. Bad independent retailers: Those stores that were hobbies or afterthought are not intended to stay in business.

The ugly one

These are the retailers for whom the future is not decided. They received average marks and could go one way or the other. Only time will tell.

1. Bath in bed and beyond: In the midst of their recovery, which has shown signs of hope but not enough for some skeptics.

2. JCPenney: A trader always looking for a reason to exist, made more difficult by the ownership structure and the changes in management.

3. Course: An online powerhouse, but unless it aggressively moves through physical stores, it is unlikely to ultimately be successful.

4. Macy’s: Caught in the failed department store model, but with the best-in-class chance of finding a way forward

5. Nordstrom: Like Macy’s, it has many positive attributes (more, in fact), but still hinges on a mall model that needs to change.

6. Walmart: The story hasn’t been kind with the name at the top of the retail heap, and it has to find a way to be truly competitive with Amazon.

7. Average independent retailers: There is no place for the marginal specialty store that does not have the financial and managerial commitment required in today’s market

People still talk about the death of traditional retail. Nothing could be further from the truth. Many long-standing companies have found a way to stay ahead of the pack, and only mediocre brands are falling further and further behind. It really is survival of the fittest — and this year we’ll have a front row seat while it all unfolds.

Next week, Shoulberg shares his ‘Six to Watch,’ the retailers he has in front of him as the most worthy contenders in 2022 – brands whose actions will say a lot about their own businesses and the world. industry in the broad sense.

Photo of the home page: © Alex / Adobe Stock


Warren shoulberg is the former editor-in-chief of several leading B2B publications. He has been a guest lecturer at Columbia University Graduate School of Business; received honors from the International Furniture and Design Association and the Fashion Institute of Technology; and was cited by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN and other media as a leading industry expert. Its Retail Watch columns provide in-depth industry information on major markets and product categories.

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