Ignoring Home Décor? It Could Be Bad for Business | Warren Shoulberg

Store with a Marshalls and HomeGoods logos on the side.

I love the line in Auntie Mame, a romantic comedy released in 1958, when her nephew Patrick’s stuck-up and somewhat ditzy fiancée, Gloria, sees the library in Mame’s home and says, “I love books; they’re so decorative.”

Well, the fine art of decorating homes has come a long way since then, and thank heavens it has for the gift and home business. Home décor has become a huge business, as witnessed by their place in both wholesale markets and independent specialty stores around the country. Consumers have been looking for trending home décor and easy ways to freshen a room for several years now. Which raises the question: If it’s such a big business, why aren’t the Big Box Boys more involved in it? Walk into just about any major national retail chain that plays in the home space – from Macy’s to Bed Bath & Beyond to Walmart – and the fact of the matter is that you’ll see very little in the way of home décor accessory products, much less fully merchandised departments.

Sure, there’s sheets and towels and pots and pans and dishes and glasses, but when it comes to décor items like large tabletop items, picture frames, framed art, mirrors, occasional furniture and all the other knick-knacks and doodads that populate the category the assortments are sparse … at best.

It’s not a matter of space, mind you. A BBB that carries 15 solid color towel programs could certainly scale that back a few SKUs and make room for décor. And it’s not scale, either. Some of those multi-purpose cooking devices you’ll find in a Macy’s are every bit as big as some of the decorative accessories out there. And it’s not because that customer isn’t shopping these stores. A consumer in for a new set of dishes or some curtains no doubt would be interested in framed art or a new mirror or a wall hanging.

There are a few exceptions out there and, tellingly, they offer even more proof. Go into a HomeGoods – and to a lesser extent, a Marshalls, a T.J. Maxx or a new HomeSense – and their decorative accessories offerings are huge, often accounting for as much as a quarter of home-specific stores. And as we know, these are among the most successful stores in all of retailing these days, so it’s no coincidence that décor is a big part of their mix.

Frankly, I don’t know why more national chains don’t do more in décor. Some brands, like Kirkland’s and Anthropologie, are upping their SKUs as a percentage of their overall assortments, but the others, I don’t see it. When Bed Bath & Beyond reopened its flagship Manhattan store last year it made a big point about its new home décor area but it was kind of underwhelming and I haven’t seen it scaled up across much of the rest of the chain. I don’t get it.

But they say for every missed chance, there is an opportunity for somebody else. And that somebody else is the independent specialty retailer. Yes, the overall home business is going through a bit of a slump right now but that’s more in big-ticket items like furniture, appliances and consumer electronics. Décor is an easy, inexpensive fix and it turns out it is one of the areas that seems to have slipped between the cracks of the big boys.

How many merchandising categories can you say that about? And it would make little Gloria so happy.

See Also:

Homing in on home decor|Allison Zisko

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