By Peter Giannetti
Henry Nading, from Houston, hadn’t seen his parents, Art and Martha Nading, from Greensboro, N.C., (pictured above) in nearly a year and a half until a joyous reunion at this week’s Dallas Total Home & Gift Market.
This moving story of a son reuniting with his parents after a stressful pandemic also happens to be a story of a housewares sales and marketing executive, Henry of Chantal, reuniting with an independent housewares retailer, Art and Martha of The Extra Ingredient.
Talk about metaphors. That hug in Dallas by the Nadings is an emotional testimonial of how profoundly the pandemic has impacted a close-knit segment of the housewares business composed of independent retailers and their vendors, finally coming together again for the first time in months. It has long been a part of the business where personal and professional relationships often intertwine, as close to a feeling of family as business can get.
Such professional brotherhood and sisterhood is hardly without disagreement. Shared frustrations and challenges, though, are often an open and earnest dialogue away from a shared solutions and successes.
It is a reminder of the value of such face-to-face camaraderie so missed in the home and housewares business for so long.
It should come as no surprise that independent retailers are at the center of the return of such in-person business fraternity, traveling in healthy numbers to the Dallas show at time when most corporate retailers are still restricted from visiting their suppliers.
Independent retailers always seem to be up against stifling forces of a marketplace dominated by the largest physical and digital retailers. Crafty storeowners, however, often can lean into values and practices that have served the channel well for generations—homespun, responsive personalized merchandising and service that is never out of fashion when balanced against progressive buying, operating and marketing.
Pressed to their limits by early pandemic lockdowns, many of these independent retailers pivoted to serve communities seeking comforting, safe respite as much as new cookware. These hands-on proprietors once again underscored what is essential about shopping local by perfecting curbside pickup, home delivery and e-commerce solutions, whatever it took to serve customers and employees with a human touch so critical to their livelihoods.
They showed the same resolve by making the trip to Dallas to be on front lines of the opportunity to rekindle personal business-to-business relationships so critical to an independent retail channel constantly working hard to demonstrate its high value to the home and housewares industry.
Business is business. And family is family.
Just don’t tell that to the Nadings and, for that matter, every independent retailer and vendor who had a chance to hug in Dallas for the first time in so long.