The following Viewpoint column was written shortly after Hurricane Harvey struck and before the potential impact of Hurricane Irma was clear. The sentiments expressed in this column also apply to the victims of Hurricane Irma and others that might be impacted by such hardship.
I have used this space often in recent years to encourage and endorse the housewares industry’s resolve to overcome challenge after challenge in a precarious consumer and retail marketplace.
From time to time, though, I have been reminded how business pressures can become secondary, at least momentarily, when far bigger challenges strike humanity.
As the devastation in Houston and myriad other Gulf Coast communities hammered by Hurricane Harvey is still being calculated, this is one of those times to reassess priorities.
But the housewares business goes on, certainly with heavy hearts and perhaps with renewed purpose.
In tragedy we are reminded just how vital this business is as thousands of Harvey victims set out to rebuild their lives and lack basic household necessities so often taken for granted. And with that will come opportunity for this industry’s bottom line.
That opportunity can wait a bit, however. This is a moment for the people of housewares to shine as brightly as its products.
It didn’t surprise me to learn that as initial reports of Harvey’s destruction were coming in, major retailers had already prepared their contribution to what is expected to be a long, arduous recovery. And as individual housewares suppliers weighed their potential contribution, there was a sense that joining forces could make an even a bigger difference.
The International Housewares Association at presstime was exploring partnership with organizations leading the Harvey relief effort. Stay tuned for more details on that initiative.
A lesson in how housewares can help comes from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, which struck the New Jersey shore in 2012.
Employees of non-stick coating maker Whitford coordinated, with the support of company business partners, a “neighbors helping neighbors” effort for Sandy victims.
Kits of cookware, bakeware, gadgets and other kitchen products were distributed to families displaced by Sandy. A fundraiser also was conducted to purchase retailer gift cards that were donated to families to help them buy food and other necessities.
“The response to this small effort was overwhelming,” said Whitford’s Fran Groesbeck, a Jersey Shore resident. “We actually ran out of products. Every single family commented that this is what they needed and how much it meant to them to have simple things like a toaster or a set of dishes again.”
Whitford, like many in the housewares business, is determined to help again.
Our thoughts are with the victims of Harvey as we hope for the safety and recovery of everyone, including several of our housewares colleagues, left in its devastating wake.
This industry gets to demonstrate its resolve yet again, this time to help overcome a life-changing challenge nobody expected.
That’s an opportunity— no, an obligation— that can’t wait.