5 big questions for 2024 | Warren Shoulberg

I like to call 2024 the year of living a little less dangerously.

A lot of the big question marks that have hung over the industry like a wet blanket have either been resolved or simply gone away. That said, there are of course new ones, though at least on the onset they do appear to be a little less daunting to deal with.

We know now that the American economy is unlikely to plunge into a recession. Interest rates have probably topped out, and even if they will probably not retreat at any substantial rate they are as bad as they are going to get. And the entire soap opera drama surrounding the ultimate fate of the industry’s one-time largest retailer, Bed Bath & Beyond, is over… even if it’s been replaced by a new one, albeit at a significantly lower scale.

Which is not to say it’s time to put your Pollyanna bonnet on and start doing a victory dance. Far from it. I just think the questions that need to be asked about this new year are of a somewhat less severe nature.

Still, there are questions.

  1. Will the new Bad Bath & Beyond be successful? Why not start we were left off. At first, this acquisition seemed like a no-brainer for Overstock, and it offered enormous hope for suppliers who lusted after the potential of the retailer under its new owners. Recent developments – private equity getting its face in the place, CEO fired, COO seemingly pushed out – have significantly dimmed the picture. At this point the industry will be happy with a functioning BBB. Anything beyond that is gravy.
  2. Can Wayfair break into the black? It is a big player in the business, and it needs to succeed for the vendors who sell it to do the same. So far, it’s not clear that will happen anytime soon despite some modest improvements in its business. This could be the year it finally matters.
  3. Will Macy’s remain independent? A late-year potential bid by two investor groups to take the big department store retailer private and into unknown territory came out of nowhere (they usually do) and threatens to end poorly (they almost always do). This one could be bad…very bad.
  4. Can New York Market Week become less dysfunctional? No. I know this is my soapbox issue, but ultimately a disjointed, disorganized trade show is not in the best interests of the entire industry.
  5. Will business get better in 2024? Yes. But only a little bit. The good news is that it’s probably not going to get worse.

I’ve got the questions … but not all the answers.

Warren Shoulberg is editor at large for Furniture Today’s sister publication, Home Textiles Today.

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