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From Home Furnishing Business

What Sells: Inside Out

By Trisha McBride Ferguson 

Picturesque sunsets, dining al fresco and evenings spent around a fire pit—it’s the new American norm. More people are living outdoors than ever before. What was once called “patio furniture” has morphed into a fast-growing category poised for continued growth as consumers view the great outdoors as an extension of their living space.

Looking back over the last year, outdoor furnishings continue to post impressive growth—up 7.6 percent this year to date compared to the same period in 2017. The category also grew from $4.17 billion in 2016 to $4.36 billion in 2017.

Channel Insights

When it comes to purchasing habits, consumers favor mass merchants such as Target and Wal-Mart for their outdoor furnishings. According to a Home Furnishings Business survey of consumers who have recently purchased outdoor furniture, nearly 31 percent (30.77) shopped this channel. Next in line are home improvement stores, such as Home Depot or Lowes, with 23 percent share. 

The growth of online retailing continues to challenge brick and mortar furniture stores. Nearly 18 percent of consumers surveyed report purchasing on the internet, equal to the approximately 18 percent who purchased from an outdoor furniture specialty store. Traditional furniture stores came in last with only 10.26 percent of the purchases from those surveyed. The opportunity for furniture retailers to sell outdoor products to their existing customers continues to be significant.

Regardless of where they eventually purchased, outdoor furnishings shoppers continue to research products online. Over 25 percent report researching online from two to four hours prior to their purchase. Almost 18 percent (17.95) shopped for their new outdoor furniture for a surprising seven hours or more. And about 23 percent of respondents reported that they did not research online.

Features that Sell

Fashion colors, innovative features, and trusted brand names are all behind the growth of the category. Fire pits, chat sets, outdoor recliners, and configurable pieces offer engaging reasons for consumers to invest in new outdoor furniture.

A recent player in the outdoor market, Barcalounger is seeing success with its new Barcalounger Outdoor Living collection. “Overall, the collection has been received very well,” said Todd G. Langenhorst, manager specialty accounts for Barcalounger Outdoor Living. “The long-standing Barcalounger brand name as well as the unique motion features within the collection have garnered a tremendous amount of interest.”

While the brand name appeals to consumers, the company’s quick fulfillment (48 hours in some cases) has dealers motivated, added Langenhorst.

At the upper end, Castelle is capitalizing on the appeal of custom looks to grow its business. “The Castelle high-end customer is looking for, in addition to superior outdoor construction and materials, the ability to create one-of-a-kind outdoor living,” said president Mark Stephens. “Through our custom capabilities, each of the hundreds of items available from Castelle can be completely customized utilizing virtually thousands of custom options including our entire selection of fabric and finishes, hand-painting techniques and custom buttons.”  

In color, shades of brown are far from being obsolete, but are ceding to a newer neutral. “Gray tones are outperforming browns for us—but browns are still a solid seller,” said Langenhorst. “In addition to these two popular colors, the combination of taupe, brown, and gray are definitely emerging.”

“Blues continue to be trending in outdoor, but due to our custom capabilities, we are seeing growth in curated collections,” said Stephens. “An example is the tremendous response we received with regard to the Barclay Butera Signature collection and its white frame and navy blue textile choice. This was Castelle's number-one seller in the current season and our highest selling introduction in the history of the company.” 

While family dining sets dominated in years past, today’s outdoor consumer is drawn to fresh configurations. “Deep seating, chat, and sectional seating are leading the charge for Barcalounger Outdoor Living,” said Langenhorst.

“Chat sets, especially those with motion, are popular right now for conversational seating along with the season-lengthening attributes of luxury fire pits,” added Stephens. “As far as styles, we see contemporary and transitional designs remaining popular,” said Mark Stephens, president, Castelle. “A nod to history is gaining considerable interest as evidenced in the positive reception to the storied design of our Biltmore Estate Collection and the elegant days of old Hollywood featured in the Barclay Butera Palm Springs Collection.”

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