Outdoor retailers hopeful that variety is the key to success in 2023 – Furniture Today

Outdoor retailers hopeful that variety is the key to success in 2023
Village Green is rebranding its outdoor grilling section in 2023 and adding new casual furnishings vendors throughout the store.

Cindy W. Hodnett//Executive Editor of Brand Development//January 9, 2023
HIGH POINT — The popularity of outdoor living spaces is expected to continue in the new year as consumers create multifunctional backyard havens for entertaining and relaxation, and outdoor retailers are focused on maximizing sales with products that meet the need.
As the 2023 winter market season kicks off and many outdoor showrooms open their doors for the Atlanta Market, these retailers say they are looking for an assortment of products that allow them to create eclectic offerings on their floor.
Outdoor Elegance in La Verne, Calif., includes outdoor furniture, barbecues, fountains, pergolas, heaters, umbrellas and outdoor accessories on its retail floor. Top-selling brands for the store include Sunset West and Polywood, according to company officials, who added that expanding price options is a key strategy for the new year.
“We are focusing on trying to bring a greater range of price points in for the product lines we sell,” said Rob Decker, sales manager. “Because of inflation and the pandemic, we have seen a substantial increase in the cost of goods. We will be focusing on some lower price point products for 2023 to try and maintain a broad price range to help capture a greater variety of customers.”
At Gasper Home & Garden Showplace in Richboro, Pa., the product mix showcases more than 30 lines of outdoor furnishings including Big Green egg products as well as accessories, pillows, umbrellas, acrylic wear, pottery and home giftware. General Manager Eli Hymer is planning to add an abundance of teak products in 2023 in response to customer demand.
“Teak has been our largest category for the past several years, period,” Hymer said. “But since the pandemic, there seemed to be a shortage of teak products or a lack of materials. This year, I was able to order much more from different vendors in order to have a large selection.”
Like many furniture retailers, the leadership team at Sunnyland Outdoor Living in Dallas is strategizing about reducing inventory. The retailer sells outdoor furniture, in-pool furniture, outdoor accessories and decor, as well as Big Green Egg products.
“2023 is all about what we have,” said Brad Schweig, vice president of operations. “With so many things coming late in 2022 due to manufacturing and shipping delays, we have product to sell, and that is what we want to move, which means less focus on custom orders for the immediate future.”
Village Green CEO Jessica Salisbury said her team is shifting its product strategy to align with customer demand, adding that her store has seen an increase in sales and demand for aluminum, cast aluminum, and wrought iron deep seating. Also, low-maintenance polymer furniture is on the merchandising radar for 2023 along with fashion-forward products like rugs and throw pillows.
“With grill sales down, we took a close look at that category: What brands are selling, where do we need to diversify, and how can we stand out in the world of dot-com and big box stores,” Salisbury said. “We are committing to new vendors and doing a total rebrand in outdoor grilling.
“Recycled/polymer furniture continues to have a high demand, and Village Green is committing to a larger footprint in that category as well.”
The consumer focus on all things home that accompanied the pandemic was a boon to the outdoor categories, and many forecasts project that the trend will continue in 2023. Although inflation trepidation could temper purchasing enthusiasm, retailers are preparing for a busy buying season.
“We’ve always been known as a special-order store, giving the customer the option of ordering a specific set in the fabric, frame and assortment they wanted,” Hymer said. “But due to restrictions or due to supply issues and long wait periods, customers were forced to purchase stock instead of having to wait the months that were required.
“This year, I feel things are getting back to the old normal. Lead times are down, and we are once again encouraging special orders,” he added.
“I think the mindset in 2020 and 2021 was to spend more time at home, redo the outdoor space and feel comfortable,” Salisbury said. “We saw that continue into 2022. However, this fall sales noticeably slowed down, and I think the consumer is now focused on inflation and the economy. … If industry partners can get their lead times back to a more reasonable time and eliminate surcharges, that would be great.”
Decker noted that Outdoor Elegance has seen the same type of consumer interest in outdoor spaces.
“The past two years of the pandemic have been our busiest years in our store’s history,” he said. “With everyone staying at home during that time, they became more focused on their properties and invested money in fixing up both the interior and exterior spaces. Because of this, our industry saw a substantial surge in business and sales.
“With us being in Southern California, we are fortunate enough to be able to utilize our outdoor spaces year-round,” Decker continued. “Because of this, people have been more willing to invest in these spaces. With such a wide variety of products and materials available that are now made for exterior use, there is a seemingly infinite number of choices available now to the consumer to choose from.”
With the move of the Casual Market from Chicago to Atlanta, outdoor retailers are making new travel plans for 2023, and although timing is different for the new year, Decker says he hopes product remains top priority.
“We generally go to the various trade shows that cater to our industry and the product lines we represent,” he said. “We attend the Casual Market as well as other shows such as HPBA for fireplace and barbeque categories.
“Industry partners can continue to work on bringing in new potential vendors to these shows, so we are able to see a wider and more diverse range of products when we visit the shows,” Decker added. “There’s nothing worse than traveling to these shows only to see the same lines and products you saw in years past.”
Hymer agreed.
“I rely upon visits to our manufacturers’ factories and showrooms and also our industry publications (to source product),” he said. “Once I narrow it down, then I do some investigation on the Internet.
“Manufacturers could make this process easier by making information available about the products. Wait, sizes, fabric and frame options, etc. — knowing these things make it much simpler to source products when all the information is available to you.”
Sunnyland will be on the ground at markets as well.
“We have been going to the Chicago market and will be going to Atlanta,” Schweig said. “Having all players at one market would be seamless. It seems while most vendors are at the Casual Market, there are some that just show in High Point or Vegas. It would be nice to have them show for a one-stop shop.”
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