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Cinde W. Ingram

Show season gets underway

The summer show season kicked off last month at the Dallas Gift & Home Furnishings Market.

By the time you are reading this, most of us will be focused on the July 9-12 International Casual Furniture and Accessories Premarket in Chicago's Merchandise Mart. Or maybe you will be shopping or showing product at AmericasMart in Atlanta. Others may be headed to the West Coast Casual Furniture Premarket, set for July 31 and Aug 1 in Ontario, Calif., or to the Las Vegas Market, July 30–Aug. 2. The international Spoga trade fair will attract some of our industry to Cologne, Germany, over Labor Day weekend to catch a glimpse of European styles and innovations. And soon after, the annual International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market will return to Chicago in full force, Sept. 9–21.

Whew! While we are traveling this month, temperatures across the nation will be hot but not as high as last year's near-record temps. More aggressive advertising and steeper markdowns may be called for to keep your sales of outdoor home furnishings and accessories going strong.

When I visited casual furniture retailers in San Diego recently, each of them commented about how sunshine made a huge difference in their customers' shopping habits. Overcast skies often keep shoppers away, retailers said, but sunny skies bring them back ready to buy. A sudden shower may prompt customers to postpone a delivery even though the product is made to withstand weather. During my trip, the "May haze" and "June gloom" burned off by lunchtime and gave way to brilliant blue skies. Although other parts of the nation may think it unfair because weather conditions are so favorable for outdoor furniture sales in Southern California, retailers there said they also are affected by seasonal buying patterns. Take a look at our Metro report, starting on page 22, to find out how they counter the off-season by making room for outdoor heating or holiday products.

Also inside this issue, U.S. demographics promise bright days ahead for sales of outdoor furnishings. Consumer spending on outdoor furniture will increase 27.5% by 2011, according to national research by New York-based Easy Analytic Software and Casual Living's market research. That will bring consumer spending to $3.88 billion. See our exclusive research package for more details, a sales-by-state breakdown and a regional list of large and small metro areas with projected growth above the national average.

When you combine these numbers with projections for a 25% increase in consumer spending on grills, published in our March issue, the future looks a little brighter.

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