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MULTI-STORE CATEGORY Carls Patio Boca Raton, Fla.

Carls PatioCarls Patio vignette features generous deep seating group and appropriate accessories for indoors or out.
WITH THE acquisition of an existing brand, the launch of an online store and plans for another new location to open this fall, Carls Patio continues its aggressive hunt for new opportunities.
     After purchasing Frellens Casual & Outdoor Furniture, a three-store chain in the San Francisco Bay area, in December, the company made major changes to bring the brand into the Carls Patio family. All the showrooms were updated and the product selection remerchandised, while distribution was moved to the company's distribution center in Los Angeles.
     "I think the only thing that remained the same - besides the name - is the great reputation the company built over the past 50 years and the great staff who stayed with us," said Gary Ecoff, president.
     The launch of the online store, Patio- Furniture.com, has been a bit more challenging.
     "E-commerce is still very much a work in progress," Ecoff said. "We are already on the second generation of the website and it still is not where we want to ultimately end up."
     The domain name alone drives a tremendous level of traffic to the site, but most visitors are not looking for medium to high-end product. Ecoff expects that version three of PatioFurniture.com will help the company greatly expand its base of web shoppers who are looking for and can afford the product found in Carls Patio mix.
     Despite the hiccups, PatioFurniture.com has already increased store traffic.
     "Local customers are using the site to gauge the level of product and breadth of selection we have before driving to the store, and the sales staff is obviously ‘incentivized' to close the sale when they are there," Ecoff said, adding the online store has just a fraction of the product available in the stores.
Carls Patio’s management teamFrom left, Jayson Friedman, Paul Otowchits, Gary Ecoff and Lyle Ecoff lead Carls Patio’s management team
     In addition to PatioFurniture.com, Carls Patio has 18 locations including the Terrace 436, Saddleback, Berk's and Frellens brands.
     The company opened in 1993 as part of the Carls Furniture brand and completed a leveraged buyout with a private equity company in fall 2008. Forced to examine every aspect of the business by its new partner, the retailer came out of it better positioned for growth.
     "We will continue to grow the company as opportunities and resources become available," Ecoff said.

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