Lisa Casinger -- Casual Living, May 2, 2012
I don't know if you've noticed, but we've embarked on quite the adventure here at Casual Living. Beginning in April we published installment one of our three-part International Feature series. (Think of it as the counterpart to our recent three-part Made in America series.) Editor Cinde Ingram - my co-pilot and fellow traveler - flew to China to attend Outdoor Lifestyle Hangzhou and to get a read on what global manufacturing and partnerships are really all about. Considering that China accounts for more than 80% of all imported outdoor furniture in our latest Exclusive Research Study (coming in June), I think she went to the right place.
This month, writer Jamie Sorcher dips her toes in exotic sands to explore the outdoor room around the globe and find out how different cultures and designs influence the market back home.
In June, I'll be examining imports domestically from a retail point of view - so if you have any feedback to share on how imports have impacted your business, I'd love to hear from you.
Now, if you're still saying to yourself, we've got a huge North America production base for outdoor furniture, so what's with all this import chatter? I've got an answer for you in the form of a Vietnamese proverb, "A day of travelling will bring a basketful of learning."
The truth is, whether we like it or not, we live in a global society and the importance of imports can't just be brushed aside because of national pride. Their role in the outdoor industry is worthy of examination on many levels. "We went to Singapore (International Furniture Fair Singapore) for the first time this year because even though we are made domestically we want to expand our brand globally," said Karl Keuroghlian, director of international sales, Telescope Casual. "In both contract and residential we are going for the BRIC [Brazil, Russia, India and China] countries."
And that's just one company and one example. Not only does actual import product affect our industry by its physical presence - it also influences where product and components are made, how business is done and how designs are derived. It involves the lower end, big-box items that expose the masses to outdoor living options and on a certain level, educate them about quality (or lack thereof in some cases). Imports from some of the leading, high-end manufacturers are on the other end of the spectrum and play a big role in pricing in today's marketplace.
I attended the international High Point Market last month and I'm heading to Vegas this month for the Hospitality Design Expo+Convention where contract reigns supreme and multi-national companies are represented. I'm looking forward to talking with retailers, designers and suppliers from across the globe about the big picture and how a collaboration of world views can change an industry. It's a small world, but we run in big circles.
Nicole C Crews
Executive Editor Nicole Crews takes a break from researching document fabrics for Valdese Weavers and visits Vietnam’s Cu Chi tunnels in the mid ‘90s.