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State of the industry: Joe Logan

Industry leaders share their views, say economic challenges and opportunities co-exist

Joe LoganJoe Logan

Casual Living tapped the brains of the International Casual Furnishings Association's executive committee and director to find out their prognoses on the health of the industry. The three manufacturing veterans and two specialty retailers shared their perspectives on the current season as well as their outlooks for the 2012 season.

As sponsor of the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, the Design Excellence Awards and the Apollo Awards recognizing retail excellence, ICFA is recognized as the authoritative voice of the outdoor furnishings industry. Read on as each of these industry leaders share their views, reflecting on the changing economic landscape and looking toward the horizon for full recovery.

Joe Logan | ICFA executive director

1. How would you describe the health of the casual industry?
     I would say the industry is still very challenged with the economic conditions in the country. Consumer confidence has just taken another hit with the turbulence in the stock market and, really, with the job numbers. We want consumers that are confident and feel good about their future - those are the individuals who will be buying our product, so that's a big factor as well as the challenges of the store closings within our industry that have taken place this past year.

2. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the industry now?
     Store closings and, of course, a number of manufacturers have been impacted by those. We've lost a few manufacturers as well. Really, the economic conditions of the country and of the world are probably our biggest challenges. It's not necessarily the tone we want going into market. Hopefully that will stabilize somewhat so our buyers will be feeling better about the current situation.

3. Where do you see opportunity for future growth?
     I think there's incredible opportunity out there for us. For the last several years, consumers have been awakened to the amazing variety of outdoor furnishings products that are out there for them to purchase and enjoy in their homes, their backyards and outdoor living environments. Even though many have moved forward and updated their looks and made purchases, there is still a large group of consumers out there who have not or who are waiting for better conditions to do so. I think there is still a very large group of consumers out there that is waiting to make purchases of outdoor furnishings. There are ample opportunities out there for us to grow our business.

4. What strategy did the Association use this year that was successful despite (or because of) the challenging economy?
     One of the best things we've done is we committed to a new sales-training program for our retail members. It's led by Greg Welch, who put together Tropitone University for our member company Tropitone Furniture. We really

Sales-trainingSales-training program CD covers.
wanted to provide tools to our retail members that they could use with their retail sales staff to improve their skills, raise the level of professionalism in the industry and really help them get out there and sell more outdoor furnishings products. They can make themselves individually more successful and make their retail stores more profitable as well. We introduced one level, the basic level of the program, last year. This month we will be rolling out two additional levels - our advanced and master levels of the program - and also be introducing a sales-training certification program. We'll have a test for each of the three programs, and upon successful completion of the program, each retail sales professional taking the test will receive a certificate and pin to signify their achievement. We're very excited about that and think it will offer benefits to our membership in so many different levels. We're looking forward to unveiling that in September.

5. What have you learned through the economic downturn that you wish you had known earlier?
     I don't know if it's necessarily something new, but I think the bottom line for us is we are here to support our members in whatever way we can do that - whether it be through very tangible things like the new sales-training program that I mentioned or through increased opportunities to network or working with a particular member through a difficult time when they can't necessarily pay their membership dues or whether it's increasing the visibility of our members and their achievements through our awards reception. The bottom line is we need to be there to support our members particularly in difficult times like the ones we've been through the last couple of years. I think that is probably the thing that, I wouldn't say I learned, but that has been re-emphasized to me through this period the role we need to be playing.

6. If you could send a message to retailers to help them strengthen their business, what would it be?
     Particularly to retailers, our retail members and retailers in the industry who are not currently members of the association, take a look at our sales-training program. It will be invaluable to you, your retail sales team and to driving your sales up. The individuals who have participated in the sessions and our live filming came out of them extremely enthusiastic about what they had learned and gained through the session. They were very much looking forward to sharing those with the membership and the industry at large.

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