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Outdoor Insights - Oliver Ma of Treasure Garden

In this post-recession period, Casual Living asked several leading manufacturers to speak out about what strategies worked best for their companies during the tough times. The following eight executives took time to identify products that proved to be best-sellers during the 2010 season. They also explained why they expect specific new products debuting this month to rise as stars for the 2011 season. With all the recent economic uncertainties, we did not ask them to look far ahead and make predictions about the industry's future. Instead, their answers reflect the realities of today's economy and tomorrow's customers.

Garden PavilionGarden Pavilion


Oliver Ma Treasure Garden • President/CEOQ What's working now? Why?

     For our new items actually the market needed time to swallow, but I think we have built communication with our sales representative network and also with all the patio shop owners or buyers. A lot of salespeople have given me feedback about the market, and what I hear is that they are working very closely with the buyers or the owners of the patio shops to suggest what they need to do to work better. If we say "Treasure Garden is a success," most likely the best part about that is there's no distance between our sales reps/sales managers and the buyers or the owner. The reps are very close to understanding the buyers and they are helping each other. That is helping us as a manufacturer.

     This year, we can ship on time. The market is alive again (especially compared with 2009). Before the July ICFA Preview Show, Treasure Garden had already beaten our 2008 numbers. I know a lot of furniture companies still cannot cross their '08 numbers yet, but Treasure Garden is already ahead. Overall, our group is much more than '08 - not only because of acquisitions of existing shade businesses, but also because we have a new factory, new items, new product categories and new customers.

Q What strategy has been a success despite or because of the down economy?
     We used the time to merge with some other companies that have a lot of knowledge and history. It was good timing to merge with them and learn from them. We can combine their experience with ours, and then we can grow.

     For our group, I have to say we can't do everything for everyone. We have to concentrate to do the selective products, quality jobs, quality items and serve quality customers. Quality is our focus and our future.

Q What product has been your best seller? Why?
     No particular umbrella or item. I would say all the items went well. Sales of the cantilever umbrella have picked up tremendously over the last couple of years.

Q Looking ahead, what do you expect to be a bestseller for 2011?
     I expect it will be the pavilion because people really need it and are willing to pay for high-end, well done shade products. We added Shademaker not quite a year ago and it caught attention very quickly because people need it. Also in the future, awnings are going to be more important.

Q What have you learned that you wish had known earlier?
     I've spent 35 years in this business. I have no regrets because I prepared to spend my whole life in this industry.
This industry, actually, is very competitive and [companies] are not always using the best ways to compete. For instance, when buyers sometimes ask for lower prices, they don't know they can't buy even the materials at the price they want, not counting the costs of labor and other costs to produce it.
Yet competitors say they can do it at the price [buyers] want. I ask them, "Is it the same quality?" They say "Yes, it's the same," but they really don't know.

Q If you could send a message to retailers to help them strengthen their business, what would it be?
     These companies that cut down prices to below the costs of materials don't do the industry any good. It's not healthy.
Patio shops in this industry have to work really hard because the mass market is working hard and every dot com has grown.

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