• Cinde Ingram

Challenging conditions

Casually Speaking

Specialty retailers in our niche face a tough environment right now. And it just keeps getting tougher.

That’s one reason we are featuring some casual furniture retailers who are succeeding and growing while others are closing or downsizing. Our first report on retailers located in the nation’s top-growing metro areas also is featured in our May print issue. Although we all appreciate the extra attention prompted by more national media exposure and consumer advertising campaigns that attract consumers to the Outdoor Living category, specialty retailers are feeling added pressures. Those come from a growing number of catalogs offering outdoor products as well as online sales and big box retailers who continue to reinvent themselves with better product designs and higher quality goods. Because of their volume, the mass can sell at lower price points while online retailers and catalogs save brick-and-mortar costs to hit relatively low price points. The pressure cooker heated up another notch recently when many outdoor furniture manufacturers started passing on a portion of their higher raw material expenses, particularly aluminum costs. The spring timing of the price increase raised some retail squawks and ruffled feathers. The price increase brings us to a few central questions: How can the higher costs of doing business be best absorbed? Should mid-season price increases be shared equally by vendors, retailers and end consumers? Will those consumers turn away if price points rise above specific comfort levels? What will happen to the price lists and marketing pieces retailers already paid to have printed? The list of questions goes on. We’re interested in your questions and the answers you find. To speak out, you’re invited to send an e-mail to me at cwingram@reedbusiness.com.  Or respond to our Weblogs.  For more details click here. One of the best ways to stay current with industry news as it develops is by receiving Casual Living’s eWeekly reports, delivered to e-mailboxes each Monday. I’m amazed when I talk with casual furniture retailers who don’t take advantage of this free, five-year-old service. (Click here for signup details) It provides another tool to help you and others in our industry succeed and thrive in times of change and challenge. And it helps prevent big surprises.

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