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Casual Market Review

Review of market in Chicago

Attitudes remained positive and optimistic during the Sept. 21-24 Casual Market in Chicago. The market was stronger than expected, especially in light of this year's tough economic climate and a prolonged rainy start to the selling season.

Many market discussions focused on inventories and quick-ship abilities. For their part, retailers were energetic and eager to see the 2010 line-up.

“Retailers have clean inventory and are ready to do business,” said retailer Karen Galindo, The Greenhouse Mall in Austin, Texas. Her associate Tracy Walfrom was equally optimistic. “2010 will be the rebound,” she predicted. For now, she noted, “Manufacturers are more conservative with what they're doing. They took what they had and made expansions to lines. The manufacturers are tuned in that the consumers are demanding value.”

Retailers took note of the vendors who have adapted lean manufacturing processes and, in some cases, lowered prices. “Manufacturers made concessions this year,” said Mike Kapp of Taylor Creek, Green Bay, Wis.

“I'm not hearing what manufacturers didn't do, I'm hearing what they did do,” said Petey Fleischut, owner of Casual Marketplace in Hockessin, Del.

Susan Kiley, of Bay Breeze Patio, Destin, Fla., was another retailer pleased by the traffic and attitude during the Market. “I like all of the innovation I'm seeing in a year when I didn't expect to see a lot due to budget constraints,” she said. Kiley was also excited about the variety and quality of product to be found on the 8th floor, a topic that drew raves from several retailers.

“I think eight is fabulous,” said Debbie Stegman, Patio and Hearth Shoppes, Dayton, Ohio. “It's the best it's been in years.”

Pausing as she wrote a large order, Tami Newton of Palm Springs Rattan & Garden Classics described the market as wonderful because it brought back existing dealers with very positive attitudes as well as new customers.

“We had twice as many appointments as last year,” said Mike Sosnowski, Kettler national sales manager. “A good percentage of these are new prospective customers.”

“This is my fifth Chicago Market with Suncoast, and I've written more orders during this show than all of the other September markets combined,” said Rick Baker of Suncoast.

“There is a sense of optimism again,” said Cap Hendrix, president of Tropitone. “Dealers, manufacturers and suppliers are all coming to understand what the market is now about and how to adapt to it.”

Traditional furniture store and department store buyers are taking a new look at the outdoor furniture category and finding not only updated design and comfort, but also function that didn't exist two decades ago, said Salvatore Carrara, owner of Anacara. “I haven't had this much positive reaction since the '80s,” he said.

For more Casual Market coverage, visit casualliving.com.

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