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Outdoor Insights - Rick Baker of Suncoast

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.

South Beach SofaSouth Beach Sofa


Rick Baker Suncoast • National Sales Manager

Q What's working now?
     Being able to provide our dealers with value-priced packages. Everyone wins: consumer, dealer and manufacturer.

Q What product has been your best seller?
     Small "cash and carry" wicker leisure chair (low-end $62 for Kona) and high-end cast/extruded chair (more than $200 for San Marco). Middle-of -the-road items are hard to sell.

Q Why do you think the Kona Chair became a winner?
     Value. It looks like a more expensive chair than what it really is.

Q What new product or collection do you expect to become a bestseller? Why?
     We offered nine new collections this year, but early indications show our Pinnacle aluminum and Radiate wicker sectional will be big winners.

Q How would you describe the health of the casual industry?
     Moderate at best. If you're up, you're up a little. If you're down, you're down.

Q What strategy did you use that was successful despite (or due to) the challenging economy?
     With dealers stocking less inventory, delivery is key. Our orders are out the door in three to four weeks. Higher end is selling.

Q What have you learned that you wish you had known earlier?
     What dealers were going to buy. It is hard to maintain a high level of inventory on the shelf, not knowing if we will ever get an order for it. Dealers need to place early buy orders now regardless of how large the order is.
Dealers can't expect a manufacturer to keep everything in stock, without giving us some kind of idea of what they are going to buy.

Q Where do you see opportunity for future growth?
     Large chain stores that specialize in large quantities on a few SKUs. We can sell large quantities to one location, collect our money and we're done. We maximize efficiencies and make more profit. Everyone wins.

Q If you could send a message to retailers to help them strengthen their business, what would it be?
     Concentrate on buying larger collections rather than worrying about $999 table and four chair sets. The cost to deliver a $3,000 set is the same as delivering a $999 set. Which is better, making 55% GP on a $1,000 sale or 40% on a $3,000 sale? Also, buy Made in the USA.

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