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Cinde W. Ingram

Seasons of change

The temperature hovered in the 30s today, but sunshine and a clear Carolina blue sky pulled my thoughts ahead toward spring.

The temperature hovered in the 30s today, but sunshine and a clear Carolina blue sky pulled my thoughts ahead toward spring.

That’s despite knowing this month’s Weather Trends forecast calls for more rain and snow, especially compared with last February which ranked as the nation’s third warmest in a decade. If you sell fire pits, patio heaters and/or other hearth products, you may be happy to know winter will hang around awhile longer. Long enough, you hope, to sell through your inventory.

As retailers clear out off-season products and prepare stores for this brand new decade’s first outdoor season, change is likely on your minds, too. Don’t forget to take a few photos of good-looking vignettes inside your stores to be considered for Casual Living’s 10th annual Merchandising Awards. We need photographs that show off your store’s merchandising, use of accessories, outdoor display areas and exteriors with signage that directs customers toward you as their destination. You’ll hear more over the next couple of months as we call for entries from fashionable retailers.

While retail performance was spotty across the nation during 2009, survivors of the economic downturn have confidence in the growing number of consumers who say they want to fix up their outdoor areas. Are you asking your customers what they want?

Although salespeople have been the traditional front line for talking with consumers, the past 20 years have prompted some retailers and manufacturers to use the Internet as a way to communicate with existing customers and attract new ones. OutdoorFurniturePlus.com and Great American Woodies are examples of companies successfully managing initiatives based on the ever-growing Web trend.

If your product line includes grills, you know homeowners have adapted to firing up their grills year-round. A record number of U.S. homeowners – more than 80% – now own grills, the latest HPBA survey shows. Combine those numbers with EASI’s projections for continued grill market growth. Also consider The Freedonia Group’s new study, which projects annual growth in U.S. demand for outdoor furniture and grill products (plus accessories such as umbrellas, covers, cushions and patio heaters).

All this research shows the market will benefit from the popularity of outdoor living and consumer lifestyle trends, such as staycations and outdoor rooms. These factors encourage consumers to invest in outdoor spaces and trade up to better products. That holds great promise for a new decade.

Feedback? Send your comments to:
Cinde W. Ingram
Casual Living Editor-In-Chief
7025 Albert Pick Rd., Suite 200, Greensboro, N.C. 27409
336-605-1122
336-605-1158
cwingram@reedbusiness.com

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