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Surviving the Times

How outdoor retailers are meeting the challenge

The economy seems to be at the forefront for consumers and retailers alike. For retailers, these challenging environments are providing room for improvement or simply time to rethink strategies regarding merchandising and survival. In our exclusive Surviving the Times Retailer Survey, outdoor retailers reveal their creativity and commitment to this industry.

To attract and keep existing customers, outdoor retailers are expanding offerings. Aside from core products — outdoor furniture, hearth and grill products — many are offering products such as indoor home furniture, accessories, window treatments and pool and spa chemicals.

In addition, outdoor retailers are providing excellent customer service and utilizing more experienced sales staff. According to one retailer, "We'll continue our commitment to demonstrate the highest level of customer service. It's what gives us such a high rate of repeat and referral business." Still, other outdoor retailers are using networking skills to build their contact lists and customer base. They are getting out into the community and even helping with school fundraisers. In fact, many outdoor specialists are providing cooking classes, grilling demonstrations as well as wine tastings. Some retailers are holding seminars on outdoor entertaining and others are going to the customers' home to help design their outdoor space.

Traditional marketing strategies such as advertising in newspapers, radio and television continue to help outdoor retailers, although strategies are changing a bit. For example, some retailers are advertising less in print and more online; and, instead of just direct mail, several retailers are now using targeted direct mail. Also, in lieu of traditional snail mail, some retailers are now sending e-mail messages with coupons and extra discounts attached. For those who are web-savvy, they are boosting their Web sites and are even beginning to offer online sales.

Reaching and Serving Customers
% of retailers likely to

Source: Casual Living Surviving the Times Retailer Survey, 2009
Initiate direct marketing campaign 60%
Develop customer loyalty program 57%
Change where spending ad dollars 54%
Sell to customers online 37%
Develop social networking, e.g. Facebook, Twitter 36%
Change level of ads/promotional spending 35%
Conduct customer research 28%
Change level of co-op dollars from manufacturers 26%

% of retailers likely to increase

Use of quick-ship programs from vendors 58%
Buys from domestic manufacturers 47%
Number of new vendors 37%
Orders from sales reps 29%

% of retailers likely to decrease

Direct imports 57%
Buys from overseas manufacturers 54%
Early buys before markets 53%

% of retailers likely to

Add products at lower price points 64%
Reduce SKUs in warehouse 46%
Change merchandise mix 45%
Add "green" products to mix 41%
Change margins 35%

Purchasing for 2010
Retailers will do the majority of purchasing in...

1st Quarter, 2009 5%
2nd Quarter, 2009 12%
3rd Quarter, 2009 43%
4th Quarter, 2009 40%

The Green Factor

Green products are carried by more than two-fifths of casual retailers. Among those retailers who carried green in 2008, a median of 5% of total revenues came from green products. And, though 2009 may continue to be economically challenging, responding retailers are optimistic that green revenues will double this year to reach a median of 10% of total revenues. Still, there are many factors that would encourage outdoor retailers to carry even more green. Among the top three are requests from customers (61%), good designs and styles (49%) and lower prices (41%).

41% of outdoor retailers currently carry green or eco-friendly outdoor furniture products

Green Revenues

Percentage of total annual sales 2008 projected 2009
10% or less 82% 64%
Between 11% and 20% 11% 18%
Between 21% and 30% 4% 12%
More than 30% 3% 6%

What would encourage outdoor retailers to carry green?

Source: Casual Living Surviving the Times Retailer Survey, 2009
Customer requests 61%
Good designs and styles 49%
Lower prices 41%
Clearer explanation of green certification 27%
Higher quality 20%
Nothing - don't plan to carry 8%

Going online

Eight out of 10 stores answering this survey have a Web site. And, one-quarter of stores who have one offer online ordering for customers. In 2008, online sales represented 10% or less of total revenues for three-fourths of respondents; online sales comprised 20% or more for another fifth of stores. 2009 online sales are expected to account for 20% or more for two-fifths of respondents, which will double last year's growth if the projections hold.

For casual retailers who currently do not have a Web site, 44% expect to have a Web site by the end of this year and another 22% have plans to get a Web site up and running sometime in 2010.

Reasons retailers currently do not have a Web site

Lack of time 55%
Cost of set up 39%
Lack of skill 32%
Lack of staff 32%
Cost of maintaining 23%

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