Year in review: Retailers discuss 2008 season
Marc Barnes -- Casual Living, November 1, 2008
How successful retailers were during the past season depends in part on where they were doing business, a spot check of outdoor furniture retailers shows.
Davora Lilian, an interior designer with At Home Design Center in Greenwich, Conn., said her clients, although cautious, continued to invest heavily in their patios during the summer months. She expects that to continue into the fireplace season.
"We give them white glove service," Lilian said. "When the economy is bad, you have to work really hard. We have been doing that and it pays off for us."
Bill Austin, owner of Austin's Patio Furniture in Modesto, Calif., relied on his sense of humor through tough times. He said he is sure that he will have a good season if it ever does begin. So far, it hasn't.
Austin said this past season has been the worst he has seen in the past 31 years. It's not so much a slowdown in the housing market as a slowdown in spending, Austin said.
"We work on the upper end of the spectrum and it is not so much that they are losing their house or their jobs but what they are doing is sitting on their money and not spending it," he said.
Carl O. Vice, general manager of Casual Living and Patio Center in Lexington, Ky., shared that perspective.
"People still have needs for outdoor parties and entertaining but because their portfolios are in a downward spiral, they have put the brakes on everything," Vice said. "We are seeing fewer and fewer shoppers on the floors."
Chad Scheinerman, one of the owners of Today's Patio in Scottsdale, Ariz., said this past season started out strong but began dropping sharply in August, coinciding roughly with a spike in the number of foreclosures in the state.
"For retail in general, I think we are in for a long haul — conservatively, I think we are in for a disappointing 18 months ahead," Scheinerman said.
Jerry Newton, president of Largo, Fla.-based Leader's Casual Furniture, has seen it differently. Florida's last season, which ended in April, was strong — and the upcoming season is just now getting under way.
"I am very optimistic about it," Newton said. "I don't have any reason to believe that we won't win their hearts like we always have. We are looking forward to the people coming down and settling into their winter homes."