Casual niche holds, gains ground in traditional furniture stores
Cinde Ingram -- Casual Living, April 1, 2009
Given the current state of the economy, one might think home furnishing stores would be tempted to shed cost by cutting back on extraneous product categories and focus on devoting all available floor space to indoor furnishings. Instead, several furniture stores reached last month reported they are maintaining the percentage of allotted floor space for outdoor and patio product categories, with plans to up the percentage in some cases.
Located in Farmville, Va., Green Front Furniture devotes 5% of its more than 1.5 million-sq.-ft. facility to casual furnishings and outdoor products, according to Pamela Nunn, buyer and salesperson for Green Front Furniture. The store also carries case goods, upholstery, leather, rugs, accessories and office furniture.
The amount of space devoted to the outdoor category has remained the same over the past year because it is considered a seasonal product for the store, Nunn said. “We are trying to sell higher-end furniture,” said Nunn.
Going forward, Green Front Furniture plans to devote more space to outdoor products, she added. “Our best-selling category for outdoor is cast aluminum,” Nunn said.
Furnitureland South, based in High Point, N.C., operates 1 million square feet of showroom space and allocates approximately 39,000 square feet of space to the outdoor/casual sector, said Shelby Sari, outdoor, wicker and rattan gallery manager for Furnitureland South.
“We have kept the same amount of square footage for this category as in the past year,” Sari said. “The Leather Gallery is the Outdoor Gallery's neighbor, and both are performing extremely well.”
Looking ahead, Furnitureland South plans to “maintain the space that it has allocated to the outdoor category and support the manufacturers that it carries,” Sari said. Furnitureland South's best-selling category within the outdoor segment is woven furniture. “The cushion category has also been very strong,” Sari added.
Ethan Allen, headquartered in Danbury, Conn., has increased the amount of space it devotes to outdoor and patio products over the past year, according to Nora Balogh Murphy, executive vice president of Style and Advertising for Ethan Allen Global. During the off season, Ethan Allen mixes a few chairs into room settings. During outdoor selling season, smaller Ethan Allen stores show one to two groupings while larger design centers have designated outdoor displays year-round, Murphy said.
The increase in space is due to the introduction of its Biscayne Collection, Murphy said. Part of the Home & Garden line, Biscayne offers a strong, low maintenance cast aluminum frame with a versatile, go-anywhere style, according to Ethan Allen's Web site. Pieces in the collection include rectangular and round top dining and side tables as well as a chaise lounge, settee, chair and ottoman. The collection is designed to be customizable for consumers' needs.
Also new is a line of lower maintenance performance fabrics for indoor or outdoor use, Murphy said. The line includes 44 fabric options engineered to withstand weather, repel stains and resist mold, mildew and fading, she said. The fabrics reveal trend-right prints such as modern ikats and updated damasks. Velvets and chenilles are also prevalent in fresh color palettes.
Best-selling outdoor products for Ethan Allen are in the lounge category from the Gazebo and Manhattan Beach collections, Murphy said. Products in these collections feature a hand-woven, all-weather vinyl construction.