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Cinde W. Ingram

Retailers' expect sales growth

When the sun shines, retailers in our industry can hardly contain their optimistic outlooks.

Nearly two-thirds of retailers who responded to Casual Living's exclusive Store Operations Report said they expect this year's sales to top 2005 sales. Another third expect sales to stay about the same, while only 4% expect 2006 sales to be lower than 2005 sales.

Perhaps in explanation of their optimism, half of retail respondents reported their 2005 sales numbers were higher than 2004 sales totals. Slightly more than one-fourth of respondents said 2005 sales actually were lower than 2004 and nearly another one-fourth described them as about the same. The half reporting higher sales numbers must be located in the nation's sunny spots — away from areas that took the brunt of last year's severe storms.

Fifty percent was the median answer for close ratios, meaning respondents said half of all customers who shopped at their specialty casual furniture stores made a purchase. Special orders amounted to more than a third or 38% of respondents' casual furniture sales in 2005, while 10% of their special order sales were for other casual products. They expect those same percentage points for special order sales this year. Nearly all of the respondents, 96%, require a deposit on special orders. The median required deposit was 50% of the sale amount.

Fourteen percent of retail respondents also sell through store catalogs. Those who do said that part of their business accounts for 30% or just under a third of overall sales. Nearly 10% offer online ordering, and said that segment amounts to 5% of their sales.

When it comes to the merchandise mix, casual furniture still accounts for the bulk of our retail respondents' sales. Compared with retailers who responded to Casual Living's 2005 Store Performance Study, percentage points remained fairly consistent for other merchandise categories with the exception of outdoor heaters/hearth products, which declined as a percentage of sales by product.

On these pages, you'll see dining groups continue to lead casual furniture sales, with a 55% share. That percentage of sales declined five percentage points while deep seating/conversation groups gained five as compared to sales percentages from retailers who responded to last year's survey. Deep seating groups remained at higher median price points than dining groups. Chaise lounges and motion pieces each made up just under 10% of total sales.

Gas grill sales remained important to the merchandising mix of nearly all the specialty retailers who responded, although some expected to change their grill line-up. The 2006 percentage points increased slightly for charcoal and electric grills as well as grill islands, but declined slightly for gas grills and grill accessories.

Possibly in response to ongoing challenges from mass merchants and home improvement centers, the majority of casual furniture specialists who responded offer design services. Most provide design, delivery and installation services through their own staffs while others contract the work out or use a combination of staff and contract skills.

The amount of participation in early-buy programs was expected to stay constant, with half of retail respondents saying they participated in early-buy programs for the 2005 and 2006 selling seasons. One-fifth of retail respondents expect to belong to buying groups this year, up three percentage points from the 17% of respondents who belonged to buying groups in 2005.

One sunny spot in respondents' answers involved an extremely low (5% median) percentage point of goods received from vendors that must be returned or repaired.

Just as our business is seasonally driven, so is attendance at trade shows. More retailers said they plan to attend the major home furnishings markets this year than they attended in 2005. The National Hardware Show in Las Vegas was the only trade show that stayed constant in the number of casual furniture retail respondents planning to attend in 2006, compared with 2005.

Space Allocation

Percent of Total Space

Administration 7%
Other 1%
Warehouse 28%
Selling Space 64%

Sales Comparisons

Percent of retailers saying sales were ...

2005 sales compared with 2004


Percent of retailers saying sales will be ...

2006 sales compared with 2005


Web Site

33% of retailers do not


Future Plans

not planning one 29%
plans under consideration 47%
will launch site within the next 6–12 months 24%

Average Mark Up

Selling Price is Cost Times

less than 2 36%
2 39%
2.5 22%
3 3%

Frequency of Sales of Marked-Down Goods

Percent of Retailers

annually 20%
twice a year 32%
three to four times a year 25%
more than four times a year 23%

Average Mark-Down

median 20%

68% of products sold

Casual Furniture Carried 2005

percent of retailers carrying percent of sales best-selling price price point
dining groups 81% 55% $1,299
deep seating 78% 25% $2,000
motion pieces 75% 9% $500
chaise lounges 75% 8% $350
other 13% 3% $262

Furniture Materials

Percent of Retailers

carrying in 2005 planning to carry in 2006
aluminum, tubular 64% 81%
aluminum, cast 63% 83%
woven, all-weather 63% 84%
iron, cast, wrought 57% 70%
wood 53% 64%
wicker/rattan, indoor 36% 47%
other material 10% 13%

Dining Sets

Bar-Height vs Standard Height
Percent of Retailers Saying as a Percent of Total Dining Sales

2005 bar-height sales were 2006 bar-height sales will be
HIGHER 26% 30%
LOWER 27% 10%
compared with 2004 compared with 2005

7-Piece vs. 5-Piece Height
Percent of Retailers Saying as a Percent of Total Dining Sales

2005 7-piece sales were 2006 7-piece sales will be
HIGHER 28% 40%
LOWER 14% 8%
compared with 2004 compared with 2005

8% of products sold

Grills Carried

Percent of Retailers

carrying in 2005 planning to carry in 2006
gas grills 92% 91%
grill accessories 71% 69%
charcoal grills 58% 62%
grill islands 44% 47%
electric grills 15% 18%

2% of products sold

Lighting Carried

Percent of Retailers

carrying in 2005 planning to carry in 2006
lamps 90% 91%
torches 47% 48%
landscape 12% 18%
other lighting 6% 7%

Services Provided

design delivery installation landscape design
percent offering 72% 99% 89% 12%
own staff 92% 89% 80% 70%
contract partners 2% 6% 11% 20%
both 6% 5% 9% 10%

2005 Direct Importing of Casual Furniture

percent of retailers importing casual furniture directly from overseas factories, not through a U.S. manufacturer's import program

83% do not import directly


Future Plans

no plans 81%
will try direct importing 11%
not sure 8%

Import Percent of Casual Furniture Sales


2005 actual 32%
2006 projected 20%

Retailers Found Overseas Factories Through

Percent of Retailers

factory exhibits at U.S. shows 29%
sourcing agent 27%
referral by other retailers 24%
factory exhibits at international shows 9%
trade advertising or articles in the trade press 6%
contacted directly by factory 3%

Direct Import Source Country

Percent of Retailers

China 53%
other Asian country 27%
Mexico 21%
Italy 15%
Other country 9%
Vietnam 6%
Canada 3%
other Latin American country 3%

U.S. Trade Show Attendance

Percent of Retailers
retailers attending in 2005

International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, Chicago, Sept. 57%
International Casual Furniture, Pre-market, Chicago, July 26%
Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo, Feb./March 17%
National Hardware Show, Las Vegas, May 8%
International Gift & Home Furnishings Market, Atlanta, Jan. 19%
International Home Furnishings Market, High Point, N.C., March/April 19%
other U.S. markets 22%

Aside From Markets, Retailers Find New Products and Vendors From

Percent of Retailers

other includes customer referrals, fashion/home decor magazines, mailings and other dealers
sales reps 84%
trade pubs 55%
the Internet 32%
other 15%

Other Home Furnishings Sites

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