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Cinde W. Ingram

Looking beyond today's clouds

Ours is a relatively small part of the overall furniture industry yet we're getting our share of notice.

Last week, a Wall Street Journal reporter asked me about double chaise lounge chairs and why they are suddenly so popular. I told her specialty casual furniture retailers have placed them in stores to attract consumer interest as well as produce sales. Such large items do take up floor space, but are worth that investment if the "wow" product brings in more customers, creates a buzz and demonstrates something fresh that mass merchants don't offer. I can't imagine the Journal would be impressed by the actual number of consumers, designers and hotels buying double chaise lounge chairs this season.

When she asked whether double chaise lounge chairs could be seen as the Hummer of this industry, I tried to explain how this specific product fits into the bigger picture, the trend toward outdoor living. That trend has led far beyond outdoor dining and grill islands to include other outdoor areas, such as conversation areas with deep seating sofas, loveseats, chairs and tables or entertainment areas or even areas for lounging and relaxation much the same as a bedroom. I guess I'll find out whether my explanation was clear to her when the article is published this month.

In a similar way, we'll find out later this year whether the majority of outlooks for the current season were too optimistic. I talked with a retailer yesterday who said his hopes for an early start were snowed under. As I write this, I'm reminded of an article I read recently about a man who loves beautiful sunsets. The writer said he had noticed through the years that the best sunsets often follow stormy skies, which make radical changes in cloud formations, rather than clear and sunny days.

Economic uncertainties and global market changes still overshadow our industry and our nation with thunderclouds. Yet we all strive to do our best given the challenges of the day, knowing we share our customers' desire to enjoy those stunning sunsets ahead.

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