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Ritzy Business

SARASOTA, Fla. - The inaugural Casual Living Conference drew positive responses from the 160-plus retailers, manufacturers and designers who attended the Feb. 22-24 event held at the Ritz-Carlton here.
     "This is very impressive and a wealth of information has been provided," said Lane Venture President Gary McCray. "I think retailers and manufacturers alike are going to walk away with a lot to think about and to implement."
     Many of the attendees agreed with the comments of keynote speaker Robert Stevenson, who said the reason most attended the conference was to learn from the mistakes and successes of others.
     He told the crowd that of the 100 companies deemed most valuable in 1985-2000, 91 have since been pushed off the list. "If you don't like change, you're going to hate extinction," he said.
     Trend consultant Maxine Lauer continued the learning process by describing how consumers are changing within different demographics. Four of the nation's leading home furnishings retailers then discussed how they are responding to today's consumer to provide the outdoor lifestyle as it extends boundaries of the home.
     "We're just now showing modest gains, but we are showing steady gains," furniture analyst Jerry Epperson said. He added that outdoor furniture sales have outgrown any other kind of furniture for the past six years.
     "You guys have done a great job of getting people together and getting them excited about this category," said Suzy Roberts, VP business manager furniture fabrics, Sunbrella.
     Robert M. Williams, who oversees Houston-based Gallery Furniture's successful social media efforts, said he appreciated the opportunity to work with Casual Living in the company's first conference. "I have organized, participated and presented at many conferences, and let me congratulate all of you," Williams said. "Without doubt, this one was not casual by any means, it was first class all the way!"
     Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, manufacturer of its Sunbrella brand of outdoor fabrics, was honored as Supplier of the Year and Leader's Casual Furniture was named Retailer of the Year during the event's Awards Dinner.

Natalie Scott of Outdura, Gallery Furniture’s Director of Fun Robert Williams and Casual Living Executive Editor Nicole Crews vamp for the camera.
Natalie Scott
Geneva Wallace
Geneva Wallace of Yard Art Patio & Fireplace, OW Lee’s Leisa Rogers McCollister, Marcia Blake of Outdoor Interiors and Terri Lee Rogers of OW Lee represent the growing number of women in the casual industry.
Lane Venture’s Teresa Buelin, Patio Plus’s Jim Schultz, Casual Living Editor in Chief Cinde Ingram and Outdoor Elegance’s Doug Sanicola are all smiles as the cocktail party comes to a close.
Lane Venture’s
Happy Land,
Happy Land, Custom Outdoor Furniture; Chad Harper, Cabana Coast; Rick Baker, Woodard; Becky Sturdivant French, Suncoast Furniture with Zing Quality Furniture President Tom Dahlquist and Zing VP Scott Holloway.
Casual Living’s Kristin O’Brien pops in on John Regan of Abercrombie Mills, Marc and Carrie Morales and Amber Schinas of Windward Design Group.
Casual Living’s Kristin
Gary EckoffGary Eckoff of Carl’s Patio and Harold Fleischut of Casual Marketplace talk retail.
Patty Bowman of Bowman International, Kate Wolford, Dallas Market Center and Geneva Wallace, Yard Art Patio & Fireplace let their hair down before the Awards Dinner.
Patty Bowman
Bill Bacon,
Bill Bacon, Bacon’s Furniture; Esse Asker, Lighthouse to the Trade; Renee and Larry Norris, Norris Furniture took in the Florida-in-February evening weather.

Bob and Carol Urlwin; Rachel Vanderminden and her father Henry Vanderminden IV, Telescope Casual Furniture and Jim Schultz, Patios Plus attend opening night’s ceremonies.
Bob and Carol
Tami, AshleyTami, Ashley and Tim Newton of Leader’s Casual Furniture (winners of the Casual Living Retailer of the Year Award) with Lily Zhou of Gensun Leisure.

Dave Savula and Jill Ford of AmericasMart and Alfresco Home President Joseph Cilio attend opening night’s cocktail party in The Healing Garden.
Dave Savula
Debi and Andy
Debi and Andy Paul of Sun Country Leisure Products, Fortunoff Backyard’s Bernie and Lisa Sensale wind down after the festivities.

Steve Lowsky, Pride Family Brands; Gary Dickerson, Patio Shoppe of Coral Springs and Jason Siesel, Casual Cushion gather with the 160-plus crowd.
Steve Lowsky,

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