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Consumer Panel offers answers to retailers' questions

At the Casual Market, Casual Living Managing Editor Cinde W. Ingram moderated a consumer panel. Four quintessential consumers spent more than an hour answering questions to tell a packed room of retailers and other industry professionals just how and why they shop for outdoor furniture.

Gina Montalto, a young stay-at-home mom of three, is in the process of building a new home and already has her deck and patio planned. Her mother, Pat Pierorazio, has a 20×20-ft. deck with a dining set and plenty of flowers. Michele Summey, a working mother with two young children, takes pride in her home and considers it a showplace. And Kathy Hower, married with no children, recently built a new home in Ohio and purchased her indoor and outdoor furniture in Chicago and New York.

All of the women spend time researching before buying. Kathy starts with the Internet, but like the others, she'll go from store to store to find what she wants. Their biggest demand from specialty dealers is a knowledgeable staff. "I really want answers to my questions," Gina said.

Other points made by the panelists included:

  • They want outdoor furniture that looks good. "I have three kids, but I don't want my furniture to look like I have three kids," said Gina.

  • They want a high-end look. "I want something that will be in style for years ... [and] nobody else in the neighborhood has it," Michelle said.

  • They expect and are willing to pay for quality but they also demand service. "I want people to stand behind their products," Pat said. "If I've had a bad experience in a store, I won't go back."

  • They tell their friends and family about their experiences. "I have no problem with a store giving my name to another customer as a referral," Kathy said.

What about their husbands involvement in shopping for outdoor home furnishings?

Kathy's husband participates in shopping, while the other husbands take part in the final purchasing decision.

"My husband does not shop," Pat said. "He would buy his socks at a gas station if he could."





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