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Consumers playing it safe with pattern, color

Consumers continue to play it safe with beige and taupe on their outdoor seating, according to the retailers answering Casual Living's furniture fabric survey.

About two-thirds of the retailers say they tried some of the vibrant colors introduced by manufacturers in 2003 with limited success. According to those who have tried them, sales of the vibrant colors seem to be picking up. About half of those continuing to carry bright colors say cushion sales with vibrant colors outperformed other colors on their sales floor. On cushions, a few brave souls are buying red as a dominant color — 12% of retailers say it's their best-seller.

When it comes to pattern, florals and solids are the best sellers for about one-third of retailers each. Nearly three-fourths of retailers answering the survey see growth for solids. Other pattern types received mixed reviews of their growth potential, with about half of retailers saying sales are growing and the other half saying sales are fading.

In sling, basketweaves and solids are the best-selling pattern types for about one-third of retailers. About three-fourths of retailers see continued sales growth for both basketweaves and solids in sling seating.

Retailers operating more than 200 stores answered Casual Living's fabric survey by fax and on the Internet in November. About one-third of retailers who answered are casual furniture specialists, another third operate pool and patio or hearth and patio stores. The remaining retailers include full-line furniture stores, garden centers and department stores, all carrying outdoor furniture. In terms of annual sales, about one-fourth have sales of less than $1 million, another one-fourth, sales of $5 million or more, with the remaining half having sales between $1 million and $5 million. About four-fifths of the retailers carry both cushion and sling seating.

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