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Exclusive Research Casual Living Fabric Survey 2008

Browns, neutrals stay solid best sellers

Nearly three-fifths of consumers pick fabrics from the floor according to retailers responding to this year's exclusive fabric survey. Retailers expect this trend to hold in the upcoming selling season.

In the exclusive Consumer Views survey conducted by Casual Living in conjunction with HGTV, consumers made it clear the fabrics on their outdoor furniture are an extremely important part of their purchase decision, so retailers' savvy fabric choices play a significant role in their store's financial success.

In particular, consumers want to know about fabric wear issues and how well the fabric will stand up to the elements. They're also interested in how to care for and maintain the fabrics for maximum longevity and good appearance. Because this is often not available from mass merchants, specialty retailers can boost their sales potential by being the source consumers can rely on for essential information to make an informed buying decision. Retailers who put the information on their Web sites, have appropriate signage and hang tags, will all help consumers feel better about their purchase.

When it comes to fabric construction types for cushions, plain weaves were the best sellers in 2008. Retailers think they will continue to hold that position in the upcoming selling season. As far as fibers are concerned, it's acrylics all the way. No other fiber comes close to the dominance held by this versatile fiber.

Solids dominate design on seating whether it's cushions or slings. That was true in 2008 and retailers expect the same for the 2009 selling season. Florals are the second-place finisher behind solids on cushions while geometrics claim that distinction on slings. And they look to hold onto those positions for the 2009 season. However, a few more retailers expect stripes to make some in-roads on cushions this year while some see florals making a run on slings.

As for color, retailers say consumers continue to stick with neutrals and earth tones. However, the number of retailers expecting brights to be a best seller on cushions in the upcoming season doubled to 17%. Deep, saturated tones picked up a few more fans as a potential 2009 best-seller for both cushions and slings.

Neutrals may be the best sellers, but a sea of earth tones on the sales floor can make for a pretty dry presentation, so retailers liven things up a bit with some sets in attention-getting colors. About one-fifth of retailers chose red, orange or green for their attention-getters on cushioned seating. For slings, the most-favored choices for the attention-getters were greens, blues and browns, in the chocolate, coffee bean flavors.

Accent pillows add pizzazz on outdoor furniture. Here retailers say consumers are a bit more willing to step outside the safe neutral zone to try brights and deep, saturated colors and jewel tones. Solids still rule, accounting for about two-fifths of sales, but florals and stripes each account for between one-fifth and one-fourth of sales.

For the upcoming selling season, retailers think deep browns — chocolate, cocoa, coffee bean, dark bronze — are the best bets for best sellers on pillows.

What's selling at retail

Customer's own material 4%
Special order 39%
Off-the-floor 57%

2/3 of retailers foresee little change in the volume of special orders in 2009.

Outdoor furniture sales

Dining groups 54%
Deep seating/conversation groups 24%
Motion pieces, gliders, swings 9%
Chaise lounges 7%
Other 6%

Slings 64%
Cushions 36%

3-piece 26%
5-piece 53%
7-piece 15%
Other 6%

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