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Responding to trends

Responding to TrendsEating at home rather than dining at restaurants is one of the behavioral changes remaining from the recession that appears to be part of the new normal.
     You've probably read and heard as much as we have lately about trends such as this one. We suspect it had its start even before the stock market crash and economic slowdown because we've watched the national interest in entertaining outdoors and grilling at home grow steadily over the past few years. Nearly half of grillers now say they use grills or smokers to cook year-round. That's hard to imagine this month in some of the nation's coldest and snowiest areas, but dedicated grillers still manage to cook out.
     While many retailers reported their strongest holiday sales since 2007, American restaurants were fighting to fill booths as 2010 drew to its end. Full-service restaurant revenues increased 5-7% a year in the decade leading up to the recent recession, which ended that growth. Recent forecasts call for restaurant growth to be less than 1% per year over the next decade. So if we're not eating out in restaurants, guess what? We're going to be cooking more at home.
     Exclusive research unveiled in this issue supports the concept that U.S. households are buying or planning to buy outdoor dining sets. Nearly a third of shoppers in Generation X, with members between the ages of 36 and 46, say they plan to make that purchase this year. Last year, those Gen X shoppers spent a median of $400 on an outdoor dining set.
     Real estate analysts at the recent International Home Builders show in Orlando, Fla., were paying close attention to the buying plans of Generation Y, those who were born between 1980 and the early 2000s. The nearly 80 million people in that demographic group say they are attracted to urban areas and are seeking smaller living spaces and outdoor living areas to grill and spend time with friends.
     Other trends that bode well for the outdoor living niche include homeowners making energy-efficient investments in their homes, expecting products that provide value with little or no maintenance and embracing color more than ever when selecting building products.
     We all know color creates a powerful attraction to update fashions for apparel and home décor - inside or out. Warmer days ahead invoke the return of nature's pallet of budding trees and blooming flowers to make us yearn for spring. The promise of winter's end and spring's renewal may be reason enough to invite friends over, fire up the grill and share a meal - whether or not it's warm enough yet to actually dine outdoors.

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