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Retailers expect less than stellar sales

Retailers expect less than stellar sales

Reading the same economic tea leaves as others, retailers in our industry are less than enthused about overall sales prospects for the 2008 selling season.

More than one-third of retailers responding to Casual Living’s exclusive store operations survey expect their sales this year will be lower than last, by a median of 15%. Only 27% think their sales will be up – by a median of 10%.

When it comes to merchandise mix, casual furniture is still king of the hill for casual living specialists, occupying the lion’s share of selling space and generating the lion’s share of sales. But specialists are adding to their mix to even out sales in the off-season as well as attract more consumers during the height of their main season.

Casual furniture accounts for more than one-half of total store sales. Grills, generating about 6% of store sales, fill the second place spot. Spas now rival accessories and umbrellas and shade systems while tabletop and textiles compete with outdoor hearths and heaters. Retailers have added an interesting array of other products to their product line-up in a move to diversify and expand sales, including pool and play equipment, indoor hearths and furniture and Christmas products.

Within the furniture category, dining groups produce over one-half of sales, with the most sales coming from dining height tables with sling seating. Deep seating/conversation groups generate less than half that amount, or about one-quarter of furniture sales with the 5-piece group grabbing about one-half of conversation group sales. Motion pieces and chaises each account for less than one-tenth of furniture sales. Furniture made of either cast or tubular aluminum makes up about one-half of sales by material type. All-weather woven wicker and cast or wrought iron are about equally popular.

When it comes to price points for the bread-and-butter dining set category, the median entry point for a 5-piece wood set is $1,238, topping out at a median of $3,100, while the median entry for a 5-piece aluminum set is $799, topping out only slightly lower at a median of $3,000. The best-selling differential is about $250 – a median of $1,950 for a 5-piece wood set and $1,699 for a 5-piece aluminum set.

Conversation groups, meanwhile, start at a median of $2,100 for a 7-piece set and $1,499 for a 5-piece set, with only a $300 differential for the best-sellers – $2,799 for a 7-piece set and $2,499 for 5 pieces.

In the grill category, gas grills capture nearly two-thirds of grill sales, with the median best-selling price point of $1,230. Charcoal grills posted a distant second in terms of sales. The median best-seller for charcoal grills is only $325. Grill islands have the bling-bling when it comes to price points, with a median best-selling price point, $5,650, five times higher than the median best-seller for a gas grill alone. At the high end of the category, grill islands are selling for a median of $12,500.

2007 compared with 2006

Percentage of retailers saying sales were medians
Down 35% by 10%
About the same 25%
Up 40% by 10%

Projected for 2008

Percentage of retailers saying sales will be medians
Source: Casual Living Store Operations
Survey, 2008
Down by 35% by 15%
About the same 38%
Up by 27% by 10%

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