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Outdoor Insights - Cap Hendrix Tropitone Furniture Company, Inc.

In this post-recession period, Casual Living asked several leading manufacturers to speak out about what strategies worked best for their companies during the tough times. The following eight executives took time to identify products that proved to be best-sellers during the 2010 season. They also explained why they expect specific new products debuting this month to rise as stars for the 2011 season. With all the recent economic uncertainties, we did not ask them to look far ahead and make predictions about the industry's future. Instead, their answers reflect the realities of today's economy and tomorrow's customers.



Cap Hendrix Tropitone Furniture Company, Inc. • President & CEO

Q What's working now?
     Tropitone is fortunate to have a strong presence in both the consumer and commercial market segments. This gives us broad insight into consumer involvement with our products, from vacationing at the best resorts to relaxing in their own backyard.

Q What product has been your best seller? Why?
     Since the buying process is so different, we have very targeted marketing, sales and distribution strategies and programs for each of these market segments. We also have targeted product development programs for each segment, even though some products cross-over from one segment to the other. Examples would be our Cabana Club, Mobilis, Evo and Mia commercial products crossing over to residences.

     Tropitone's commercial customers continue to be very receptive to new product designs. They are continuously looking for new ideas to make their properties more attractive. In contrast, we perceive specialty retail dealers to be less receptive to new designs due to the economic climate. Understandably, they want to ensure the products they display on their showroom floors have a high probability of generating a good return from that space. They tend to retain proven performers in lieu of taking a chance on an unproven new design.

Q What new product do you expect to become a best seller? Why?
     We manage our consumer product portfolio in a way that ensures that the proven winners are continuously improved.
We also fill perceived gaps in our portfolio with targeted new products that we believe to have a high probability of success. Corsica seating, Ravello deep seating, Banchetto tables and gathering height tables are being introduced at the September ICFA market. These products are surgically targeted and should prove to be winners for our dealers.

Q How would you describe the health of the casual industry?
     As an industry, we need to acknowledge that we will be competing in a "zero-sum game" for the next several years.
Within the casual furnishings industry, manufacturers and dealers compete with other manufacturers and dealers.
But we as a category are also competing with other categories, such as electronics, apparel and automobiles, for the same consumer dollar. To win that competition, we must collectively create a higher perceived value for our products than the perceived value of products in other categories.

Q If you could send a message to retailers to help them strengthen their business, what would it be?
     The casual furnishing industry has a value proposition that should resonate with our target customers in these economic times. But our products do not seem to be winning the battle in competition with products like iPads and flat-screen TV's. To increase share of mind and purchases, suppliers, manufacturers, sales representatives and dealers must work much more closely together to create real value for our target customers and effectively communicate that value.

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