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Cinde W. Ingram

Innovations abound at Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo

The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo, held March 15–17 in Reno, Nev., definitely brought innovations to the grill and hearth industry. Though many exhibitors were happy with their business during the event, others were displeased with the location and apparent drop in attendance.

 Open Air Designs

 Open Air Designs' point of purchase display for WeatherPrint provides a backdrop for one side of the Outdoor Living area, filled with O.W. Lee furniture in Shuford Mills' Outdura fabric and Duracord outdoor rugs.

Nita Drolet-Johnson, Jake Johnson and Kim Poffenbarger of Mountain Hearth & Patio of Evergreen, Colo., relax in the Outdoor Living booth as they plan their shopping at HPB Expo. 

Nita Drolet-Johnson, Jake Johnson and Kim Poffenbarger of Mountain Hearth & Patio of Evergreen, Colo., relax in the Outdoor Living booth as they plan their shopping at HPB Expo.  

Cal Spas 

Cal Spas' grill island, with drinkware by Tervis Tumbler, set the scene with barstools and a glider by O.W. Lee with Outdura fabric, also used in a fabric screen that creates a boundary for the spa area by Cal Spas.  

At the opening of the show, Jack Goldman, president of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, reported a 26% increase of new exhibitors at the show this year — 118 —- compared to the Expo in Salt Lake City last year. Overall, there were 9,815 registrants and 474 vendors on opening day. Attendance appeared down by about 3,000 from its peak, and at press time, final figures were not available.

Many manufacturers and retailers complained about the show location in Reno, Nev., being difficult and expensive to reach. Goldman said a survey is underway to gauge HPBA members' perspectives. The HPB Expo is scheduled to be in Atlanta next year then returns to Reno every other year through 2013. Noting no city is a perfect location, he said the association would "take a good, hard look at it."

Steve Magnotti of The Fireplace and Patioplace, Pittsburgh, was announced as the incoming HPBA chairman. Magnotti said although Reno is tough for some members to reach, the city offers the exhibition space and hotels the HPB Expo requires at reasonable rates and the city embraces the event. "We're important to them," he said.

"The mood is upbeat," said Mike Kempster Sr., executive vice president, Weber-Stephen Products Co. "Reno typically doesn't attract as many people. With that being said, we did see some of our bigger dealers."

Harold Hudson, Summer Classics vice president of sales and marketing, said he had seen his existing dealers, but not many new customers. "I'm a little concerned about this location," he said. "It's hard to get to."

More outdoor kitchens and grill islands appeared in three different levels, ranging from custom-built to built-in and modular models. More manufacturers introduced the category in their product line-up at the show, including Cook Industries and A&B Accessories, who brought to market a modular synthetic wood outdoor kitchen.

Retailers gathered and relaxed inside the Outdoor Living area, brought to the show for a third year by Casual Living and HPBA, and sponsored by O.W. Lee, Dimplex, Duracord Textiles, Shuford Mills Outdura, Cal Spas and Open Air Designs.

Located in the registration area, the exhibit provided retailers with merchandising ideas they could easily emulate in their stores. One retailer returned with photos of last year's Outdoor Living display, printed from Casual Living's Web site, to place orders for furniture. She told the vendor that was what she wanted in her store.

Charcoal grills reappeared with a more upscale image in new products, replacing infrared technology as the hot topic at the show. International grill vendors with unrecognized company names also appeared and were expected to add confusion to the marketplace.

Outdoor living is more complete with the addition of several television models now available to accent grill islands and kitchens.

Sunbrite TV displayed its all-weather outdoor LCD television. Cal Spas added an outdoor counter top beverage cooler, blender, steam cleaner and microwave to its collection of outdoor kitchens and islands.

"We're bringing all the conveniences from the inside, outside," said Nicole Lasorda, public relations for the company.


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