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Cinde W. Ingram

Share your outdoor oasis

It's show time again in Chicago.

Manufacturers have been working hard on innovative designs to wow retail buyers who will return this month to The Merchandise Mart, and ultimately to entice consumers to invest in new looks for their outdoor living areas.

For this bigger-than-ever issue, I asked some industry leaders to share their insights on how our industry is being shaped by today's casual lifestyles and what factors are driving the growth. You'll find the package, starting on page 70, immediately following our exclusive 100 Powerhouse Specialists report. Thanks to all of you who shared your store's financial information, best-selling outdoor product lines and other business details to be counted in this annual list.

I also asked industry spokesmen to share photos of their personal outdoor living areas and some did, while others declined. I understand the motivations behind those who have been too busy to make the outdoor areas around their homes as luxurious as their showrooms or who feared competitors would recognize the source of their outdoor furniture. When select retailers told me they wanted to see what my own outdoor living area looks like, I shared those apprehensions. But I took courage and now show you my outdoor living area, warts and all.

Keep in mind, the tile pool at our house was installed in 1961, 10 years after my husband's parents built their house. Curtis inherited his homeplace just before we married 15 years ago. We've kept the pool area maintained although we have other spending priorities that sometimes take precedence. Not to say our outdoor living isn't a priority, because spending time entertaining around the pool is a highlight of our springs and summers. What can be better than firing up the grill and sharing a meal outdoors with family, friends and neighbors?

Here's hoping your customers are catching onto the thrill of casual living.

See you in Chicago.

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