Cinde Ingram -- Casual Living, February 15, 2006
Dark and natural finishes lead outdoor wicker sales
Specialty retailers and manufacturers expect outdoor wicker in natural and dark finishes to keep their sales in the black during the 2006 season.
When asked whether the woven category will continue to grow, level off or decline, all asked predicted growth. For the 2005 season, sales increases were said to have ranged upward from 10% to 30%.
|Deep seating comfort highlights the Horizon Collection from Gloster featuring an ebony weave and modular seating.|
|A resin weave combines with teak trim to create the deep seating Bali Collection from Terra Furniture.|
Summer Classics recorded phenomenal orders/reorders during the first nine days of 2006 and reported the January International Gift & Accessories Market in Atlanta was its best in six years. Harold Hudson, vice president, sales & marketing, estimated Summer Classics' sales of deep seating groups are 5:1 over dining groups.
"My best-selling group is a new contemporary group I call Lauren," Hudson said. "It's a new frame for us and it has tones of a faint chocolate. Whenever you have a new product, it's always hard to forecast what people are going to buy. Our early buys were almost double what our forecast was." He credited the July premarket with providing enough time to fill those extra orders.
Summer Classics also found success with its more traditional group Classic, available in black, natural and white. "Black and natural are my biggest numbers," Hudson said. "People are buying dark frames, but I'm watching them use very light and pastel fabrics to brighten it up. Fife Lyme by Sunbrella is one of my better selling fabrics."
"Any of the antique finishes are doing well because it gives a warmer look to the furniture," said Dale Campbell, Lloyd/Flanders, vice president, sales & marketing. Solid finishes in barks and chicory also are popular, but Lloyd/Flanders' white is still its No. 1 seller. "There's a big influx of vinyl wicker and that is a growing category as more people want to use wicker in the extreme elements versus a covered porch. The synthetics are doing really well for us because of how we do it. It really depends on the execution of the product; when you look at synthetic wickers, there is a huge spread from low to high."
|A traditional English wing back is transformed into a more modern, elegant design in the Devonshire Collection from Brown Jordan.|
|Rattan forms the Oval Sheaf of Wheat dining table from Ficks Reed into an elliptical shape in a smooth caramel color topped with glass.|
Debbie Stegman of Patio & Hearth Shoppes in Dayton, Ohio, said most of her customers prefer darker and natural finishes, but she still orders traditional white from Lloyd/Flanders in response to requests each season from customers who live on farms. She and other retailers said they expect the woven category's sales growth to continue to climb.
"This is our fifth year and we've been growing every year," said Eric Blum, principal of HomeStyle X'press, which specializes in all-weather wicker. "The people who like wicker seem to love this product; it has the same charm. We sell a lot of the natural color, honey, chocolate and black."
|A traditional wicker line, the Classic Collection from Summer Classics was created using a diamond-back pattern with a braided frame, while incorporating generous proportions for comfort.|
|With urban finesse, the sectional pieces of Lloyd/Flanders' Hamptons Collection can transform an outdoor living arrangement into a conversational group or roomier configuration.|
At Carter Grandle, sales of transitional styles are surpassing more traditional or modern looks, said Jennifer A. Bement, director of advertising & marketing. "We've got that covered with our Cambridge group because it's very transitional," she said. "Sesame has been a real popular color in flat weave. Honey has always been a good color in the round weave. Antique is another one which has tones of darker colors that go through it and give you a lot of possibilities for fabrics."
Coordinating fabrics is essential because deep seating groups have become best sellers. Unusual and big pieces, such as double chaises and cuddle chairs, also share the limelight.
"Unusual designs are selling strong," said Trifu Boronka, president, Designer Wicker & Rattan. "Overall, outdoors is a growing trend."
|Through a license with Laneventure, the Ernest Hemingway Collection of outdoor furniture includes a nostalgic woven wicker dining chair and ottoman that recollect simpler times.|
|Cambridge from Carter Grandle features sweeping lines and a classic double flat weave, with pieces in the line that include stationary and action pieces.|
Designer Wicker & Rattan hopes to capitalize on that trend by making its porch wicker designs available for outdoor use, Boronka said. He agreed dark and natural finishes dominate outdoor woven looks but said customers seek lighter colors, such as antique white, almond and sage, when buying indoor wicker, where traditional designs remain strong.
Campbell takes a broad view of unusual pieces as accessories. "It adds more breadth and depth to a collection, but also it distinguishes it as something unique compared to the mass merchant," he said. "All retailers have learned that accessories really help pay the light bills. It's a lot of add-on sales, whether it's pillows or a chaise or a cuddle chair — all of that adds to the bottom line. And it honestly makes a much more interesting display."
|By Ebel, the Chalet Collection features stackable all-weather wicker chairs great for contract applications in a variety of finishes.|
|The Woodridge Collection from Design Discoveries International utilizes a Sherwin Williams finish that resembles a fine interior wood over the line's loom and solid resin components.|
|From the World Vineyard Collection by Padma's Plantation, the Outdoor Resort line includes a love seat, end and coffee tables in a savvy mix of sea grass, rattan, water hyacinth, bamboo and more.|
Constructed of Hularo fiber, the Sunny Beach dining group by Rausch Classics offers stacking arm and side chairs.