Luxury segment fuels future of outdoor lighting
Furniture Today Staff -- Casual Living, July 1, 2007
CHRISTOPHER MUMFORD, Frederick Cooper
Our business has picked up considerably. The luxury segment is booming. Several trends are emerging in the luxury segment. First, there is a growing expectation for better quality and styling in outdoor furnishings. For years, the options were limited and the expectations were low. Now, fashion trends show up immediately in outdoor textiles while new styles are being used in furniture. Second, with the proliferation of outdoor furniture in the mass retailers, the upper end wants distinctive products. Third, there is a zeitgeist amongst the residential designer and well-heeled customers that the patio is an essential part of any home. The result is great demand for well-designed, color relevant furniture. This, in turn, drives the demand for lamps with well-thought-out design and authentic materials.
Our better selling items are lamps in which people cannot believe they are for the outdoors. Given our 80 years of making indoor lamps, we work with a wide palette of materials including art glaze ceramic, metal, wood and painted porcelain. In fact, many of our outdoor lamps were designed for the indoors and were later converted. Well-constructed outdoor shades with distinctive fabrics are also essential. In this way, we have differentiated our offer to the consumer.
Given the burst in creativity in outdoor furniture design, we will be introducing a good number of design relevant lamps in the fall. Design wise, we live in exciting times as demand for outdoor products grows more sophisticated and the styling is more differentiated.
DALE KLAUS, Patio Living Concepts
My business has changed a lot this year. We had quite a change from working with QVC. This year has really been the first full buying season we've had with a new rep group, so I would say our customer mix is better.
I would say there has been a softening in the casual market in general. In the lighting segment, the challenges are to try and convince most retailers that this is a segment that they really need. I have retailers say "What do I need lamps for?" when they really just don't know how to sell them. I call it the "Rooms To Go" concept. You have to sell the entire concept. It was a niche six years ago when I started, and I still see it as a niche. It's still a growth category.
We're bringing out four new series of lamps toward the higher-end, more decorative and designer-oriented, in addition to the new Phoenix and Canyon lines we offered this year.
SUSIE MORTER, Shady Lady Outdoor
We have seen an increase in sales from last year to this year. Consumers are getting more aware of outdoor lighting being sold — seeing it in their neighbor's yard and at the big box stores.
One of the challenges has been all of the elements that go into making an outdoor lamp survive. We have gone to better outdoor materials — aluminum and Viro wicker rather than solid resin — because we had problems with them breaking due to the outdoor elements.
We've always had a different look in our indoor lighting and we are taking it outdoor by creating condo-type lighting. This September, we will introduce our licensed Woolrich product, taking a rustic look outdoors. Right now what is out there is more traditional, contemporary and Floridian designs. We also are addressing other needs, adding to our outdoor accent, or mood, lighting lines.