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Outdoor insights - Walter R. Perkins III The HammockSource

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.


Hatteras Hammock Duracord rope hammock on Roman Arc StandHatteras Hammock Duracord rope hammock on Roman Arc Stand


Walter R. Perkins III The HammockSource • CEO

Q What's working now?
      Having business at both wholesale and retail levels, we get a pretty accurate indication of what works and what doesn't. For us, offering specialty items that are unique is what is working.
These items don't necessarily have to be high end they just need to be things that you can't just get anywhere. You have to understand the needs of your customers and offer them products that really stand out. The customer today is looking for durability and quality in outdoor products. Two of the questions we hear in our retail stores all the time are: How long will this last? and What materials are used to make the item?

Q What product has been your best seller? Why?
     Our rope hammocks are by far our best sellers, both at retail and wholesale. Our fastest-growing sellers are our quilted fabric hammocks, but they still have a long way to go to catch the rope hammocks and accessories. Rope is what 75% of our hammock customers ask for first. We distinguish ourselves by offering our branded Duracord rope, which is extremely durable and comes in multiple colors. It is a lifestyle look.
It is an affordable luxury item that gives them a resort feel in their backyard.

Q What new product or collection do you expect to become a bestseller? Why?
     We will be introducing six new products at market that include hammocks, swings, stands and rugs. We are most excited about our new offerings in our Hatteras Hammocks pillow-top Hammocks. By introducing pillowtop fabric hammocks, we are giving our customers more choices that allow for coordination in color and design with other products both in our own retail stores and our wholesale customers' stores, and our end-customers backyard. Plus the pillow top fabric cushion makes the hammock experience even that much more comfortable.

Q How would you describe the health of the casual industry?
     We see it is as healthy and getting better all the time in fact. For us ,specialty retail is up over 15% from last year.
We've learned accessories are so important to our customers as they watch their dollars. People may not be able to afford a whole new backyard collection but with a hammock, a new umbrella and some new cushions the customer can transform their backyard. Few things can transform the whole feel of a backyard like a hammock can.

Q What strategy did you use that was successful despite (or due to) the challenging economy?
     For our retail side of the business, we hired a consultant, explained our business model and told them where we wanted to grow. They came back to us with a plan that included expanding and renovating our existing stores. We painted them differently, we added relaxing tropical music, running water and even changed the temperature in our stores all to provide a comfortable ambiance.
We color-coordinated all the accessories, including the rugs and the color of the rope, to make it a total package. It worked as our average sale, which is up, now includes multiple pieces instead of just one item.

On our wholesale side, we aggressively went out to increase our account base.

Q What have you learned that you wish you had known earlier?
     On the retail side, we should have bought heavier. We chased the business from Father's Day on. It was strong at retail but it could have been better if we had bought more product.

     On the wholesale side, we should have stocked more of our specialty items as when the season started we were constantly hustling to get product to our wholesale customers. Specialty business was up this year but with our early buys being down we could have been better prepared.

Q If you could send a message to retailers to help them strengthen their business, what would it be?
     Differentiate. Experiment with new product offerings. Change your store around. Set yourself apart from the other competition down the street.
Stock specialty items that are unique and give you something to talk about that the other guys don't have. If you want different results, then try something different, especially if it is a proven successful category and you have a partner with a plan to follow.

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