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Cinde W. Ingram

Surviving the Times

Casually Speaking

Strategies shift and distribution channels flow in different directions as retailers, designers, manufacturers and suppliers position to overcome challenges and optimize opportunities.

Bright spots appear as boundaries continue to blur between indoor and outdoor living areas, but taking advantage of those takes a combination of forward thinking and a leap of faith. The "stage to sell" concept has moved from housing into retail stores. The gap is closing fast between style and color influences on clothing and home furnishings fabrics.

At Casual Living, we also are removing boundaries to position for strength. Going forward, we will benefit from editorial direction of Ray Allegrezza, editor in chief of Furniture/Today. In addition to maintaining his duties overseeing the indoor furnishings market, Ray will attend this month's Preview Show in Chicago. He will share advice about opportunities and expertise about furniture in general. After all, furniture showrooms have been "staged to sell" for decades.

Smart businesspeople have taken necessary steps to get as lean and efficient as possible during the tough economic times experienced over the past year. Find out more about changes at retail through results of our Surviving the Times survey.

Gary Ecoff, president of Carls Patio, is one casual furniture retailer who is leading the way despite the down times. Because Florida and other Sunbelt states start and end their selling seasons while most of the rest of the nation faces fall and endures winter, retailers can learn from the experiences Ecoff shared with Casual Living. Although he describes the past several months as "the most challenging, stressful and frustrating" he's ever experienced, Ecoff believes the worst is over and that his customer base will begin spending as consumer confidence improves.

After two months of improvement, the surge in consumer confidence in May was fortunate timing given how much the casual furnishings industry's outdoor season is limited by weather. The ongoing casual lifestyle trend and development of indoor/outdoor products are other bonuses for our industry.

Mass merchants like Best Buy and Pier 1 also recognize the opportunities. Some California Best Buy stores are merchandising grills, heaters and patio furniture. Pier 1 reported its sales of outdoor furniture and accessories were strong through the spring and the trend continues into the summer.

Feedback? Send your comments to:
Cinde W. Ingram
Casual Living Editor-In-Chief
7025 Albert Pick Rd., Suite 200, Greensboro, N.C. 27409

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