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State of the industry: Rory Rehmert

Industry leaders share their views, say economic challenges and opportunities co-exist

Rory RehmertRory Rehmert

Casual Living tapped the brains of the International Casual Furnishings Association's executive committee and director to find out their prognoses on the health of the industry. The three manufacturing veterans and two specialty retailers shared their perspectives on the current season as well as their outlooks for the 2012 season.

As sponsor of the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, the Design Excellence Awards and the Apollo Awards recognizing retail excellence, ICFA is recognized as the authoritative voice of the outdoor furnishings industry. Read on as each of these industry leaders share their views, reflecting on the changing economic landscape and looking toward the horizon for full recovery.

Rory Rehmert | ICFA chairman; VP of sales and marketing, Pride Family Brands

1. How would you describe the health of the casual industry?
The overall health of the casual industry is just OK. Portions of the business are in good shape both on the manufacturing and retail sides. There are certainly some companies, both retail and manufacturing, that continue to struggle. Additionally, there are regions around the country that are still very much affected by the current economic impact.

2. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing the industry now?
Consumer confidence needs to improve. Secondly, consumers are caught up in all of the political issues that are seriously affecting their daily lives. Lastly, our industry has to provide reasons for the consumer to get excited about the outdoor environment.

3. Where do you see opportunity for future growth?
Full-line furniture stores are one opportunity. We also have a great opportunity to take market share through innovative, unique products and premium quality that presents value.

4. What strategy did your company use this year that was successful despite (or because of) the challenging economy?

Pride Family Brand’s MadridPride Family Brand’s Madrid Collection has proven to be one of its four bestsellers.
We listened to our customers and brought out products that hit key price points. The most important thing we did, as we always do, is that we brought fresh new designs to market which gave our customers a reason to freshen up their floors. The impact of new products is a positive to the sales staffs, and this filters down to the consumers.

5. What have you learned that you wish you had known earlier?
I think the biggest lesson is to embrace change. This is not something that most humans like, but change forces you to rethink your business model and to focus on your strengths.

6. What product has been your best-seller?
Our four bestselling collections are Madrid, Veranda, Coco Isle and Grand Regent.

7. Why do you think they became winners?
Each of the collections offer a wide variety of options and each collection offers our customers a unique look and a

Pride’s cast aluminumPride’s cast aluminum Casabella deep-seating group and other introductions this season offer high-end products at multiple pricing levels in response to current buying trends.
variety of retail price points. All of these collections are supported by our Express Shipment Program, which gives our customers a faster turnaround on orders.

8. What new product or collection do you expect to become a bestseller?
Of our five new collections, we feel that our Lucerne and Cannes collections will be the top performers. Both collections are well-designed and unique. Lucerne is a wrought-aluminum design that has a lot of unique bends and twists. Cannes is a tropical rattan design that is very sophisticated. Both collections have a great perceived value. The single bestselling new item for us for the 2012 season will be our new firepits. We have had a phenomenal reaction to the designs and the quality and they are becoming a "must-have" for our customers.

9. If you could send a message to retailers to help them strengthen their business, what would it be?
Considering the environment that we are in, I would advise our customers to step back and evaluate their sales floors. They have to provide fresh displays that are inviting, signed well and stimulating to the consumer. The reality is that traffic counts continue to be soft and this means that the closing rate has to go up. Focus the displays on the consumers who live within the targeted trading area. Work to trade consumers up with better products and well-trained staffs. Trading consumers down will only result in lower sales and lower earnings.

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