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Cinde W. Ingram

Paddy O' Furniture: Keeps focus tight on outdoor furnishings

Like many others in the home furnishings industry, Paddy O' Furniture President Tony Schindler helped in his father's furniture store while growing up.

 A pavilion helps set the scene of a fully accessorized dining vignette brightened by Southwestern colors inside Paddy O

 A pavilion helps set the scene of a fully accessorized dining vignette brightened by Southwestern colors inside Paddy O' Furniture's Scottsdale store.
 A pavilion helps set the scene of a fully accessorized dining vignette brightened by Southwestern colors inside Paddy O

He worked alongside his brother Phil to unload Homecrest furniture for the spring season at the store, which sold a variety of items for the home from wallpaper to televisions. Through such early exposure, Tony "got the bug for the outdoor side" of the furniture industry.

Tony also gained experience operating a PVC furniture manufacturer, Cactus Casual, in the late 1980s, and opened his first casual furniture store in Phoenix. When Phil joined him in the business, Paddy O' Furniture sold Homecrest and PVC furniture. They later added collections from Brown Jordan and Mallin, which remains a best-selling line in their three stores in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Chandler. Castelle by Pride Family Brands is another strong selling line Paddy O' Furniture added this season.

"Deep seating is by far the No. 1 thing in this market because people do use their outdoor furniture and want it to be comfortable," Tony said. "Comfort's huge here."

Alternative tabletops and outdoor wicker also sell well at Paddy O' Furniture. Its Chandler store is its largest at 10,000 square feet, with the other two offering 7,500-sq.-ft. and 5,000-sq.-ft. showrooms. A 6,000-sq.-ft. warehouse and clearance center opened in July.

"I think what makes us unique is that this is all we do," Tony said. Instead of trying to supplement sales with pools/spas or Christmas products, the Schindler brothers focus solely on outdoor furniture and accessories while "trying to romance our product a lot more. One of our big themes is outdoor living with an indoor attitude."

That attitude appears in vignettes with vibrantly colored walls, pavilions and botanical room dividers set up by Terry Cosgrove, visual merchandising manager. Although wall decor and other accents from local artisans and Mexican craftsmen shine throughout the store, Tony is quick to point out, "We accessorize to sell furniture, not accessories."

Unlike other retailers, Tony sees less challenge from Internet sales rather than more. "I still think, for the most part, people want to buy locally," he said. "But we take it on a case-by-case basis. If your business is focused on price, you expect to see more" online competition.

To promote its visual reputation, Paddy O' advertises on TV and in regional magazines. "It's hard to make patio furniture look good on the radio," he said.

Its target customers are owners of second homes who fall into the Baby Boomers and Yuppies categories. "That's obviously what's driving our business," Tony said. "Those people put high emphasis on their outdoor areas because that's why they're here. We're definitely catering to an affluent customer.

"It amazes me what people are willing to invest," he said. "People out here will not settle for plastic stack chairs with their $50,000 barbecue. We have a very experienced customer, a very demanding customer. I think the American consumer gets more demanding every year. We have to accept that challenge."

One way to meet that challenge is making sure his staff and customers understand the brand. "Our emphasis is on relationship building, service and the visual," Tony said. "We have reputation, quality, reliability and service to stand behind but we can't be all things to all people. You've got to pick your niche."

Outdoor living with an indoor attitude sums up that niche.

Tony likes the challenges and loves the product, which makes it easy to get excited about this month's market. "You always look forward to the next year," he said.

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