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  • Cinde Ingram

Dare to step out

Editors letter

The latest outdoor furnishings will appear this month at top trade shows around the world. Starting with Spoga in Cologne, Germany, and continuing with high design at Maison et Objet in Paris, the World Market Center in Las Vegas, the HD Boutique in Miami and GLEE in Birmingham, UK. While each of these international exhibitions includes a significant outdoor living segment, our primary focus will be on the U.S. heartland at the International Casual Furniture and Accessories Market in Chicago.

Industry visionaries who shared their Casual Outlooks are largely optimistic about the 2010 season and beyond. Maybe it's because this market segment has learned to adapt to ever-changing weather challenges as well as economic ones. We're resilient and still fairly optimistic about the future — whether in the short- or long-term view. At the same time, we're keeping in mind where we've come from.

You probably recall last September's Casual Market, which started in the wake of Hurricane Ike and happened at the same time the stock market was taking a dive. That plunge was followed closely by banks failing and credit markets squeezing. Over the past 18 months, some of you have made hard decisions to survive the economic storms. There are signals we're past the eye of the storm, but it may take more time before consumers will feel confident to venture out and spend.

These storms were not the first our industry has survived. A couple of months before I joined Casual Living, the Sept. 11 terrorist attack shutdown the 2001 Casual Market. It's hard to fathom the five decades of other events and challenges that have occurred as the industry adapted and matured to this point.

As the International Casual Furnishings Association celebrates the 50th annual Apollo Awards honoring retail excellence this month, Casual Living also marks its 50 years serving as the industry's information source. Ours will be low-key, similar to the High Point Market's observance of its 100th anniversary this year. In tough times, no one wants to brag.

While we recognize this milestone, we're also looking ahead. Boundaries of homes continue to blur and technological advances allow products to seamlessly migrate outdoors. As research analysis shows, homeowners are breaking through the screen door. So let's get past the fear and step out. The casual outlook is bright.

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