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Cinde W. Ingram

Retailers to focus on price during premarket

Retailers' focus will be on costs of merchandise and the price point range needed in their stores as much as on new products, styles and colors at this month's Casual Furniture premarket.

Buzz Homsy, manager of Casual Classics buying group and longtime retailer with California Backyard, said he expects the cost of merchandise to be a primary factor this month in Chicago.

"Will the wholesale acceleration continue?" he asked. "If it does, then that just makes the line-up a retailer's got to put together more complicated because it's going to get them out of their normal flow."

Ken Ehrlich, president of Melville, N.Y.-based Harrow's and a member of Marathon buying group, expects big price increases, especially on products made of aluminum or other metals.

"They hit us (with price increases) in the middle of the season, a whole bunch of factories, and that always is a very difficult thing to handle in the middle of the season," Ehrlich said.

"From what I hear, China is coming back with even larger price increases for next year. Besides aluminum going up, also the dollar is getting weaker. That's a double whammy. It makes prices go up faster."

Ehrlich described the current season as mediocre because of cold and rainy weather in the Northeast during the spring.

The Midwest also saw sales dampened in May following a strong start to the season.

"We were going gangbusters up through April, then we got hit with bad weather," said Debbie Stegman, president of Patio & Hearth Shoppe, a Centerville, Ohio-based retail chain. "That big ticket customer was here but the small ticket customer was not."

In addition to weather challenges, continuing employment concerns and high prices at the pump put the brakes on sales of outdoor furniture and accessories along with other discretionary products.

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