Outdoor living on the go
Laurie Rudd -- Casual Living, 3/17/2011 5:09:01 AM
PORTABLE GRILLING products and outdoor furnishings have come a long way to serve the desires of consumers on the go. This growing niche encompasses quality, innovation and construction built to move not only around the backyard or to a vacation destination, but off the sales floor as well.
With state of the art functionality, grills designed for mobility are growing in number and in options across the industry.
"This year, we are adding two new designs within the RoadTrip concept and one charcoal table top grill that is unlike anything out there," said Tiffany Miracle, product manager for The Coleman Company, Wichita, Kan. "We also plan updates to our existing models."
Coleman concentrates on producing portable grills in a variety of models to meet multiple price levels. The LXE grill from its RoadTrip series was first produced by Coleman 10 years ago and continues today as a top seller featuring large cooking surfaces, easy clean and lightweight portability. The introductory Fold N' Go Charcoal Grill features an unusual chimney design to allow for faster pre-heating.
Char-Broil offers many traditional grill models as well as portable grilling products.
"Char-Broil will always have a focus on developing innovative products for cooking on the go," said Brad Gillespie, senior product development manager, Char-Broil. "We're the champion of outdoor cooking, whether it happens on a patio or at the beach."
Char-Broil's popular Grill2Go ICE model incorporates both a grill and coolers in one portable unit.
"The key to the portability for the Grill-2Go ICE is the heavy-duty welded pull cart," Gillespie said. "The grill itself can be lifted and locked in place for grilling and lowered for transport."
The portable units, which are marketed within many of the same venues as traditional grills, enable the Columbus, Ga.-based manufacturer to expand its distribution reach to include camping and sporting goods retailers.
Folding furniture dates back to the early 1700s when British officers expected to maintain their standards of living as they set out for campaigns in Africa or India. Elegance under canvas continued to evolve in 18th and 19th century Britain.
"Our company began as a folding wood furniture company, known at the time as Telescope Cot Bed and Novelty Company," said Bill Vanderminden, executive vice president of Telescope Casual. "We began with cots and furnishings that folded to move." Telescope's early furniture also held a glimpse into the casual future. "In fact, within the telescoping cot (that was introduced over a century ago) are the workings used in today's popular style of bag-folding chairs," Vanderminden said. Portability plays a major part in Telescope's history and continues to star in many of its products. One product that was built for moving (and moving pictures) is Telescope's Director's Chair. "It grew in popularity when the movie industry began, and there was a need for a portable seat," Vanderminden said.
From the original chair and its ultimate removable backs and seats, it has grown as a retail favorite. For Telescope's patio furniture dealers, "the Director's Chair is a lifestyle product that creates add-on sales, colorful display opportunities and a cash-and-carry option," Vanderminden said. "Portable chairs can become silent sale-makers, not taking up much space. They and other portable furnishings could be the best-kept secret in casual sales."
Several styles of portable wooden seating can be found from Manassas, Va.-based Kingsley- Bate, a popular source of wooden folding chairs sold primarily in casual specialty retail stores. "Kingsley-Bate offers several styles of folding chairs to suit individual tastes," said Brian Blakeney, director of sales and marketing for Kingsley-Bate. "Some of our folding chairs can be adjusted to multiple back positions to not only improve comfort, but allow the chairs to be used like a chaise lounge when paired with an ottoman. This is a nice feature for balconies and small spaces." Made from teak, the Kingsley-Bate line is recognized for its ability to withstand severe climates and environments.
At FurnitureDesignHouse, a mix of steel and wood seating reflects the company's European styling and creates a unique draw for portability-minded consumers.
"We incorporate design elements to ensure that our products are not just good-looking, but functional and long-lasting, such as the colored carriage bolts that secure the slats to our frames," said Ron Torriani, managing director of Loom Britannia, Ltd. "Other small but significant engineering elements ensure the long-term integrity of the product."
The FurnitureDesignHouse brand has been well received in not only casual and home furnishings retailers, but with the contract industry as well. "As the restaurant and hospitality industry has such stringent requirements, our fine furniture is built to stand the test of time," Torriani said. "They are not ‘commercial looking,' but rather aesthetically pleasing."
Metal made to recline
In the 1950s, Telescope Casual began using aluminum to make other styles of folding furniture. The function of varying degrees of recline that is a current industry standard was an innovation challenge Telescope designers accepted. The resulting beach chairs and multipurpose folding chairs, marketed as the Teleweave, are the latest generations. The recent introduction of a Teleweave chair at a 20-inch height, making it easier for older folks to enter and exit the chair, is evidence the Granville, N.Y.-based manufacturer continues to place a focus on its historical core of folding furnishings.
Folding outdoor products continue as a growing segment for Pride Family Brands' Summer Winds line and cover a broad spectrum including anti-gravity recliners, folding sling and cushioned dining chairs, balcony chairs, loveseats and chaises. Additionally, the Hollywood, Fla.-based manufacturer offers a range of folding tables that incorporates sizes from cocktail to dining and gathering heights.
"Our Key West collection takes the folding chair category to a higher quality, comfort and style level with the use of cushioning and durable upscale fabrics," said Jamie Lowsky, CEO, Pride Family Brands. "Incorporating superior raw materials, the products are built to last and to provide comfort. Designing furnishings that are also portable has not been at the exclusion of comfort." The sling relaxer incorporates multiple positioning and an attached canopy, which are popular with consumers. Marketed through casual specialty stores as well as mass market retailers, the Summer Winds line incorporates labeled packaging for retail merchandising.
When the history of casual furnishings is discussed, the Adirondack chair holds a special place. A portable version that not only folds but is available in weather-resistant resin is an example of at least one manufacturer's effort to embrace the past while providing the latest in durability.
"The Breezesta Folding Adirondack chair offers low maintenance with attention to details," said Glenn Weber, sales manager, Breezesta. Color-matched, powder-coated hardware and the use of mortise and tenon construction enables the New Holland, Pa.- based manufacturer to offer a lifetime warranty on its products.
"Customers like the folding feature for storage purposes," Weber said. "But, that is ironic as the durability would allow it to be left outside without a need to store."
By flooring samples for consumers to see and experience, dealers are most successful with sales of any casual furnishings, portable or not.
Swinging, colorful carry-outs
Magnolia Casual President Barry McIlwain also credits the value of good merchandising for the success of its swings and hammocks. "Our products are not only portable but beautiful, durable and comfortable," McIlwain said.
Holding 10 sets of a swing and pillow in a carrying bag or a hammock and pillow in a bag, Magnolia Casual's products are mobile from the moment of the sale. "The presentation and display are very popular with our customers," McIlwain said. "It is a nice presentation for consumers looking at the swing or hammock as a gift."
A patented portable design, marketed as setting up in seconds without the use of tools, is found in the portable hammock and stand from Kelysus. "It folds into a compact bag with a shoulder strap for hands-free portability," said Monica Jones, marketing director, Kelysus. "Packaging in a reusable carry bag with sewn-on packaging labels make the hammock attractive to sporting goods retailers, casual furniture or pool dealers." The Kelysus products have also found success with catalogs and online retail outlets.
The Buggle Up is a relatively new product for outdoor enjoyment on the go. "These fun and functional lounge bags are made entirely from a special coated nylon and come equipped with a convenient carrying strap that not only makes it the ideal outdoor accessory, but easy to move," said Paula Masters, president and managing director, Fatboy USA. The Fatboy Buggle Up is just one of the line's transportable seating products that come in a wide variety of colors.
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