Casual retailers benefit from increasing demand for illumination
Laurie Rudd -- Casual Living, 6/3/2011 3:22:09 AM
EXTENDING THE AMOUNT OF TIME AVAILABLE TO ENJOY the outdoors is a goal of all in the world of alfresco living. Perfectly positioned to do just that is the glowing and growing field of outdoor lighting.
By lengthening the daily use of outdoor spaces and broadening the scope of areas for enjoyment, outdoor lighting is causing excitement throughout the casual world. Consumer demand for outdoor illumination has manufacturers across the segment responding. Coupling durability and functionality with design and technology, the outdoor lighting segment is literally full of bright ideas.
"In a home, there can be four different light sources for a room," said Bob Pape, president and CEO of Kenroy Home, Jacksonville, Fla. "That same opportunity exists for outdoor and will help in the growth of the category. From safety and security to general illumination, from defining or decorating areas to adding ambiance, there are specific (outdoor) lighting options available."
Built for outdoors
Adding the full outdoor function to outdoor lighting requires an investment in engineering and materials that those within the industry are proud to explain. Simply flipping a switch outdoors requires everything from compliance with safety regulations to a thorough understanding of the cruelty of the outdoor elements.
"Safety is something indoors that is taken for granted," Pape said. "It is just the starting point for products made for outdoors as we give special attention to grounded cords, waterproof switches and sealed housings around light bulbs."
Durability issues for outdoor lighting begin with the construction materials, including outdoor furnishings favorites cast aluminum and all-weather synthetic materials. Luckily for retailers - and ultimately, consumers - experts within the industry are on top of all the crucial details.
"All lights are UL-approved for wet environments and all lamps are UV-protected, meaning that all resinmolded parts have a minimum of a five-year UV-protection package molded in the parts to protect against premature weathering or aging of the resin lamps," said Dale Klaus, president of Patio Living Concepts, Linn, Mo. "Our Bristol series floor and table lamps are 100% resin and will withstand salt air environments without rust or corrosion."
Portable outdoor lighting not only needs to last and look good, but withstand additional conditions, including wind.
"We use durable, powder-coated frames and shades that are made from polypropylene and are not only suitable for weather, but suitable for wind as well," said Gary Pettit, owner, Seasonal Living, Austin, Texas. "Previously, available outdoor lamps were heavy-based - usually very low pieces as well."
To stand up to what Mother Nature delivers, Seasonal Living introduced a lamp that incorporated an architecturally designed floor anchoring system. The lamp earned the company a Red Dot design award for best new lighting products for 2010.
Lighting by design
With confidence in the safety, durability and construction of outdoor lighting, innovation does not stop. Creativity of design style is equally important.
"What we are doing is more ambient mood lighting to define the parameter of your outdoor space," said Andy Morter, design developer, Shady Lady, Graft on, Wis. "Our newer designs are more artistic - half-sculpture and half-lighting. It does not have to fit furnishings exactly, but can blend in with the surroundings."
Woodard, manufacturer of Joe Ruggiero lighting products, also creates designs that coordinate with - while intentionally not matching - its furniture collections. "All of our lighting collections can cross over to several different furniture collections," said Carl Loredo, chief marketing officer of Woodard, based in Coppell, Texas. "This helps the consumer create a unique look in their outdoor living space."
At Kenroy Home, design motifs and themes take their cue from the outdoor environment. "We use natural materials and all-weather wicker, and the product immediately fits," Pape said. "We like to use materials found in nature -- stone and slate, cast iron and weatherproof items."
The scale used in designing outdoor lighting is a consideration Pape feels is not given enough attention. "In the great outdoors, products can disappear," Pape said. "Increasing the scale of products is important."
For Seasonal Living, contemporary designs and innovation have been the basis for the creation of products like its Tuli lamp. "We wanted to use fresh thinking and create a lamp that was elegant, modern with clean lines but suitable for indoor or outdoor applications," Pettit said. Sustainability and customization also are factors in the company's designs. "A green element as well as using low energy while providing suitable lighting were issues we faced," Pettit said. Through a unique printing process, Seasonal Living offers homeowners or contract facilities the ability to incorporate art and logotypes into custom lamp shades.
Functionality of outdoor lighting products is sometimes out of the designers' hands.
"Our biggest obstacle (for lighting products) has been with the end consumer that may have patio and deck space but doesn't have a convenient electric outlet," said Christy Peterson, product manager, Woodard. "For this season, we developed an LED solution. Now the consumer doesn't have to worry about finding an outlet or deal with cords. The LED puck can be charged by solar light or with a plug-in charger."
The addition of LED lighting options not only introduces the latest technology to outdoor lighting, it also addresses decreased energy usage and cost. "Because of its longevity and ease of installation, LED offers customers a 75% reduction in electric cost for landscape lighting," said Jeff Dross, corporate director of education and industry trends for Kichler, based in Cleveland. "More and more energy efficiency will be a big factor in lighting." With a federal-level push to use less electricity, lighting is recognized at the top of the list for change. "Many light bulbs are the same as when Thomas Alva Edison started," Dross said. "We cannot stress enough how important energy conservation is. LED lighting is making a great impact."
Patio Living Concepts leaders also see the addition of LED technology as good for the entire industry. "A big area that can fuel a lot of our growth for the next season will be in the new technology being used in lamps," Klaus said. "We will be showing new technology in the fall market in typical lamp designs that could revolutionize the industry." The manufacturer also plans to introduce more umbrella lamps as well as remote controlled and multicolored lighting options.
Selling the glow
Although some forms of outdoor illumination are geared to landscapers and contractors, options abound for the casual retailer as manufacturers recognize the potential of the marketplace.
"We sell a variety of retail distribution channels, but the casual furnishings retailers are the people who have the expertise about everything for the outdoor environment," Pape said. "They can create vignettes and are involved in the category year-round. They are the pros."
With attractive designs and without large demands on space and training, the opportunities created by outdoor lighting are likewise being appreciated by casual and counter-seasonal retailers. "The outdoor lamps we carry are so pretty, I honestly don't know if they are being used indoors or out," said Partha Daughtridge, interior designer and owner of Patio and Hearth Shop in Greenville, N.C. "Our business began with the gas business and gas lanterns, and we have been able to expand from there." With limited floor space, Daughtridge's store incorporates outdoor lighting displays of both portable and contractor-installed options.
Recognized in the recent Casual Living/HGTV Home Resort survey as a top area consumers plan to invest in when creating ideal outdoor spaces, outdoor lighting is a category that is responding with new products full of innovation, style and sales potential. For all involved, the future of outdoor lighting appears to be very bright.
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