Nicole Crews -- Casual Living, 4/1/2012 2:00:00 AM
It's been said that "you know you're an outdoor product manufacturer if you show at the casual market in Chicago in September" - but that's not the entire story these days.
While Chicago's International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market is still destination central for the outdoor industry, manufacturers and suppliers are realizing that in order to reach full-line furniture stores hoping to capitalize on additional income from the outdoor room, they may have to bring the mountain to Mohammed.
Take, for example, Agio. The major industry player and largest outdoor real estate holder at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago is making its debut at the High Point Market this month. "We are coming to High Point for the first time because we know there are indoor retailers who are ready to go into the outdoor casual category," said Bob Gaylord, president of Agio. "They're creating an entirely new category within their stores and if an indoor retailer is ready to make the jump into outdoor, we want to be there to discuss the opportunity with them." And Agio isn't alone. The list of companies that describe themselves as o utdoor on the High Point Market's website number about 200.
The good news is that this bodes well for all trade shows - not just High Point. With the US market for outdoor furniture projected to exceed $7 billion by 2015 (according to the Freedonia Group, a Cleveland-based industry market research firm), it follows that more and more full-line retailers will be vying for their market share. "We recognize most of these retailers don't currently attend our Chicago markets," Gaylord said. "However, indoor retailers who are really serious about entering the outdoor category really need to attend the casual outdoor market in September."
That certainly seemed to ring true during the Casual Living Conference in late February. Attendees included full-line furniture big boys like El Dorado, City Furniture, HOM Furniture, Gallery Furniture, Bacon's Furniture, Sears and Frontgate. Their presence at our conference and interest in the category is a clear indication that the outdoor room is being taken seriously and is well on its way to being viewed as another room of the house, like the kitchen or bedroom.
What that means to specialty casual retailers remains to be seen. It seems to indicate that cash registers will be making noise where outdoor is sold. But it also suggests that the little guys had better make sure that they remain competitive if they want to retain - let alone grow their market share.
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