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Casually Speaking

Cinde W. Ingram
Cinde W. Ingram: Casually Speaking
Hi, this is Cinde W. Ingram and I'm the Editor in Chief of Casual Living and Garden Decor. Each week I hope to use this blog space to stay in touch with our readers. I want to know what you think about new products, markets, the retail climate and, most of all, Casual Living. Let me know what's going on. Check out my latest below.

 

  • Warming up with the economy

    Economists were quick to dismiss a government report that the first quarter economy was weaker than previously thought. They shrugged it off like a dirty shirt, but the cold weather and severe storms across the nation last month may have had them reaching for extra cover. As the snow, ice and flooding fade into memory, the much anticipated and long-delayed spending by consumers should help to invigorate the economy just in time for the spring outdoor furnishings and grilling season. After noting the negative impact weather was having on economic data, Doug Handler, chief economist at IHS Global Insight told ... Read More
  • Gather around the fire

    Barbecue has variations around the world, but the whole lifestyle surrounding it seems to have taken a strong foothold in America. Legend has it that Christopher Columbus and other European explorers liked the Caribbean practice of digging a pit into the ground, putting in a big pot to catch dripping juices of meat cooked above it and using hot coals to prepare a feast. The Taino are credited with naming it “barbacoa” for sacred fire pit. Fire pits and barbecue are still at the center of special occasions. Think of all those reunions, picnics, church functions or tailgate get-togethers, not ... Read More
  • Changes bring opportunities to build business

    As many of us in the casual industry have an opportunity to gather together this month in Florida, we will be focused on lifestyle and business changes that are underway today as well as changes on the horizon.Although I don't know whether we can expect to see fire pits burning on cool evenings during the time we will meet in Orlando, I talked with Agio National Sales Manager Mike Gaylord and a few Agio dealers to collect their viewpoints on the growth of the fire pit/chat group category. While they agreed those sales are on the rise ... Read More
  • Building relationships that last

    Hopes for a Happy New Year have been exchanged for the past few weeks between family, friends, co-workers and people we communicate with regularly in business relationships.Sometimes we feel so close to the people we work with that they become lifelong friends and the workplace becomes like an extended family.Other people in the industry, we may see only once or twice a year at tradeshows. When our paths cross in those rare moments, we often greet each other fondly with hugs and warm wishes. Within the home furnishings industry, long-lasting business relationships are often compared with family ties ... Read More
  • Sharing positive outlooks

    After enjoying double-digit sales increases this year, many industry leaders were optimistic in making their predictions for 2014.The economy and housing industry have been moving in the right direction for the past few months. We have seen mortgage rates stay relatively low, stimulating demand for housing at the same time the cluttered foreclosure picture was clearing. At the same time, the median home price has shown double-digit, year-over-year increases. Household balance sheets are improving. Overall, the unemployment rate has continued to improve in a slow and sustainable way. Furniture analyst Jerry Epperson, a founder and managing director of Mann ... Read More
  • Blending in outdoors

    Designers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers are doing it. Some are just doing it in a bigger way. Others are going the distance by making sustainable, recyclable or earth friendly choices. Even outdoor cooking is marrying indoor and outdoor practices.What once appeared to be completely opposite now looks surprisingly similar as the boundaries of the American home have blurred to bring the indoors out and the outdoors in.At the recent High Point Market, attendees were quick to find uses for a display of outdoor furnishings and fire pits. Some shared meals at an outdoor dining table. A few relaxed ... Read More
  • Turn Up the Heat

    Changes in distribution channels continue to be a hot topic for discussion within the casual furnishings industry. Some outdoor furniture manufacturers are focused on full-line furniture retailers, who are shopping the High Point Market this month. Those vendors hope to attract buyers' attention to furnishings for outdoor living spaces.A growing number of manufacturers have hopped on the bandwagon by offering a selection of fire pit styles. Most of those fire pits add ambience and warmth to outdoor rooms, but some fire pit tables can just as easily be used indoors. Technology and innovation are helping to erase the boundaries ... Read More
  • Keep the season going longer

    Many casual furnishings retailers have their minds set on winding down their busy summer season this month, shopping for next year's season and switching their stores into off-season mode. But it doesn't have to end that way.Mike Forwood, president of Austin, Texas-based Louis Shanks, told me that other full-line furniture retailers often ask what he does with his stores' outdoor products during the winter months. He has a direct answer for them: "I sell it." Forwood said he understands some retailers only show their outdoor product in the summer months and then pull it off their showroom ... Read More
  • What have you heard?

    The focus at the ICFA Preview Show was on new products and relocated or redesigned showrooms. Most of the retailers at the show said they liked the large windows because they could see what was happening in showrooms more easily. Exterior windows and light courts also allowed more natural light to show the true colors of fabrics on products.I ran into one buyer on the 15th floor of Chicago's Merchandise Mart who lamented, "Have you ever seen so many lost people?" But most were simply making their way from one showroom to the next on a quest of ... Read More
  • Meaningful Messages: The insiders' resource for the outdoor room

    Attending Outside in Style's grand opening party in Austin, Texas, was a good reminder about the value of a company's mission statement and business personality.Signage at the entrance of Outside in Style's main store welcomes consumers inside with the message: Style starts here. Another sign on a building, which had served as the Discount Clearance Center of the store formerly known as The Greenhouse Mall, promises consumers they can expect to see more in the second building.Lettering high up on a wall inside the main store also carries strong messages, such as the following: "We ... Read More
  • Stores with winning looks turn on outdoor living vibe

    The saying "it takes a village" applies far beyond child rearing. The notion that "it takes a team" goes way past sports logic.As we were judging our 13th annual Merchandising Awards for this month's issue, I was grateful for all of the submissions that arrived from stores as far apart as Washington and Florida. I was thankful for the panel of judges who helped me to narrow our list to a select group of winners. Our team tapped the expertise of designers, art directors and retail editors who devoted time to evaluating photographs while imagining a consumer's ... Read More
  • Sun or Shade?

    National BBQ Month officially kicks off the grilling season this month. Most of us know by now the barbecue season extends year-round for many grill owners across America. Are you hosting grill-related events at your store to draw attention to and capitalize on the annual event?Even if you're not selling grills, have you personally invited friends over to share a meal hot off your own grill at home? Or maybe you've been invited over by your friends to dine alfresco. I know people love to gather around to watch the cook in action once the tantalizing aroma ... Read More