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Casually Speaking

Cinde W. Ingram

Cinde W. Ingram is the Editor in Chief of Casual Living. This blog is her way to stay in touch with our readers: She wants to know what you think about new products, markets, the retail climate and, most of all, Casual Living. Let Cinde know what's going on.  

  • Looks count as seasons change

    Make good first impressions and relevant memories Take a look at your store and consider this statement: “If you look closed, you’re closed.” With only 10 seconds to impress customers as they walk in the door, a “wow” spot can grab attention and keep shoppers moving forward to see more. Your eye-catching displays encourage shoppers to spend enough time browsing to discover that your products are not just different, but also relevant to them. What’s relevant, of course, is anything that helps consumers use their outdoor areas for relaxation and entertainment, especially as these waning days of summer ... Read More
  • Affluent consumers shift spending

    Marketing helps retail specialists benefit My first impression was the healthy amount of product introductions presented at the ICFA Preview Show. There were line extensions in nearly every showroom, but many manufacturers took another step ahead by unveiling full collections in their Chicago showrooms. The high-end part of the outdoor furnishings market is definitely being addressed with new mix-and-match styles in a variety of materials and colors. That’s a good thing, given the current conditions of the marketplace. Mass merchants started clearance sales of their outdoor furnishings last month while specialty retailers were deep into their sales season. The ... Read More
  • Outdoor Inspirations Abound

    Vacations or Staycations and More Many of you are attending summer markets in Chicago, Atlanta and Las Vegas. Others may be traveling for pleasure or simply relaxing and spending time on a staycation in their own backyard. Wherever your travels lead, you are bringing back new ideas from what you’ve seen and experienced on the journey. Americans today are living a more active lifestyle, wanting to be connected with nature and make their lives more enjoyable. All of these factors are good news for the outdoor furnishings industry, which continues its steady growth. “We want to take that leisure ... Read More
  • What's next for design?

    If this truly is the Era of Design, there must be rising star designers who will lead the casual industry into the future. Do you know who they are? Since 2005, Casual Living ’s August issue has featured the top outdoor furnishings product designers as well as Design Excellence nominees. We have shared the stories of how these designers got their starts and what inspires them to envision, design and develop new products. Over the next few weeks, we will be seeing hundreds of new product designs at summer markets in Atlanta, Chicago and Las Vegas. It’s time to ... Read More
  • Best of the Best

    After attending the HD Expo and the High Point Market, I’ve had a glimpse of some of the industry’s best new designs for outdoor spaces, whether intended for contract/hospitality or residential uses. Still, I know much more is around the corner for the 2016 season once we reach the summer markets in Chicago, Atlanta and Las Vegas. Helping judge Casual Living’s annual Merchandising Awards also provides a snapshot of how talented retailers present outdoor designs successfully. Although I can’t physically visit all of the entries, I get a sense of the shopping experience offered by ... Read More
  • Catch the season

    At many homes across the nation, thermostats switched directly from heating to air conditioning as spring made its much anticipated arrival near the end of April. During the weeks leading up to that arrival, a sunny weekend was all it took to prompt shopping for outdoor furnishings by homeowners who wanted to shake off the cold and recreate some of the ideas sparked through magazines or home decorating shows, or brought back home with them from their travels. The hospitality category saw a better-than-expected surge in travel and tourism last year. That growth should help to support the upgrades and ... Read More
  • Start a winning season

    As the West Coast Ports process a backlog of cargo that built up during months of contract negotiations, business owners are reviewing their supply chain plans and retailers are revising product layouts on their floors. Those logistics are one piece that’s slightly out of place in a global economic picture that has shown promise of resurgence, boosted by the strength of cheap oil, falling interest rates and a reawakening housing market. As I write this, the wintry weather is melting into a spring thaw that fosters optimism rising with the temperature. March Madness is in full swing and NCAA ... Read More
  • A new look at digital opportunities

    The outdoor furnishings and grill industries have been experiencing radical changes in recent years. Foot traffic is down in stores while online research continues to rise and smartphones are becoming more important to the consumer’s shopping habits. Manufacturers are mostly steering clear of e-commerce (selling directly online) to better protect their brick-and-mortar dealers, but are investing in improvements to their websites in order to provide information to customers. They encourage dealers to have an online presence and often direct consumers to local dealers. Some manufacturers are more active than others in social media efforts to enhance their brand to ... Read More
  • On the hunt for outdoor products

    During the High Point Market, I heard a couple of buyers on the bus talking about the excitement of being on the hunt. Some shoppers think of it as a sport while others feel anxious about making orders of products that may not have the return on investment they know is necessary to keep their business healthy. While the mindset of retail buyers was as far-ranging as those of the homeowners they are trying to predict, the general mood of the High Point Market was nearly as positive as the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market, held in Chicago in September ... Read More
  • Strategy for the future of casual

    With ongoing improvements in the housing and labor markets in addition to total U.S. retail sales (excluding automobiles) topping a record $2.2 trillion on an annual basis, there’s good reason for optimism at the fall furniture markets. The positive mood buoyed the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market last month as the announcement was made that the show will remain in Chicago through 2022. Despite that reassurance, more casual furniture manufacturers continue to try new exhibition strategies. For example, Pride Family Brands and the Outdoor GreatRoom will make their debut appearance at the High Point Market this month ... Read More
  • Passion and promise meet as Casual Market returns to Chicago

    Catch your breath. It’s time for the casual furnishings industry’s biggest buying market. Inside our September issue, you’ll see a sampling of the products being introduced this month at the International Casual Furniture & Accessories Market in Chicago. You can take a dip into the color trends that are developing for the 2015 marketplace. Also inside those pages is our exclusive research report to provide details of 100 Powerhouse Retailer businesses that offer outdoor furnishings in the United States. Casual Classics, the industry’s largest member-owned buying/design cooperative, describes how its members are responding to the ever-changing ... Read More
  • Accepting growth forecasts, changing minds

    Attendance was up 22% over last year at the ICFA Preview Show in Chicago, according to Vornado/Merchandise Mart’s post-show report. With all the showroom relocations on floors 15 and 16 plus different configuration of hallways, it was difficult for industry veterans to tell there were actually more attendees in the building. Many had speculated that attendance was down. The Preview Show was one of the three major summer tradeshows introducing new casual furnishings products to buyers last month. The July 15-17 show opened the same day the Atlanta market closed, and it ended just over a week before ... Read More