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What's Hot, What's Not

March 26, 2008

By this time of the year, customers have told me with their checkbooks whether I made the right bets at market. I thought I would let you know what is selling for me and what isn’t.

Brown Jordan: Contemporary doesn’t sell well in our market. After all, the balconies in the French Quarter are traditional wrought or cast iron not extruded stainless steel. However, I guessed right when I brought in Quantum sling in a Chroma finish with a white sling. Sold out before the season even began. Missed however on Tamiami in the new translucent lacing and Zephyr. I wasn’t sure about Tamiami, but I thought Zephyr was the best design I have seen at market in a long time. Who knew?

Pride: I have avoided oversized sofas and sectionals because patios here are so much smaller than elsewhere in the country. So, imagine my surprise when Pride’s Regent Cushion Sectional jumped off the floor. It moved so fast we reordered it to be sure we would have a sample on the floor during the season. Casablanca with its wicker weave made of aluminum instead of resin has also done very well. Coco Isle Sling has sold but not as quickly as in past years.

Suncoast: We still do extruded with slings. I know, I know, how last century, but our customers with pools and fully exposed decks don’t want to take cushions in or fool with furniture covers. Our early buy came in during the third quarter of 2007. We had a fairly nice winter and sold about 50% of it before the season began. That meant we had to place another stock order in the early part of 2008. The biggest miss I had with this line was the Orleans Cushion series. Although this line hasn’t moved fast in the past, it is moving even slower, now. I think it is because the design is too generic.

Cast Classic: What can I say; cast aluminum is our boon and our bane. It sells well here because of our traditional architecture. But, delivery schedules are so long that it discourages custom orders. Cast Classic has been producing two lines for us that they dropped from their catalog several years ago. Napoli and Majestic use almost the same decorations that are used in those pesky French Quarter balconies. We can’t live without them. I brought in Arabesque, a smaller version of their cast and "wicker" Shambala design. Sold a little but not enough to justify reordering it.

Meadowcraft: Haven’t carried the line in ages, ever since they changed their distribution philosophy. This line has been full of surprises, some pleasant, some . . . well,  not so much. Coventry cushion and Chelsea micromesh sold out very quickly. The Milano swing was a big hit. Bought the line because of the Tuscany day bed. Not only has it not sold, Meadowcraft dropped it before the season began. Quality Control has been a problem. On the other hand, customer service to take care of the problems has been exceptional. Delivery time has been so-so. Doesn’t anyone realize how moving a production facility affects capacity and output!

Agio: This has been a wild ride. This is our first year with them. I tried to shop them for the 2007 season, but the line was so big, so confusing, and had so many rules, just couldn’t get my head around it. Decided to make a concerted effort to get it in this year because I thought I needed the Starlight Day Bed. Began the process at the premarket. Finally got an order created in early September. The goods came in very late, the beginning of March. But sell through has been amazing. Everything we ordered, Monoco outdoor wicker, Coventry aluminum that looks like painted wood, and Ceylon aluminum and wicker are almost sold out. The only bad guess was Starlight, which was the original attraction for me. The day bed isn’t getting much action, and the hidden spring lounge chairs haven’t sold yet. A shame that it takes so long to get a container that wasn’t programmed in during market. We could sell at least one or two more.

Shady Lady: Moving very fast. The designs are great and customers are starting to get outdoor entertaining. They are not going to depend on the light kit they got with their outdoor fan or the recessed lighting in their overhangs.

Summer Classics: We have continual growth with this line. Our customers sit in the swivel gliders from Tuscany, St. Croix, or Classic Wicker and we don’t have to show them anything else. Detron has sold well to one customer as a custom order, but the sofa and lounge chair we have on the floor isn’t getting as much attention as I thought it would. We used SC as another source for a sectional; we brought in the Plantation design. Once we got it on the floor, we realized the configuration was too small to be useful. Had to order another center section and am waiting for that to come in. Until then, it has gotten a few looks but no one has ordered it. Delivery time has been a big problem. We wanted to order another stock order, but couldn’t get it till May. A little too late for us.

O. W. Lee: I love this line. It sells continually. Our biggest seller in the past few years has been a chat group with four Old World Spring Club chairs and a 36" marble top cocktail table. This year, consumers seem to prefer a more traditional configuration of a cushioned loveseat or sofa, two spring club chairs, and two end tables. Again, I chalk this up to the smaller covered patios that are built in our area. Although we haven’t sold any of the Outdoor Couture drapes, they are getting a lot of attention. I think we will sell more through designers once we get that program on its feet.

Gloster and Rock Wood: I group them together because we use Rock Wood for our dining teak and Gloster for our deep-seated teak. Together they make a cogent teak program. Teak is a tough sell in our climate, but there is definitely a market here. Rock Wood’s single and double butterfly leaf tables continue to be big sellers. Their mechanisms never fail and the service has been great when we need rush orders or special items. We show Gloster’s Ventura line. For the first time we are showing it as a sectional. Because of their quick delivery program, we don’t have to stock much but do sell a lot from our display.

Don’t order pink cushions. They sold well a few years ago but not today. We just can’t bring in enough forest green cushions and umbrellas. Even though the majority of the furniture we are showing is in the brown/rust/mahogany tones, forest green still accounts for the majority of our umbrella and cushion sales. Other than that, rust, Tuscan yellow, all shades of brown, jockey red, sage, and sagey blues are the big sellers for us this year.

Well, that’s it. I’m sure I have inadvertently left out a line or two and will hear about it from the manufacturer. Blame it on a faulty memory rather than a purposeful slight. I wonder if the success (or failure) of my buys matches yours.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce