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Colors, Colors, Colors

November 20, 2007

I think the most fun and the most frustrating part of this business is choosing colorways. Fun because I get to play with colors; I enjoy that. Frustrating because I have to make my choices with a generic buying public in mind. I can’t tell you the number of times I have decided against a color-way because I think it may be too strong or fashion forward for most of my clientele. At least, I used to think that way.

Years ago (I mean in the 60’s for those of you under 40), color was the story. White frames, yellow, aqua, or lime green straps, with contrasting chevrons. Those were the days of Gucci combinations: beige frames, beige straps and a three-strap chevron in navy, rust, and camel. Then, in the late 80’s our floor became a sea of forest green. It was the majority of our early buys and custom orders. In the late 90’s and early this century, our floor became rust and all of its variations.

For the past two or three years, my staff and I got tired of the floor being the same color from front to back and side to side; so, I brought in a few "wow" factor color combinations. Great combinations but I was prepared to close them out at the end of the year. To my surprise, those stong colors sold and sold quickly.

Is it just me, or is the general buying public developing a more sophisticated color palette? For the 2007 season, the warehouse clubs brought in java frames with scarlet dupione fabric. It was a risky combination for them, but it worked and most of the clubs in my area sold out before the season ended. If you saw Zephyr at market, the Brown Jordan introduction that won the design excellence award, it was done in great and wild colors. Sofa cushions were done in lime green or Tuscan orange. Club chairs were done in coordinating vivid stripes. The throw pillows were to die for.

I just finished a "Casual Living" survey about what colors sold best for 2007. As I was filling it out, I realized color was a more important element of my marketing this year than it has been for many years. Looking around my store I still see a lot of neutral frames, mostly a variation of mahogany, but cushions and slings in sage, lime, rust, Tuscan yellow, and spa blue.  We even brought in Brown Jordan Tamiami in white frames with either sun yellow or lime lacing.

I also realized that most of my deep-seated groups have several fabric combinations on them. No longer are the cushions on the sofa the same as the cushions on the club chairs and ottomans. We even have sets where the two club chairs have different fabrics from each other and the sofa. And throw pillows . . . my goodness, we have never had more.

The color story gets more interesting when you factor in the 5′ x 7′ rugs we started bringing in a few years ago. Originally we brought in beiges and blacks. Even though those are still popular colors, we see a trend towards heather colors and patterns.

To get back to the frustrating part of choosing colors, nowadays it isn’t so much that I have to rein in my choices. Instead, some swatch books are so “reined in” and stuck in the "herculon" era; I wonder how anyone can find swatches to use.

Well, color has changed so much over the past few years, I am sure you can understand why I sign off as,

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce