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CFR Round-Table-By-Phone and notes from HPBE

February 29, 2008

Two things.

Number 1: I have blogged before about working with designers. Some of you have formal guidelines for your staff to follow with designers. Others, like me, have a fluid policy that changes depending on the weather, how business has been that week, and, in my case, whether I have the energy to deal with the housewife/designer du jour.

On Tuesday, March 11, CFR is offering us a chance to delve into the mystery of designers. At 1:00 pm Central Time, they are going to hold a round table. Not the conventional round table where we have to travel to some distant venue, check into a hotel, and find our way to the meeting hall. Instead, we can attend this round table just by dialing a phone number from the comfort of our office. This Round-Table-By-Phone is the first in a monthly series that is open to all, CFR members, non-members, retailers, vendors, reps, designers. . . anyone who has a phone.

All you need to do to participate is contact Holly Lundgren by emailing her at:


or calling her at:


She will give you the number to call and the code to enter. The deadline to register for free is March 6.

Round tables are always the most fun I have with my clothes on at any casual retailer conference or market. I always walk away with new ideas and perspectives. I think this new concept is going to help me a lot. I hope you think so, too. Every month I will keep you up to date on the topic and the date.

Number 2: Just got back from the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Exposition (HPBE) in Atlanta sponsored by the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue Association. What a great show!  The inside venue, the Georgia Dome at the World Congress Center was well laid out making it a snap to work. The "burn" exhibits (live barbecues, fireplaces and anything else that could be set on fire) were held a short walk away. The show includes exhibits and hours and hours of education opportunities. The depth of the education impressed me. I wish we had something like this at our casual markets.

I couldn’t help but notice how many outdoor kitchens were being shown. Some booths, like Cal Flame,

showed huge kitchens with barbecues, pizza ovens, wok stations, wet bars, freezers, refrigerators, wine fridges, outdoor flat screen televisions, and digital sound all in one unit. What fascinated me was the furniture they used to showcase their product was low end. So much so that it unintentionally brought the quality of their product down. I guess it is only a matter of time before retailers who specialize in constructing outdoor kitchens and rooms realize this and start looking for furniture that fits in better. Once they do this, I think they will become a significant and different distribution channel for our industry. That’s what we need, more competition.

Saw lots of barbecues, even ones by Fire Magic, with electric rotisseries and lighting powered by solar energy,

The barbecue has been up and down for us. We got out of the middle price point about two years ago and were never in the low-end price point. Right after Katrina, our high-end barbecue sales went through the roof. However, last year, barbecue sales were so slow, I began to question whether we should stay in the category.

I went to the show determined to find some high quality hearth accessories; tool sets and screens. Had a lot of trouble finding anything as well made or designed as the high-end furniture we carry. But did find some terrific fireplace doors. There was one company, Stoll,

that had something called their "refacing" collection. This door is made for prefab boxes with those unattractive black metal vents at the top and bottom. The doors attach with industrial magnets. Takes about two seconds to install with no tools and a ton of pulling to take off. Great designs and colorways.

Saw another product that I just can’t decide about. It is a single unit that looks like a copper palm tree. Hidden in the leaves is a patio heater and a mister! Cool Heat, Inc makes it.

Down here, the misting part would be a natural seller - it sure gets hot here - but, I don’t know how many people would want the heater, too.

Finally, (okay, three things) I would like to congratulate Petey Fleischut for being elected Vice-President of the newly formed International Casual Furniture Association (ICFA). For the last two years, Petey was president of CFR. She worked hard in that capacity and continues to work on that board as past president. After all of that, she is willing to help ICFA form up even though it is going to require a lot of her energy. Petey is an inspiration to the industry and me. I wish her the best of luck.

Yours in confused retailing, Bruce