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Hearth & Home

2015 November Business Climate

November Retail Sales

In early December, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, barbecue and patio products, asking them to compare November 2015 sales to November 2014. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 192 useable returns.

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Weather Report

Consumer Confidence

Stock Watch

Ninety-six percent of patio retailers were either up in November or even with the November 2014; for the barbecue industry that figure was 77 percent.

November 2014 Through November 2015

Granted, 2014 was an exceptionally strong year for all four industries, in particular for the Hearth industry. This year was pretty much the opposite. Hearth sales in November were basically flat. The warm weather did help the patio industry, which was up 16 percent over the same month a year ago.

Retailer Comments


Connecticut: (Hearth) “Depressing end of year. Last year was our best ever; this year is possibly our worst. That’s what happens when you have record warm weather, oil prices cut in half, pellet and wood prices soaring. Yes, it’s depressing. Thank goodness for service calls.”

Delaware: (Hearth, BBQ) “Abnormal warm weather in Delaware. We haven’t even started using our heat yet.”

Maine: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “With the exception of pellet sales, it has been a good year with gains over last year.”

New York: (Hearth, BBQ) “November sales dropped off from October. We have very little backlog of jobs.”

New York: (Hearth) “November in the Northeast has been warm. Sales and orders are both down from last year. All we can do at this point is wish for a cold and long winter.”

New York: (BBQ, Spas) “After a very slow October, year-end promotions and incentives increased November traffic and sales.”

New York: (Hearth, BBQ, Spas) “Would love for the cold weather to come. Foot traffic has been very light with the warmer than average temperatures.”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth) “Gas is as hot as pellet stoves and pellets are cold. It’s a total reversal of last year. Can’t wait for the new low prices on pellet stoves!”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth) “Our fiscal year starts July 1. For July 1 through November 13, we’re up three percent. Coal, pellet, wood stoves and inserts are all down. Gas is up!”

Weather Report

For the following weather charts, the numbers for each state reflect the temperature ranking for the period since records began in 1895.

For those of us living in the eastern half of the country, it has been a beautiful, and long fall, with temperatures Much Above Normal. In fact, New Jersey set a record for its warmest November since recording began.

While Florida was the only state to experience Record Warmest temperatures for the three-month period from September through November, there were 14 other states that reached second warmest status for the period.

In the month of November, Midwestern states experienced Much Above Normal precipitation, with both Arkansas and Missouri recording their Wettest November since 1895.

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Arkansas: (Hearth) “Excellent month for mainly wood retail sales. Great year so far.”

North Carolina: (Patio) “There is a continuous reluctance of most customers to reach into their wallets.”

Tennessee: (Hearth, BBQ) “AWFUL! No cold weather and definitely no snow. Instead of kicking ass, we had ours kicked and stomped. Dollar volume is down almost 40 percent from last year. (I have to keep reminding myself that November 2014 was our biggest month ever). There’s no cold weather in the forecast before Christmas. It doesn’t look like Santa will make it to my house.”

Texas: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “The weather has been an issue leading-up to the Holiday season; Black Friday weekend brought record rainfall that slowed traffic. Overall sales are down in the fourth quarter.”

Virginia: (Hearth, BBQ) “The warm weather killed us in November. By far the worst November at our Virginia location that I can remember.”

Virginia: (Hearth) “In spite of the mild weather, there’s much interest in gas; inserts are going strong. Many install proposals are still outstanding.”

Virginia: (Hearth, BBQ) “I’m sure it will begin to slow down soon. Since we are booked out to February, most people are going to wait.”


Illinois: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “A lot of fireplace jobs were ordered in September/October and finalized in December.”

Iowa: (Hearth) “More high-end sales than last year.”

Ohio: (Hearth, BBQ) “The first half of November continued the strong sales we had been experiencing since the season started in August. However, as we got closer to Thanksgiving, the phone rang significantly less and foot traffic was dramatically down. We’re guessing it’s been the mild weather that Northeast Ohio has been experiencing.”

Michigan: (Spas) “November sales of big ticket goods was ugly at best. Lots of showcasing, but floor traffic was off in a big way. Black Friday and Small Shop Saturday were disasters. It’s great news that U.A.W. workers are getting big bonus checks, and Michigan State football has hit elite status, and Jim Harbaugh has resurrected the University of Michigan. There were 180,000 people in those two stadiums – maybe all our buyers were there.”

Michigan: (Hearth, BBQ) “A lot of traffic. Busy showroom and sales.”

Wisconsin: (Hearth, BBQ) “Even though we maintain our vehicles well, all of our trucks broke down at once. Losing two weeks of install time hurt. Still looking for another just-right installer/service tech.”

Consumer Confidence

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had decreased moderately in October, declined further in November. The Index now stands at 90.4 (1985=100), down from 99.1 in October.

“Consumer confidence retreated in November, following a moderate decrease in October,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “The decline was mainly due to a less favorable view of the job market. Consumers’ appraisal of current business conditions, on the other hand, was mixed. Fewer consumers said conditions had improved, while the proportion saying conditions had deteriorated also declined.”

A reading above 90 indicates the economy is on solid footing; above 100 signals strong growth. The Index is based on a probability-design random sample conducted for The Conference Board by The Nielsen Company.

The Index is based on a probability-design random sample conducted for The Conference Board by The Nielsen Company.

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Arizona: (Hearth) “Very good month for stove sales!”

California: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Up 25 percent overall.”

California: (Hearth) “BUSY, BUSY, BUSY.”

California: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “November started our season in a good way. Due to cooler weather, logs, glass and fireplace sales took off. Grills are still selling briskly. There’s something to be said for living and working in a temperate climate.”

Montana: (Hearth, BBQ) “It was a very warm November for Montana.”

Washington: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “We’re still up year-to-date.”


Alberta: (Hearth, Patio) “Talk about the perfect storm in Alberta: low oil prices, new Socialist government, slowed building, uncertainty, fear and job losses daily. Batten down the hatches boys, we’re going into survival mode; it’s very much like the ’80s again. Thank God we don’t pay taxes when we don’t have profits. That tax refund will sure be sweet – ha-ha.”

British Columbia: (Hearth) “Stove sales are up, chimney sales down.”

British Columbia: (Patio, BBQ) “Due to the lower value of the Canadian dollar, the higher retail price on barbecues kept a few buyers out of the market.”

British Columbia: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “It was much slower than last November, perhaps a sign of a slowing economy in Canada? I hope it’s just a one-off in an otherwise stellar year.”

Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Customers are expecting another cold winter like last year!”

Ontario: (Hearth, BBQ) “Sales are going great. Dealing with smaller manufacturers is working out well.”

Ontario: (Hearth, Patio) “In October we were up 12.5 percent over a great 2014; November, which is traditionally a stronger month, was down 15 percent. We barely had four nights below zero Celsius. They’re predicting double-digit temperatures all week. Welcome to the amusement park we call The Hearth Industry. Just remember, if you don’t like today, wait ’till you see tomorrow!”

Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “The weather is amazing. I thought we would sell gas fire tables due to the nice weather. Man, was I wrong – again!”

Saskatchewan: (Hearth, BBQ) “The economy has tightened up. People are not spending as much as last year. The oil downturn has affected us; last year we had a lot of customers who worked on the oil patch in Alberta. We hardly see that any more.”

Stock Watch

    High Low 30-Oct-15 27-Nov-15 4 Week 26 Week 52 Week ($000,000)
HNI Corporation (a) HNI 57.74 41.12 42.94 44.97 4.7% -7.3% -4.2% $1,870.0
Pool Corporation (b) POOL 84.43 60.00 81.54 82.89 1.7% 25.1% 39.5% $3,590.0
Rentech (b)(e) RTK 14.40 2.44 5.85 2.84 -51.5% 104.7% NA $62.1
Restoration Hardware Holdings (a) RH 106.49 82.71 103.09 93.36 -9.4% 2.6% 10.5% $3,560.0
Wayfair, Inc. (a)(c) W 56.84 16.74 42.24 38.16 -9.7% 27.7% 57.3% $3,450.0

(a) = New York Stock Exchange
(b) = NASDAQ
(c) = Wayfair issued their initial public offering on October 1, 2014. Shares are trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol W. We will include respective data points as they occur.
(d) = OTCQB
(e) = Rentech is the parent company of New England Wood Pellet, which is the parent company of Allegheny Pellet.

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