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Hearth & Home December 2016

Wells Home Furnishings, Charleston, West Virginia.

PATIO: A Very Good Year

By Tom Lassiter

As 2016 comes to a close, patio retailers find they have little to complain about, and they’re already looking forward to 2017.

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Keith Lowery John Wells Colette Placeway Brett Freiberg
Sharon Walther Darla Miller Travis Stark Liz Brown
Joyce Burkholder Barbara &
John Hughes
Susan Dovel David Jacobs
Brett Falotico Susan Kiley Sharon Pauza Paula Dutton

”Outdoor is trending up,” said Joyce Burkholder, manager at Penn Stone Outdoor Living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. “We had a great year.”

How great? Sales were up 61 percent.

Similar positive assessments (though with more modest gains) were heard from casual furniture retailers from coast to coast as Hearth & Home randomly called merchants to learn how 2016 played out.

Most, unlike Burkholder, held their enthusiasm in check and didn’t let loose with a superlative. But positive responses were almost universal. There was none of the usual hemming and hawing and prolonged pauses that “How’s business?” generates in so-so years.

Merchants interviewed seemed pleased with the season in general. Weather woes were minimal and apparently short-lived in most regions. Summer heat was unusually intense in parts of the Midwest, but it sure was good for umbrella sales. No one had serious complaints about shipping issues, save for one high-end manufacturer that depends heavily on special orders.

In one of the most shocking revelations, several retailers noted that under-40 Millennials shopped their stores and actually purchased!

Teak, consensus says, is riding a Maui-size wave of popularity in those places where teak typically sells. Markets that don’t care about teak still don’t care.

The consumer love affair with plastic furniture – call it poly, polymer, resin, HDPE, plastic lumber, or even MGP – is torrid. Retailers are selling the heck out of it.

Resin furniture maker Berlin Gardens must be doing everything right. The industry’s best PR gurus could never gin up the type of praise that retailers have for the Ohio-based company.

This was a season of few surprises, other than lack of disappointment. Retailers have the usual concerns about the impact of the elections on business. But the upbeat mood created by the 2016 season actually has them looking forward to next year.

Keith Lowery
Lowery’s Lawn & Patio
Berwick, Maine

The 2016 casual furniture business at Lowery’s Lawn & Patio in Berwick, Maine, was about the same as in 2015. That was just fine with manager Keith Lowery, because “last year was the busiest we ever had.” Custom orders account for about half of sales.

Wicker and teak products sold well, though “the metal has petered out a bit,” Lowery said. “The cast is almost non-existent. I think people are tired of the styles and looking for something different.”

The shop offers teak by Gloster and Kingsley-Bate, with the latter being the volume leader. Jensen Leisure’s wood furniture also performed well, he said.

Lowery’s noticed a jump in demand for plastic furniture about five years ago. “Every year we have more and more people coming in the store and asking for it,” he said. The shop responded and now offers eight brands. The website notes that Seaside Casual is the top-selling line.

Sales of fire pits continue to climb year after year. “We sell a lot by themselves, and then people come back to buy furniture,” he said. Lowery describes the fire pit as a centerpiece.

An average ticket at the shop runs about $1,800, according to Lowery’s best guesstimate. The business builds wooden storage sheds, sales of which help see the shop through late fall. “But that will pretty much stop when the snow comes,” he said. Customers are few between Christmas and early March when, after a mild winter, shoppers start to return.

Lowery’s had “an excellent year” in umbrellas. “We sell tons,” said Lowery, who looks forward to 2017 with confidence. “I’m hoping it will be another good year,” he said. “I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t be.”

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Sharon Walther
Island Lifestyles
Orleans, Massachusetts

Sharon Walther, who with her husband, Robert, owns Island Lifestyles in the Cape Cod community of Orleans, was upbeat about the season.

“We had one of our better years,” she said. Sales were up about 10 percent “across the board, which is very interesting.” Teak sales rose, as did the store’s volume in Eco, a line of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) furniture. The Walthers stocked more resin wicker products this season but didn’t sell through it all.

Autumn sales, which “used to be a huge season for us,” declined in the years following the Great Recession. Now the pendulum seems to be swinging back. “This year we had some really nice sales” after Labor Day, Walther said.

Most customers are second-home owners, she said, who want décor that’s different from their mainland home. They tend to favor blue colorways, matching the surrounding ocean. When a customer chooses brown furniture and fabrics, there’s a good chance that customer is a year-round resident.

Special orders naturally caused individual sales tickets to inch, and sometimes jump, up. “I had some beautiful special orders this season,” she said. She didn’t have figures on what an average ticket at Island Lifestyles might be, but she did recall several $15,000 sales.

“When the economy went downhill, that part of the business seemed to dry up,” she said. “Now it seems to be coming back. We seem to respond to downturns in the economy a little later than most, and the recovery comes a little bit later.”

Island Lifestyles typically closes at the end of October, but the warm fall kept the shop open and customers coming even as November arrived.

The extended season was good for the shop as well as for its customers. The retailer takes their special orders, and combines them with the shop’s early-buy program. “We give (customers) special pricing and have already written some pre-orders for next season,” Walther said. “For that reason, we are optimistic about 2017.”

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Joyce Burkholder
Penn Stone Outdoor Living
Lancaster, Pennsylvania

Penn Stone Outdoor Living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which specializes in masonry and hardscaping as well as outdoor furniture, prepared for 2016 by expanding its indoor and outdoor display areas.

The shop doubled its interior showroom space and built 10 outdoor patio displays. “The intention was to bring the pieces of our business together,” said Joyce Burkholder, who manages the casual furniture side.

Seating sales outpaced dining products, with strong interest in wicker and particularly in mixed materials that provide “more of an eclectic approach” in outdoor living. “Cushion has been trending up,” she said. “I would say we saw the greatest growth in wicker.”

She noted growing interest in large dining tables and tables with alternative tops, such as faux stone or tile. Consumers in the Lancaster market, in south-central Pennsylvania, also expressed a preference for “more well-designed pieces. That’s where Brown Jordan has met the challenge, bringing out the high design that people are looking for.”

Penn Stone’s furniture lines include a number of higher-end brands, including Barlow Tyrie, Gloster, OW Lee, Ebel, Lloyd Flanders and Tropitone. In the plastic category, the shop offers furniture from Loll Designs and Pawley’s Island. Gloster and Barlow Tyrie are its teak vendors.

Not surprisingly, special order sales account for a significant part of the merchant’s business – 80%. “What we have on the floor are samples,” she said.

The shop saw increased sales of TUUCI umbrellas and Solair awnings, she said. Overall sales of shade products, including Treasure Garden, were up slightly. “We saw people making investments in higher-quality umbrellas,” Burkholder said.

Fire tables are a strong category for Penn Stone, where customers may choose from gas, bioethanol, or wood-burning models. Burkholder sees demand rising for wood-fueled models. “We serve a lot of people in the ’burbs, where you can burn wood,” she said.

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Brett Falotico
Seasons Too
Darien, Connecticut

Teak sold well at Seasons Too in Darien, Connecticut. “It’s just going out the door left and right,” said Brett Falotico, manager. “The weathered teak look is really big right now.” The retailer carries products by Kingsley-Bate and Gloster. In wicker, Kingsley-Bate’s Sag Harbor proved “really hard to beat,” he said.

Cast aluminum “still has a presence in certain areas,” Falotico said, but it has to have a certain style. “Around here, if they go to aluminum,” he said, “they want a table that looks like teak.”

Seasons Too’s special order business is strong in the spring and growing in the off-season, he said. Sales in the peak of the casual furniture season tend to be for instant gratification. The stores rely on stock in a large warehouse to satisfy customers at its three stores. In addition to Darien, the other locations are in Larchmont and Brewster, New York.

The majority of shoppers tend to range in age from 55 to 75, he said. But lately Falotico has noted a trend in younger shoppers, “a lot of early 30s to early 40s. They know what they want when they walk in,” he said. Their tastes lean toward transitional and contemporary, he said, and sales staff must be sharp to deal with them. “You have to know what you’re talking about,” he said.

Seasons Too carries three brands of plastic furniture (Breezesta and Malibu, as well as Seaside Casual). Overall, Falotico said 2016 sales were strong. “For a small business to survive in this economy, we’ve got to be up five percent to 10% every year,” he said.

Falotico was reserved about next year’s prospects. “I’m a little worried about how people will feel,” he said. “We’re going to order less inventory and do a little more special order business.”

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John Wells
Wells Home Furnishings
Charleston, West Virginia

John Wells, whose family has owned Wells Home Furnishings for 22 years in Charleston, West Virginia, was astounded at how well his casual furniture performed in 2016.

“We had a pretty darned good year,” he said. “Overall, we’re very pleased.”

Wells’ business with Lloyd Flanders was up 120% thanks to a handful of big orders. One home being outfitted by a medical professional had five decks. That order, Wells said, “just rang the bell. It’s unbelievable how much they bought.”

Wells Home Furnishings added the Telescope brand for 2016, as well as Treasure Garden umbrellas. Umbrellas sold well, he said, particularly as part of the larger casual furniture orders.

The store also carries Lane Timmerman wrought iron and Tommy Bahama, a natural as the store carries other products from Lexington Home Brands. However, it does not show those lines and instead relies on catalogs. Wells acknowledges that sales could be better. “You have to show it to sell it,” he said.

The store, which has a second location in the college community of Morgantown, also handles the Lane Venture line. Wells noted that Lane Venture sales were “a little challenging. Last year was not good at all.” The store, which belongs to the Furniture First buying group, is reassessing its brand and product mix for 2017.

Wells estimated that 95 percent of the store’s outdoor business is special order.

The 22-year-old business operates from a 30,000 sq. ft. showroom in Charleston. Less than 2,000 sq. ft. is allocated to outdoor furnishings, Wells said. Outdoor products account for about five percent of overall sales.

Wells said he’s looking forward to improvement in 2017, “doing more outdoor business and the economy overall. All I know is what I read and hear,” he said. “The gurus say we’re going to be good for another 12 to 24 months.”

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Darla Miller
Backyard Retreats
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina

At Backyard Retreats in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, manager Darla Miller said special orders account for 85 or 90% of her business. “We’re a small but mighty storefront,” she said. “Our average customer is a special-order customer. That’s our bread and butter.”

Backyard Retreats, she said, is “doing really well. This seems to be a growing industry.”

Leading brands at Backyard Retreats include Telescope, Ebel, Woodard, Homecrest, Lloyd Flanders and Tropitone. A typical sales is in the $3,000 range, she said.

The resin wicker category does well in general, as do fire tables. The shop has introduced some tabletop fire features that can be used indoors as well as out. “We’re hoping that will catch on,” Miller said.

Polymer lines (“doing really well for us”) include Berlin Gardens and POLYWOOD. MGP products lead sales among Telescope’s lineup. The strong performance of these lines that feature durable, man-made materials is in keeping with the store’s market geography. Mount Pleasant is a suburb of Charleston and near coastal resorts including Isle of Palms, Kiawah Island and Edisto Island.

The shop carries Jensen Leisure products. “We do a little bit with that,” Miller said. “In this environment, wood doesn’t seem to do as well as the polymers do.”

Woodard’s Reynolds group drew interest from Miller’s customers this year. The resin wicker line is transitional in style and has no loose cushions. Comfort is enhanced by cushioning material hidden in the seat and back. “That has been a popular look,” Miller said. “It feels more comfortable than it looks.”

Sales of TUUCI umbrellas climbed this year, she said, with customers opting for models that offer flexible shade positions. “Not a lot of people are getting umbrellas just for the dining table,” Miller said.

She noted an upswing in dining. “We don’t have as much on the floor as we have interest,” she said. “And it’s not small dining” tables that consumers want. “It’s large dining.”

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Barbara & John Hughes
The Patio Place
Savannah, Georgia

Business was up 10% over 2015 at The Patio Place in Savannah, Georgia. Sales were boosted by an influx of retirees moving to the area on the Georgia-Florida border, said John Hughes, who manages the store with his spouse, Barbara.

“New people are constantly coming in,” she said. “The housing market is kickin’.”

Teak sales were strong, building on similar strength in 2015. “We’ve done a lot more teak dining this year,” he said. Kingsley-Bate is the shop’s primary teak vendor.

Sales of five-piece dining sets maintained a steady pace, he said. “The dining category doesn’t seem to slow down. It’s definitely a staple.”

Sales of cast aluminum remained steady, as did sales of loom products from Lloyd Flanders. With lots of home swimming pools in the area, “Sling furniture doesn’t seem to stop,” Hughes said.

Traditional market umbrellas, typically the nine-ft. size, are the best sellers. Larger, cantilever models haven’t yet caught on in that market, he said.

Sales of deep seating products maintained strength. “We do a lot with Lloyd Flanders and with Woodard,” he said. The store’s top-selling resin wicker group is The Hamptons Collection, Barbara Hughes said. “It will go with anything. Lloyd Flanders is my bread and butter.”

An average ticket hovers around $2,000. Most shoppers tend to be age 50 and older, John Hughes said.

He expressed some surprise that the business performed as well as it has this year. “It’s up,” he said, “and usually, in an election year, it’s not that great.”

Barbara Hughes said she considers “the glass half-full” when she thinks about the season to come. She hopes people “will breathe a little easier” once the presidential election is decided and relax the grip on their wallets.

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Susan Kiley
Bay Breeze Patio
Destin, Florida

Hard numbers weren’t available, but Susan Kiley, co-owner of Bay Breeze Patio in Destin, Florida, has a good feeling about the year coming to an end. “Sixteen’s been strong,” she said. “The weather has been pretty decent. I think we’ve been up in all categories. I know we’re ahead.”

Plastic furniture performs well for Bay Breeze Patio, which is on Florida’s Panhandle. The beach town of Destin has many vacation rentals whose owners choose the resin furniture for its durability, low maintenance, and heft that withstands gusting winds. “We’re doing a lot of dining in composite,” Kiley said, using another term for plastic furniture.

Kiley, who owns the shop with Wayne Paul, says Adirondack chairs are the other top-selling resin furniture product.

The shop does a growing business outfitting Outdoor Rooms and selling components for outdoor kitchens, which are installed by contractors. “That business is just getting bigger and bigger,” Kiley said. “Every job is custom. Everything has to be aluminum infrastructure” to endure the Gulf Coast environment.

She noted that consumer interest in teak prompted the shop to order teak products for the first time in a decade. She acknowledged that “wood is never going to be huge” in the Panhandle. “Wood is maintenance,” she said. “You have to go into it understanding that.”

The fire pit business “continues to grow,” she said. Demand for resin wicker remains strong, as does sling furniture for use around the many seaside pools. Cast-aluminum furniture takes a back seat in her market. “Salt eats the paint off cast before it eats the paint off extruded” aluminum, she explained.

Also noteworthy: “We’re starting to see more requests for contemporary, even though we are more of a Southern porch market.”

Special orders account for as much as 70% of sales, Kiley said. She’s optimistic about the coming year. “We feel pretty good about ’17.”

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Colette Placeway
Placeway Pools, Spas and Patio
Plover, Wisconsin

Warmer temperatures helped Placeway Pools, Spas and Patio in Plover, Wisconsin, enjoy “a really good year.” Buyer Colette Placeway, however, didn’t have any numbers to share.

“When you have a nice summer,” she said, “everything is helped along.”

Dining sets by Telescope and Castelle proved popular, particularly Castelle’s tables with a Live Edge top. The cast-metal table tops mimic the look of a rough-hewn wooden table top with wood grain and an irregular edge. “Customers are looking for something unique and new,” she said. “It doesn’t look like every other table out there.”

Fire pits sold well for Placeway, as they apparently did everywhere. Customers chose crescent-shaped deep-seating and swivel rockers to place around their fires, often opting for MGP products by Telescope.

Plastic furniture in general performed well for the specialty merchant, which carries products by Seaside Casual. Placeway noted that, “Everyone loves the more modern Adirondack chairs and all those bright colors. You can mix and match frame and seat colors and design anything you’re looking for.”

Like most areas of the nation, customers are drawn to deep seating, whether in sofas, club chairs and love seats or in swivel rockers. The trend, Placeway said, “is moving toward cushion.”

Cantilever umbrellas by Treasure Garden did well. “Each year, the cantilever business increases,” Placeway said. “Cantilevers are becoming more and more popular.”

The special-order business was “a little on the low side this year” at Placeway Pools, Spas and Patio. She attributes that to the relatively short season in northern Wisconsin. Plover is just west of Green Bay.

Placeway buys in advance to keep her customers happy, as the season is short in Plover. “Stocking a lot of furniture is the best scenario for us,” she said.

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Travis Stark
Capital Patio & The Flame Shop
Lincoln, Nebraska

Literally, 2015 was a disaster for Capital Patio & The Flame Shop, in Lincoln, Nebraska. A fire that apparently started in an exterior sign caused extensive damage to the building and its contents in early May 2015.

The business entered 2016 with a new showroom, fresh inventory, and a lot of upgrades, said Travis Stark, manager.

“We had a great year with the furniture season,” Stark said.

In early November, he didn’t have numbers to compare 2016 to 2014 (the last full year before the fire). “I don’t know the financial side of it yet,” he said. “I just know that when my floor is cleared of patio furniture, I’ve done what I was supposed to do.”

The store has focused on American-made products in recent seasons. “We’ve really pulled back on anything imported,” he said. “I think that customers appreciate that more. There’s a sense of pride in products being made in the United States. It’s not always about price anymore; it’s about value and quality.”

Brands represented on the showroom floor include OW Lee, Homecrest, Berlin Gardens and Seaside Casual. The shop did some special-order business with Castelle and Lloyd Flanders. “I don’t do much with wicker anymore,” Stark said. “Maybe it’s because I don’t have it on the floor anymore.”

Deep seating performed well. “We had some big sales, and we hit the numbers we wanted to hit,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for 23 years, and it just amazes me what can be sold.”

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Susan Dovel
B & G Fireplace and Patio
Canton, Ohio

Spring was a bit damp, and summer was hotter than normal, but 2016 produced “a pretty good year in patio” for B & G Fireplace and Patio in Canton, Ohio. A strong clearance season gave Susan Dovel, Patio manager assurance that the year would end on a strong note and “slightly up over last year.

“We did well with your basic aluminum and sling,” said Dovel. Aluminum suppliers include Telescope, Gensun and Winston. Telescope’s MGP products “did very well,” she said.

The cast-aluminum category did very well in dining as well as seating. Gensun is the main supplier. The value and style meet the needs of her customers, Dovel said. “It’s quality, it’s traditional, and that’s Ohio.”

Sales of products by Windward Design Group seemed to be best with contract clients, she said. “Contract is not huge, but it’s a nice part of our business,” she said, “maybe 15 to 20 %.”

Overall, however, Dovel said “deep seating was not as strong” as in previous seasons. She wasn’t sure why.

On the other hand, she was pretty sure that Ohio’s heat wave prompted an uptick in umbrella sales, primarily with Treasure Garden products. Basic nine-ft. market umbrellas sold well, as did large, cantilevered umbrellas.

She estimated that an average casual furniture ticket ran about $3,500.

The shop will finish the year “slightly up” over 2015. She plans to follow a similar strategy in buying for 2017 and wants to develop her special-order business. The local economy, she said, appears to be holding steady.

Dovel expects sales to tick up again in 2017 and will be pleased if the store’s volume achieves a low double-digit increase of 10 to 12%.

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Sharon Pauza
Cardinal Pool and Outdoor
Champaign, Illinois

Sharon Pauza, whose family owns Cardinal Pool and Outdoor in Champaign, Illinois, raved about the season just ended.

“We had a very good year,” she said. “We had nice weather and our furniture lines are growing. Our numbers are up; I don’t know how much.”

Sales of plastic furniture by Berlin Gardens boomed for Cardinal Pool and Outdoor. Berlin Gardens’ products, Pauza said, “have such a great story. We have a lot of wind, and the weight is important for our customers.&rdquo

Summer heat led to higher volume in umbrella sales, though concern about high winds leads her to “steer people away from the big (cantilevered) monsters. I do best with the 10-ft. market umbrellas” from Treasure Garden, she said.

The shop is a longtime Tropitone dealer. “Tropitone’s in my blood,” Pauza said. Another dependable line is NorthCape. “We see an increase (in NorthCape wicker) in the spring and again in the fall. I know what I’m going to sell from year to year.”

Fire tables from Berlin Gardens and Summerbrook Outdoors do well in Champaign. “I’m finding more and more people wanting fire tables as the centerpiece of their back yard,” Pauza said.

Cardinal Pool and Outdoor shows fully outfitted Outdoor Rooms and outdoor kitchens. “Our customers drool over our display, but we’re not very successful in Outdoor Rooms yet,” she said. The shop is a dealer for Summerbrook Outdoors kitchens and rooms.

Pauza is optimistic about the prospects for the coming year. The positive trends led her to be “more excited about early-buys. I feel like we can only go up,” she said.

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Brett Freiberg
American Leisure Co.
Santa Cruz, California

American Leisure Co., in Santa Cruz, California, benefits from Silicon Valley’s sizzling economy, where demand keeps pushing up home prices. The median price of a home in nearby San Jose topped $1 million in August, said Brett Freiberg, company president. While that’s a staggering number, buyers at the upper end of the market usually can afford to furnish their homes in addition to paying the mortgage.

Downsizing often leads to sales of new patio furniture. One of Freiberg’s recent customers needed to purchase casual furniture after downsizing. The customer had moved from a $12 million home to a $6 million home.

Freiberg estimates his sales were up about 10 percent over 2015 levels.

American Leisure Patio does well with Tropitone, with approximately half of sales coming from the warehouse and the other half being special order. Products by Brown Jordan and OW Lee, conversely, are almost all special order. “We do a lot of large special orders with both companies,” Freiberg said, with tickets often in the $20,000 range. Ditto for sales of Gloster products.

Sales of cast aluminum are down, while sales of Treasure Garden umbrellas are “through the roof.” Freiberg has trained his staff to ask a simple question of furniture shoppers: Have you thought about shade?

American Leisure Patio’s shoppers prefer sling dining chairs and Tropitone’s Banchetto all-aluminum slat tables, plus alternative table tops such as porcelain tiles. “We still actually do some glass,” Freiberg said, adding that, “the stone look has really died down for us.”

Freiberg’s current love affair is with plastic furniture by Berlin Gardens. “I wouldn’t touch anybody else in the category,” he said. The company excels at communications, strictly enforces its Internet sales policy, and ships quickly, he said. “I literally order Berlin Gardens every week during the season.”

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Liz Brown
Howard Lorton Galleries
Denver, Colorado

No single category was a runaway hit for the patio department at Howard Lorton Galleries, a full-line furniture store in Denver. “We sold a little bit of everything, all over the board,” said Liz Brown, a designer who also works the retail side.

Brown worries that blocky, transitional resin wicker isn’t performing as well as it has in prior years. “We think it’s partly because a lot of companies have knocked off the looks and people are seeing the same look everywhere.”

Anacara’s Santa Fe and Mariner groups, which she called “more authentic looking,” did well. So did the more traditional groups from Lloyd Flanders.

Transitional looks in materials other than resin wicker, or in wicker combinations, garnered lots of consumer attention. The shop’s best-selling group was Jax by Woodard, a metal-frame, deep-seating collection that would look at home in a 1950s Mid-Century Modern house. “Everyone loves it,” she said.

Similarly, Brown Jordan’s Flight sling, another classically modern group, “was very strong.” The store has been a dealer for Brown Jordan and Woodard for half a century.

Woodard wrought iron remains popular in the windy Mile-High City. Jensen Leisure’s heavy ipé products, and woven, were strong sellers. Jensen sales rose 40 percent.

The store will show more contemporary groups from Castelle and Gloster next season in hopes of prompting more special orders. Gloster, Brown said, “appeals to a sophisticated high-end client,” many of whom have second homes in Aspen and other resort towns. “We feel like we need to show the contemporary as well as the more classic traditional,” she said.

Provence by Summer Classics is “a great seller for the classic home,” she said. Brown had a beef with Summer Classics’ deliveries this season. “Their delivery times kept dragging out,” she explained.

Brown plans to stock smaller-scaled bistro and patio sets for 2017 because of an uptick in high-rise construction. Smaller balconies and decks require furniture with a smaller footprint.

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David Jacobs
Jacobs Custom Living
Spokane, Washington

This was an interesting, quirky, and somewhat difficult year for Jacobs Custom Living, in Spokane, Washington. President David Jacobs said the company opened a second store in a different part of town that “presented us with a bunch of challenges we thought we were prepared for, but weren’t.”

The business encountered staffing problems, had to learn the preferences of customers in a different area, faced some weather issues (“we never really got hot”), and “there’s an election and all that stuff.”

Jacobs said the business will finish the year up maybe five percent, “not as much as I would have liked. Overall, I’m not completely unhappy.”

He’s encouraged about the future now that the second location is up and running and the initial growing pains are over. “It shows great promise,” Jacobs said.

OW Lee’s Monterra collection did well with customers with expansive spaces, as usual, while Homecrest’s Havenhill sling, with a smaller scale and “fantastic comfort worked well for people moving into condos.”

Sales of Jensen Leisure ipé and Kingsley-Bate teak were “almost non-existent,” which confounded Jacobs. “I don’t know why that is,” he said. “I normally do pretty well with teak. It’s just a weird year.”

Jacobs brought in Seaside Casual this year and TUUCI umbrellas. The resin furniture resulted in “some nice special orders” while the only sales of the high-end umbrellas were to commercial accounts.

Looking ahead, Jacobs said he was apprehensive about 2017. The election season makes consumers watch their spending even more than usual, he said.

Then Jacobs remembered that he’s starting to see “kids (i.e., younger adults) finally affording to buy houses” and that there’s a good bit of downsizing going on among older homeowners. They will all need new outdoor furniture.

Jacobs reconsidered his prospects for 2017. “I think we’ll be fine,” he said.

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Paula Dutton
Patio World
Bend, Oregon

Paula Dutton, buyer for Patio World in Bend, Oregon, made it clear that 2016 was great.

How did Patio World do it?

Sling, regular and padded, rebounded in sales after slipping for the past two seasons. “I was pleasantly surprised,” Dutton said. “It’s the heart and soul of Tropitone.”

Deep seating (OW Lee is the top-selling line) outsold dining, though big dining tables sold well, including OW Lee’s massive expanding table.

It was Patio World’s first year with Gloster; they sold several large tables from the Split range. “We were pleasantly surprised that we had such a strong reaction,” she said. The store had ordered a porcelain-top table to show, but it was back ordered. The teak-top substitute from Gloster proved to be a winner anyway.

Castelle’s Live Edge table “wasn’t awesome,” she said.

Fire pits continued to sell briskly. Dutton calls models by OW Lee “our bread-and-butter fire pit.” For 2017, the shop will add Brown Jordan Fires. Consumers can choose between natural gas, propane, and ethanol models that may be used indoors. “I think that’s going to be a home run,” Dutton said.

Dutton is enthusiastic about the prospects for 2017. She bought “more clean lines,” alternately calling it “more contemporary” before correcting herself. “I would classify it as transitional,” she said. “I don’t show a lot of scroll-frilly.”

Patio World’s special order business accounts for 80% of sales, and Dutton’s strategy is to build on that.

“Fire pits will still be outstanding” next year, she said. “I think we’ll continue to sell more sling, and more woven because we’re changing the way we’re showing it. And teak. And Gloster’s Grid. I’m predicting that our more contemporary deep-seating groups will do well.”

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Not a Restaurant!

By Lisa Readie Mayer

In Indianapolis, Chef JJ straddles the worlds of hospitality and retail sales, and he’s doing very well in both arenas.

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2016 October Business Climate

In early November Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, barbecue and patio products, asking them to compare October 2016 sales to October 2015. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 182 useable returns.

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Parting Shot: Shock & Awe

In “The Godfather Part II,” Michael Corleone meets Apollonia Vitelli and it’s love at first sight. His Sicilian bodyguards call it being struck by “The Thunderbolt.” We felt similarly, but for a different reason, upon first encountering the incredible work of sculptress Malgorzata Chodakowska.

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