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Hearth & Home April 2015

2015 February Business Climate

February Retail Sales

In early March, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, barbecue and patio products, asking them to compare February 2015 sales to February 2014. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 215 useable returns.

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Weather Report

Consumer Confidence

Stock Watch

The hearth industry continues on its positive streak, with 43 percent of specialty retailers posting greater sales this February than last.

February 2014 Through February 2015

February sales for the barbecue, patio and spa industries were basically flat compared to the prior year. The hearth industry was up, but by only two percent.

Retailer Comments


Connecticut: (Hearth) “The long, cold winter is extending our typically slower season. Hate the cold, but love the sales. We will take it.”

Delaware: (Patio, BBQ) “Extreme cold and snow.”

Maine: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Home renovation and alternative heating demand lead in this deep winter month. LP product continues to top others in sales.”

Massachusetts: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Snow sucks. I love New England, but even I have had enough. Low oil prices and record snow means slow customer traffic. Still can’t get pellets. Can’t wait until snow is gone – maintenance, early-buy and new construction. Some income tax refunds.”

Massachusetts: (Hearth, BBQ) “Stop snowing! We closed for five days and it should have been 10. Nobody is shopping.”

Massachusetts: (Hearth) “February was the worst month we had in a long while. The eight-plus feet of snow really took its toll on us. We lost weeks’ worth of business because of the excessive snow. Hopefully it will pick up in the spring.”

New Hampshire: (Patio, BBQ, Spas) “February numbers are pretty meaningless. We were closed 17 percent of the month because of snow.”

New Jersey: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “All is well, let’s hope it continues through March.”

New Jersey: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Snow gone. Think barbecue.”

New York: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “February was a bad month for business in the Northeast due to the weather! SNOW, SNOW, SNOW.”

New York: (Hearth) “Brutal cold seemed to slow traffic. Lack of pellets will affect unit sales big time this year.”

New York: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “Hearth sales dropped hard for the first time all season. The long winter is taking its toll. The pellet situation isn’t better, but we haven’t run out, yet. Curran Pellets has been there for us all winter! Dry Creek hasn’t let us down either.”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth) “Oil and gas prices are down and pellets are impossible to keep. Let the stove and pellet fuel manufacturers beware. A price increase on fuel and stoves will write your epitaph!”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “We have seen people looking at changing heating appliances from either larger models or different fuel types. We have sold four coal stoves in February and they replaced pellet stoves because of the lack of pellet fuel availability. People are running out of cordwood and wood pellets due to the cold winter. We are surprised in the interest and sales of pellet stoves when fuel is so hard to get.”

Vermont: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Floor traffic continues to be strong. Manufacturers willing to promote mid-winter sales are having success as well as those offering early-buy discounts to aid with the sale.”

Weather Report

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

There’s a swatch of five states running down the center of the country – North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Texas – where the temperature was normal in February. The rest of the country was flirting with extremes. In the West, records were set for the warmest February since recording began in 1895 in Washington, California, Arizona and Utah; in the East, eight states just missed setting the record for the coldest February.

For the three-month period from December 2014 through February 2015, five Western states set a record for warmth; six other Western states posted Much Above Average temperatures. The rest of the country had fairly mild temperatures.

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Alabama: (Patio) “February ice and snow does not mix well with sales.”

Arkansas: (Hearth) “Excellent retail month for wood stoves and inserts. 2015 looks great so far.”

Georgia: (Hearth) “New home construction on the rise.”

Kentucky: (Hearth, BBQ) “February sales were seriously affected by weather. We basically lost a third of the month due to ice and snow storms.”

Louisiana: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Unusual cold and wet weather in addition to Mardi Gras in the middle of the month caused sales to plummet.”

Oklahoma: (Hearth) “Too late in winter; too close to spring. Let the roller coaster ride begin!”

Tennessee: (Hearth) “With bad weather sales were much better. If infrared gas heaters were more available, we could have been up another two percent.”

Tennessee: (Hearth, BBQ) “February 2015 was OK except for the week of the 16th. We had ice with snow on top of it and it KILLED business for the entire week, which makes the totals for the month look very bad.”

Texas: (Hearth, BBQ) “An epiphany – local distributors are much better than buying direct. Direct-buying companies have no appreciation for the money you spend with them.”

Virginia: (Hearth, BBQ) “Very busy month thanks to Mother Nature. It’s about time the DC area had a cold and snowy winter.”


Michigan: (Hearth, Spas) “Spring has finally sprung and stove sales are flat, to say the least. Can’t complain however, because 2013/2014 has been an amazing run.”

Minnesota: (Hearth) “New orders were up 13 percent January-February combined, but we only count them as sales when they are delivered and/or installed and that was only up three percent.” Missouri: (Spas) “This was our slowest February ever. Been in business 33 years.”

Ohio: (Hearth, BBQ) “We are keeping pace with last year’s record high first quarter. Gas hearth products, especially in remodeling, are very strong. Very encouraging since the margins in grills keep getting lower.”

Nebraska: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “February was a painfully cold month in the Midwest. We missed the snow, and the cold weather kept people in for the most part. We were in four home shows and got a boost.”

Wisconsin: (Hearth) “Sales down from 2014 but still strong for typical year. It’s hard to keep up with the sales phenomenon of 2014.”

Wisconsin: (Hearth, BBQ) “For us it was a very mild winter. Sales are up seven percent with new construction or remodeling still happening.” Wisconsin: (Hearth, BBQ) “Middle of winter in Wisconsin. New housing up, lots of building being done. Past 24 months were the best I’ve ever seen in 25 years in the hearth industry. We’re now seeing some shortages and back-orders in units and components. Wood and gas are moving. Pellets are flat. LP is $1.42 not $6.50 a gallon as last year. Hope it continues.”

Consumer Confidence

The Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index, which had increased in January, declined in February. The Index now stands at 96.4 (1985=100), down from 103.8 in January.

According to Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board: “After a large gain in January, consumer confidence retreated in February, but still remains at pre-recession levels (September 2007, Index, 99.5). Despite this month’s decline, consumers remain confident that the economy will continue to expand at the current pace in the months ahead.”

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) “Where did winter go this year? It’s too early for spring.”

California: (Hearth, BBQ) “There was no cold weather in February of 2014. This year February had colder weather and some rain. Sales were up, but should have seen more of an increase.”

California: (Hearth) “Sales are down, but quotes are way up. They may be planning on tax refunds to make the purchase.”

Colorado: (Hearth, BBQ) “January was slow, but February picked up and we are surprisingly busy. We had lots of snow and cold in January and early February. Cold helps a lot, but snow doesn’t. Keeps us off roofs and customers off the roads.”

Hawaii: (Patio) “Slowest February ever and pretty close to our worst month in 15 years. After a solid start in January, customers just stopped shopping, and it doesn’t even snow here!”

Oregon: (Hearth) “Big problems still in southern Oregon. Housing slow to pick up and Box stores still discounting.” Washington: (Hearth) “February 2014 was up 340 percent over 2013, mostly due to a very cold February 2014. A very warm February 2015 has us down 35 percent over the record year 2014.”


Alberta: (Hearth, BBQ) “Even though traffic was down for the months of January and February, what we did have was very positive; customers still wanted to purchase a mid- to upper-end fireplace. It was up to me and our reps to make sure we met their needs, wants and desires. In return they purchased their fireplace from us.”

Alberta: (Hearth) “Average February but a bit of a let-down from last year’s great numbers. We’re dealing with a real start-stop economy; it never really gets purring on a continual basis.”

British Columbia: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “We have been hit hard with a large decline of purchases in December, January and February. However, our summer in 2014 was actually up by 10 percent. I hope it’s just temporary due to our exchange rate and the political uncertainty in the world, including the price drop in oil.”

British Columbia: (Patio, BBQ) “Sorry to the rest of the North American continent, but here in Greater Vancouver the phenomenal early spring had us hopping from sale to sale. We were happy that we booked barbecues in large quantity to get the discounts and the stock early in the season. February 2015 was more than double the sales of the best February ever.”

New Brunswick: (Hearth, BBQ) “Still getting better than average showroom traffic. Doing more estimates than last year at this time. Cold weather and snow in the forecast.”

Ontario: (BBQ) “February was one of the coldest on record. Good for the hearth dealers. Not so good for barbecue dealers. Can’t wait for spring to come.”

Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “December was still great. It was not until the big pellet fuel screw-up struck in mid-January that it really hit the fan. We sell just solid fuel and, with the fuel stupidity, 65 percent of our pellet stove sales went flat-line. Why is it that, whenever pellet stoves are about to have a great year, something screws up! Why can’t fuel suppliers get their #$%^$# together and realize that if X number of stoves are in the marketplace, Y amount of fuel should stay on this side of the pond? “Someone should put me in charge of fuel logistics before we lose this industry once and for all in North America. Or maybe the problem is there are only a few of us who think of pellet appliances/fuel/service as an industry and everybody else thinks of a quick buck. What’s up with Harman discontinuing the HVAC side of the business? The obvious next step missed?”

Stock Watch

    High Low 30-Jan-15 27-Feb-15 4 Week 26 Week 52 Week ($000,000)
HNI Corporation (a) HNI 53.65 31.61 49.25 51.00 3.6% 34.5% 43.5% $2,260.0
Pool Corporation (b) POOL 70.69 51.61 62.21 69.17 11.2% 22.3% 18.3% $3,020.0
Rentech (b)(e) RTK 2.70 1.03 1.20 1.37 14.2% NA NA $313.0
Restoration Hardware Holdings (a) RH 100.66 59.31 87.53 88.10 0.7% 5.0% 30.1% $3,490.0
Wayfair, Inc. (a)(c) W 39.43 16.74 19.56 23.35 19.4% NA NA $1,940.0

(a) = New York Stock Exchange
(b) = NASDAQ
(c) = Wayfair, Inc. 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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