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Hearth & Home March 2014

Richard Wright
Hearth & Home Magazine

Great Sales, But Why?

Generally speaking, it was the final two quarters that made the past year for those in the hearth industry. But when the market took off at the beginning of September, it roared. In an instant, it seemed, a large body of consumers decided it was time to purchase a hearth product.

And purchase they did; many retailers remained backlogged through the month of January and beyond.

What caused such a rush to hearth shops? What was the trigger, or triggers?

The price of fuel oil was high, but we’re all used to that by now and there was no panic.

The price of natural gas was low, and the general consensus is that it will remain low for some time.

When the market took off at the beginning of September, weather wasn’t a factor at that point. Consumers had no idea of the frigid cold that awaited many areas of the country as we turned the page into 2014.

Perhaps it was Consumer Confidence, that very important measure of how comfortable the nation’s shoppers are feeling about parting with their money?

Sorry. A measure of 90 on the Consumer Confidence Index indicates that consumers feel the economy is on solid footing. In September it actually plummeted a couple of points, down to 79.7 from 81.8 in August.

Could it have been just a general sense that the economy was gaining strength, that the housing market had shed most of its illness, and even new construction and home values were irrevocably on their way back?

Yep. That must be it, along with a release of some pent-up demand. After five-and-half years of being hesitant to spring for major purchases, such as a hearth product, there’s now enough positive vibes in the media to provide the encouragement needed to loosen wallets and purses.

Let’s hope that pent-up demand is like the water behind the Hoover Dam – plentiful and anxious to be set free.  

Store Design

The importance of store design to the success of a retail business just cannot be overstated. Many retailers already understand that – many more do not. In an article entitled “Store Design: A Master Class,” we interview the two people with direct responsibility for making the Summer Classics retail store in Pelham, Alabama, such a standout.

Of course, their other company stores meet that same high standard, but Pelham is where the company’s annual Garden Party takes place, and thus many more industry people have a chance to see store design done right.

Part of good store design is understanding how to accessorize properly. We asked designer Dykes Culp where he finds such beautiful and unique accessory items to put in his store. Here are the showrooms he shops, and they’re all at the AmericasMart in Atlanta.

Allstate Floral, Avenue B, Cyan Design, Creative Co-Op, Emissary, Global Views, Go Home, Guildmaster, HomeArt, Imax, Kalalou, Lazy Susan, LeftbankArt, Regina Andrew, Shadow Catchers, Three Hands, Urban Trends, Uttermost.

Still Time for Expo

After a very good year in 2013, you’ve most likely got money in the till. Be aware that it’s not too late to head for Salt Lake City. The HPBExpo goes from March 6-8. Do yourself, and your business, a favor. Be there.

More Stories in this Issue

Meet Loretta Dolan

By Richard Wright

HPBA’s new chairman is smart, opinionated and willing to fight for what she believes; she thinks retailers in the association have been underserved and wants to rectify that situation.

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Fireside Chats

By Richard Wright

Manufacturers that we interviewed this year all posted strong growth numbers of 15 to 20 percent, and perhaps a bit beyond. They did that while key indicators such as new home starts and sales, remodeling activity and consumer confidence were still far from what they were back in 2008.

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The First Cookout

By Scientific American, September 2013;
Interview By Kate Wong

Nearly two million years ago our ancestors began to barbecue. And those hot meals, Richard Wrangham argues, are what made us human.

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Focusing on Fabric

By Tom Lassiter

If fabrics aren’t front and center in your store, and on the lips of your salespeople, then you’re leaving money on the table.

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Hearth Reps: A Report Card Part 2

By Richard Wright

Being a hearth products rep differs dramatically from selling either patio or barbecue products. The product itself is far more complex, and subject to local and national codes and regulations that change somewhat regularly.

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Store Design: A Master Class

By Richard Wright

To find perfection in patio store design, head for Alabama in August, visit the Summer Classics store in Pelham, then return home and use what you’ve learned.

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Food for Thought

By Richard Wright

Hearth & Home talks with barbecue folks about the past year, the coming year and trends they have noticed.

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2014 January Business Climate

In early February, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,135 specialty retailers of hearth, barbecue and patio products, asking them to compare January 2014 sales to January 2013. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 203 useable returns.

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