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Hearth & Home May 2020

2020 March Business Climate

March Sales

In early April Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare March 2020 sales to March 2019. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 220 useable returns.

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Weather Report

Consumer Confidence

Stock Watch


March 2020 vs. March 2019

The year was shaping up quite nicely, until the second or third week of March when it became clear that the coronavirus was heading our way; then traffic and sales dried up. In March, 62% of Hearth retailers were Down; 60% of Spa retailers were Down; 50% of Patio retailers were Down, and 40% of Barbecue retailers were Down.

March 2020 vs. March 2019

In March, sales of Patio products were Down -28%, Hearth products were Down -26%, Spas were Down -23%, and Barbecue products were Down -15%.

Retailer Comments


Connecticut: (Hearth) “Due to all non-essential business being closed, it is affecting all aspects of our hearth sales at this time – no sales!”

Connecticut: (Hearth) “Started off 2020 with sales up 20% until March. Expect sales to be below last year, but fair for the rest of the summer. Doing new construction only, not going into inhabited homes until this is over.”

Maine: (Hearth) “Coronavirus shut down!”

Massachusetts: (Hearth) “We have been shut down by the government of Massachusetts.”

New Jersey: (Hearth, BBQ) “Showrooms closed as of March 1, 2020.”

New York: (Patio) “Closed for patio sales.”

New York: (Hearth) “Coronavirus stinks and it has affected our business drastically!”

New York: (Hearth, Spas) “Even though the COVID-19 virus is very rare in our rural county, the governor has blanketed our state with a pause order, rendering us 100% unable to do business until May 4 at the time of this writing. I’m finding the financing options available through the SBA and other agencies are confusing. And they all come with a catch. I expect that many of our comrades in this industry aren’t going to make it.

“It’s sad to note that the public panic is nothing like I’ve ever seen. Media has done a fine job of sensationalizing this virus. I’ve lived through the assassination of President Kennedy, sent friends off to the Vietnam War, the Iran Hostage crisis, SARS, 9-11, the Gulf War, Swine flu, the Cold War, all that. But I don’t remember this level of sheer panic and anxiety (and I’m old as dirt). This will pass, friends. Stop worrying!”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “We were one of the companies ordered to close by our governor. We filed for a waiver to at least work on exterior chimney repairs. Unfortunately, we were denied and must remain closed.

“On the bright side, fortunately, we have 52 jobs to schedule as soon as we get the green light to reopen. March ended with a better than expected result.”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Business has been great so far this year in January, February and early March. That all changed in the middle of March when we were forced by the state government to almost completely shut down because of COVID-19. Hopefully we can make it through this and get back to work as soon as possible.”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Virus – warm weather – low oil prices – Pennsylvania shutdown, and no new construction allowed in Pennsylvania. Plus add the May 15 EPA Step 2 requirement to sell all leftover Step 1 stoves. What else can you say?”

Weather Report

For the following weather charts, the numbers for each state reflects the temperature and percipitation rankings for the period since records began in 1895.

In March, 23 states recorded Much Above Average temperatures, while one state, Florida, had its Record Warmest March. Nationwide, it was the 10th warmest March since 1895.

For the three-month period of January – March, both North Carolina and Florida set Record Warmest temperatures. For the U.S., it was the eighth warmest first quarter in 126 years.

While two states – North Dakota and Florida – experienced Much Below Average Precipitation, seven states – Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Tennessee – were at Much Above Average.

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Arkansas: (Hearth) “Between a very wet month and the virus, it was not a very good retail month. Floor traffic came to a halt and the phones went silent as expected. April will probably be worse but we will still be open for business and will appreciate every dollar sold. Tough times in America.”

Florida: (Hearth) “Good year until the plague. Doors still open but foot traffic way down. Builder business down but not out.”

North Carolina: (Hearth, BBQ) “Things were going pretty well up to halfway through March and the bottom fell out. I can see April sales going down 95% with the virus issues.”

North Carolina: (Hearth) “Impossible to sell showroom 2015 wood stoves when no one is visiting the showroom.”

North Carolina: (Patio) “The only sunny side to March’s numbers is comparing them to what’s coming in April. Hang in there everybody.”

Oklahoma: (Hearth) “Business has come to a standstill.”

Texas: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “March 31 is our fiscal year. We were at record going into March so even coronavirus could not spoil it. I have a feeling the three-year run of records is over! Unless it’s record lows!

“Even during this time with the front locked we have sales. Many homes and commercial places are started and we must finish. We had a record number of units (fireplaces, grills, stoves) with yellow tags (sold). These were half to fully paid for. One thing the shelter-in-place did was trigger people to pick up the paid-for units. Guess they thought we might cash out! The silver lining!”

Texas: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Feeling thankful that everyone on our team is healthy.”

Virginia: (Hearth, BBQ) “We don’t expect to see much again until this pandemic has run its course. Wishing everyone health and peace.”


Illinois: (BBQ) “Have sold a few more grills than usual as people are staying home.”

Illinois: (Patio) “We have been closed for three weeks.”

Indiana: (Hearth) “COVID-19 in March. We had the best January in 40 years and the best February in 40 years. Hello March...”

Iowa: (Hearth, BBQ) “These numbers are not affected by COVID-19. Sales were extremely robust last year during the first quarter.”

Iowa: (Hearth, BBQ) “I just filed for temporary unemployment due to the non-essential business shutdown, so there’s that. April figures will be interesting.”

Michigan: (Hearth) “Temporarily closed as of March 24. This is to comply with the State of Michigan and Federal guidelines and Stay Home Stay Safe.”

Michigan: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “We were forced to close in March due to the governor’s executive order. We were super slow before being forced to close due to COVID-19 outbreak.”

Missouri: (Hearth, BBQ) “Sales were surprisingly strong the last two weeks of March. The uncertainty of the economy due to COVID-19 kept the early part of the month slower than normal, but as soon as people started working from home and hearing that employers were going to keep paying them, we noticed the phones ringing more and people getting to projects we have put off. Now that I have time to deal with it.

“Roughly two-thirds of our business came in the last two weeks of the month. I anticipate that April will be a down month as our local city government has put several restrictions on construction this past weekend.”

Wisconsin: (Patio) “Just when the season was about to start, we got hit with the COVID-19 pandemic. Our store was forced to temporarily close. We are hopeful we can get back on track eventually! We know everyone is in a similar boat.”

Wisconsin: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Well! What can I say that isn’t already broadcast over every radio and TV station out there? Quarantine! No traffic, no sales, dead air! Working on existing jobs prior to shutdowns. April will be a very bad month! Praying for May to rebound.”

Consumer Confidence

The Consumer Confidence Index declined sharply in March, following an increase in February. The Index now stands at 120.0 (1985=100), down from 132.6 in February. The Present Situation Index – based on consumers’ assessment of current business and labor market conditions – decreased from 169.3 to 167.7. The Expectations Index – based on consumers’ short-term outlook for income, business and labor market conditions – declined from 108.1 last month to 88.2 this month.

“Consumer confidence declined sharply in March due to a deterioration in the short-term outlook,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “The Present Situation Index remained relatively strong, reflective of an economy that was on solid footing, and prior to the recent surge in unemployment claims.

“However, the intensification of COVID-19 and extreme volatility in the financial markets have increased uncertainty about the outlook for the economy and jobs. March’s decline in confidence is more in line with a severe contraction – rather than a temporary shock – and further declines are sure to follow.”

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.

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California: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “2019 was a very tough winter due to record breaking snowfall, so 2019 sales were off from 2018 significantly. 2020 winter has been very light and we were on pace to shatter all sales records for fiscal year 2020 (June 30). Now we are going to ride that wave through this current crisis!”

California: (Hearth, BBQ) “New home building still going strong.”

California: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “With the scare of the COVID-19 virus things are not good. Our business has been closed since March 19.”

Montana: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “Most of our business is new construction at this time as it is deemed essential by federal and state governments.”

Oregon: (Hearth) “With the COVID-19 restrictions, we have seen a significant decrease in foot traffic in our store. Installations have been postponed from March with some customers wanting to wait until the end of April beginning of May.”

Oregon: (Hearth) “With the coronavirus, activity for stoves and inserts is nearly zero. People are coming in for parts, but hardly anyone looking for stoves, or other appliances.”

Washington: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “Over last two weeks traffic in our store has slowed. April outlook looks grim!”


British Columbia: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Sales were strong until March 14 – then nothing except cash and carry items – ethanol fuel, barbecue charcoal.”

British Columbia: (Hearth) “Hearth sales are minimal, except venting. Fuel sales are slightly down.”

New Brunswick: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Closure of our showroom was due to COVID-19. We are still working with 60% less staff via website, phone, and other social media.”

Ontario: (Hearth) “Big Box stores and Wayfair continue to affect the brick-and-mortar hearth stores. They continue to sell the least expensive fireplace they can get, and have absolutely nothing in place to honor a warranty. Along with local heating contractors selling and installing the cheapest box they can get from their supplier, it all adds up to fewer sales for the specialty hearth retailer.”

Ontario: (Hearth) “Customers who are housebound due to the pandemic are making home improvement decisions, and working online to make arrangements with us to get started once things return to normal.”

Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “March started reasonably, then came the coronavirus. It’s not the first time something named corona shut us down for a week. This should sort out the gamblers from the businessmen. Stay safe and we’ll see you in July, with a little luck and good management.

“P.S. Don’t forget to do your booking orders, ha.”

To read more comments from retailers, click here.

Stock Watch

    High Low 28-FEB-20 27-MAR-20 4 WEEK 26 WEEK 52 WEEK ($000,000)
Standard & Poor’s 500 (a) S & P 3,386.15 2,237.40 2,954.22 2,541.47 -14.0% -14.2% -10.3%  
HNI Corporation (b) HNI 42.90 16.61 32.83 25.07 -23.6% -29.2% -30.9% $1,060.00
Pool Corporation (c) POOL 238.23 159.71 210.96 186.98 -11.4% -6.3% 13.3% $7,980.00
Restoration Hardware (b) RH 256.27 73.14 181.40 110.93 -38,8% -35.2% 7.8% $2,240.00
Wayfair, Inc. (b) W 166.40 21.70 63.21 46.30 -26.8% -59.4% -68.8% $4,900.00


(a) = Standard & Poor’s 500 is based on the market capitalizations of 500 large companies having common stock listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ. It is considered one of the best representations of the U.S. stock market, and a bellwether for the U.S. economy.
(b) = New York Stock Exchange
(c) = NASDAQ

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