Indoor resources venturing into the great outdoors
For some indoor furniture resources, outdoor has become the next big area of opportunity, representing a chance to sell retailers a category that consumers are flocking toward as they do more entertaining in their outdoor living spaces.
Thus, they have stepped up their product development efforts to include outdoor seating groups, as well as dining and occasional. These and other outdoor products now occupy a space in their showrooms, in some cases complementing their mix of designs across multiple product segments.
Steve Silver Company, for example, made a splash with its new outdoor segment earlier this year at the Las Vegas Market in January, showcasing seating, dining and occasional groups at the front of its World Market Center showroom. Today, it has four seating sets, one dining set, some accent seating and several companion occasional groups. The occasional groups tie in with outdoor seating groups that include sofas and sectionals.
“It is still early, but so far we have had a really good response, and the retailers that have it also have gotten a good response to our styles and price points,” said Luke Silver, president, noting that company added the category to provide dealers another reason to shop the line, as it did by expanding into other segments, such as upholstery.
“We are always trying to take that next step and trying to become a one-stop shop for our customers,” he says.
The strategy is similar to that of other companies that have gotten into the category — from Ashley and Lifestyle Enterprise to Bernhardt and Eichholtz, all of which have added the category to their product mixes. Others also have gotten into outdoor through acquisitions, such as Hooker Furnishing’s purchase of Sunset West earlier this year.
Eichholtz added the category with a soft launch in April. It now offers four collections featuring both seating and dining that fall within its upper-end price points, with sofas retailing around $5,000 and dining tables retailing around $3,500.
“We are in outdoor furniture now and have found it to be very, very good,” said Dallas George, managing director for the United States, told Home News Now. “People have moved up in price point when it comes to outdoor. They spend more in outdoor than their own interiors.”
As with its indoor line, the company plans to stock its outdoor products in its warehouse in Greensboro, North Carolina, making them available to retailers and designers who want to buy and sell the line year round.
“The only challenge is that our designer and retailer base is asking, ‘Can you give us even more,’” George said.
“Our styling is our styling, so we are not chasing anybody,” he said, adding that hallmarks of the line range from aluminum frames on dining tables and deep seating on its upholstery. “It is luxurious in terms of its simplicity and styling and substance,” he says.
Chris Pittman, group vice president of Powell and Linon, said the company first got into outdoor furniture several years ago, starting with Adirondack chairs in different finishes.
“We noticed how well they did,” he said. “It seems like that part of the industry has taken off in the last few years.”
The company then offered tables and ottomans to match, then expanded to more seating profiles.
“We saw the growth potential and, especially in the last two years, that is where we have taken off. With Covid and the e-commerce boom, it became a no-brainer,” he said, noting that demand also has been strong at brick-and-mortar retailers nationwide. “I have noticed everyone from small mom and pops to top 100s getting into this category full force. It seems like everyone is wanting to move outdoors whether you are in the North or the South. … It is shipping around the country.”
The company now offers several outdoor seating groups of chairs and sofas, plus companion cocktail tables and ottomans. Altogether, the company offers more than 100 outdoor SKUs, which are shipped from Vietnam and Indonesia, both container direct and to its warehouses in California and North Carolina.
“We are making a name for ourselves in the outdoor category,” Pittman said. “Now that we have our name out in this category, I am seeing some outdoor-only dealers coming in and asking for this.”
Still, sourcing outdoor lines from overseas has presented many of the same challenges as importers have seen with indoor furniture, particularly during and following the Covid-related shutdowns in parts of Asia last summer: limited availability on many components, limited availability of containers and high shipping costs.
Carl Lovett, national sales manager at Sunpan, said that since launching the category in October 2020, the company’s offerings have grown to seven seating groups and nine dining groups.
And while the company has shipped products to some designers and also placed it on some retail floors, managing the flowing the goods has been a challenge.
“We have been getting some product, but it has been piecemeal,” he said. “It is still difficult to get. Factories have massive backlogs they are trying to fill and they can only make so much of it, so there is a capacity issue there.”
He suggested that dealers that want to have outdoor available in 2023 place their orders a year in advance.
Universal Furniture also launched its outdoor line in October 2020 as part of the licensed Coastal Living line. Today, the line includes 100 pieces of seating, dining and occasional furniture in a wide mix of materials, from teak to wicker to cast concrete. It also offers some 25 special order fabrics for upholstery and dining chairs.
Sofas in the line retail from $2,795 to $3,995 while lounge chairs retail from $1,295 to $1,995. Dining tables retail from $1,395 to $1,995 and dining chairs retail from $695 to $795.
While response from dealers and designers has been positive, flowing the goods from Vietnam and Indonesia has been a challenge for the company, too.
“The hardest thing has been supply chain and getting things off the ground,” said Neil MacKenzie, vice president of marketing. “There are a lot of moving parts as it relates to where those goods are coming from in Indonesia. A few pieces come from Vietnam, but most of it is from Indonesia.”
The good news is that the supply chain appears to be clearing and Universal sees outdoor as an area of growth both among its existing customer base — brick-and-mortar retailers and designers — and at specialty retailers.
“The category is significant and that is why we wanted to be part of it,” MacKenzie said.
Lovett of Sunpan said that while it could be a little early to say given the supply chain challenges, he expects outdoor to become an important part of the company’s business.
“I would say that between now and the next three years, it should be 20%,” he said. “If we can just get the product.”