Outdoors Hits Furniture Stores in Hotlanta
By Jessica Goldbogen Harlan
With sunny skies and 80 degree temperatures, it's beginning to seem a lot like summer in Atlanta--and two furniture store outlets here have taken advantage of the mini heat wave by promoting their outdoor furniture selections. Macy's Furniture Gallery, a returnee to the casual furniture category, and Room & Board, a high-end furniture chain with 12 locations across the country, both played up their patio furniture with prominently situated vignettes and a wide variety of offerings to suit every taste.
As previously reported in HFN, last spring Macy's reintroduced outdoor furniture after a 20-plus-year hiatus, showcasing the products in 20 East Coast stores, and this year has expanded its outdoor furniture collection into more retail locations, including two in Atlanta.
On a recent visit to the Macy's Furniture Gallery at Perimeter Mall, patio dining settings greeted shoppers at both outside entrances to the store. In the vestibule of one, an aluminum dining set with navy sling fabric was merchandised with a tall vase, wine glasses and a bottle of wine, along with a poster-sized sign pronouncing, "Introducing Outdoor Furniture," and details on an ongoing 10 percent off sale on outdoor furniture. Another enticement to purchase was a bonus umbrella included with the purchase of many dining sets.
More outdoor dining sets were arranged throughout the Macy's showroom, while a section of the store was entirely devoted to the casual furniture category with more dining sets as well as deep seating selections. This area was painted with cool green walls onto which were painted graphic arrangements of words like "Outdoor," "Garden" and "Relax." Large potted trees and plants and slowly spinning ceiling fans reinforced the sensation of being outside, while vignettes were merchandised with vases or planters, serving pieces and wine glasses and bottles. Throughout, poster-sized point-of-sale materials with a photo of furniture beside a swimming pool called attention to the product selection and to the 10 percent off sale.
The retailer made it easy to shop even without a salesperson's aid; each collection had a brochure listing product features, measurements, construction details and other pieces available in the collection, while point of sale materials also included information about Macy's outdoor furniture protection plan, a flyer about the qualities of Sunbrella fabrics, and a pamphlet that included general tips and information about shopping for patio and outdoor furniture.
The selection of outdoor dining sets was mainly aluminum frames with sling or cushion upholstery, with options in a variety of styles. For instance, the South Beach seven-piece dining set ($1,249) was made of white aluminum with gray sling seats and had an angular contemporary look. Meanwhile, the Captiva had a more transitional look, with a wavy curve to the seat backs, an antiqued finish and nubby brown sling seats.
In some collections cast aluminum took the form of a wrought-iron look, as in the case with the Belmont dining set ($2,749 for a seven-piece set), which had crisscrossed seat backs and curvy detailing. In addition to the dining set, additional pieces included an ornately embellished serving cart, a cushioned chaise with wheels and a swivel rocker chair.
There was only one teak collection on the floor, called Bristol. A nine-piece set was priced at $2,999 and included an extension table and eight chairs, plus a bonus umbrella. The line was made by ScanCom, and a chaise lounge and a side table were also available.
While the emphasis was clearly on dining, there was a handful of seating collections on display. Brentwood was made of aluminum with a wood-look finish and Sunbrella cushions. A six-piece set of two lounge chairs, a sofa, a table and two ottomans was $1,699. And the Riviera collection was made of brown outdoor wicker and bright green Sunbrella fabric cushions. A 4-piece sectional with ottoman was $3,399.
For most of the collections, the manufacturer wasn't identified, or the tag simply said, "Exclusive to Macy's," but some of the manufacturers represented included Agio, Scancom and Casa Casual.
Meanwhile, the visual merchandising team at Room & Board wisely chose to locate its outdoor furniture where it makes the most sense: outside. Customers approaching the store's entrance are greeted by a sofa and lounge chair from the Cruz collection of powder-coated steel. The sofa and chair were $49 and $299 respectively, while wood and stainless chairs and a small round table were also just outside the entrance to the store.
The remainder of the retailer's outdoor furniture was located on the patio that runs along the back of the store. The patio, which is accessible from the outdoor walkway that leads to other shops and restaurants in Atlanta's trendy Westside Provisions District, gave passers-by a prominent view of the furniture even if they weren't actually shopping in the store. Unlike Macy's and other local stores selling outdoor furniture, such as Crate & Barrel, Room & Board was not holding a sale or any sort of promotional event for its outdoor furniture offerings.
As with Macy's, bright green was a dominant accent color in Room & Board's selection; a green Sunbrella fabric umbrella ($199) shaded a graphite-colored steel chaise from the Cruz collection ($449). And the Emmet collection of recycled polyethylene furniture was also bright green. Displayed were a sofa ($649), a chair and an ottoman.
A taupe seating collection called Laguna included a 70-inch sofa ($899), a lounge chair ($599) and an ottoman ($399) in a sleek, molded shape. And the Montego collection was made of steel and ipe wood, a durable, heavyweight wood ideal for outdoor use. While the Montego sofa itself was $1,699, Sunbrella canvas cushions were sold separately for $550. A chaise, chair and occasional tables rounded out the Montego collection's assortment on display.
Room & Board's dining sets and occasional tables were merchandised with planters or other decorative accessories, and while the manufacturers weren't identified, the tag of each piece listed its state of origin, in keeping with Room & Board's mission of only carrying products made in the United States.