By Duke Ratliff
While brick-and-mortar stores throughout most of the country pull back on their casual furniture offerings for fall, Internet-based merchants continue to devote lots of cyberspace to the outdoors—even during the offseason.
Not surprisingly, e-tailers pack their sites with items that reflect the overall casual furniture trend to bring the indoors to the outdoors. Collections with various seating opportunities vie for space with more traditional dining sets.
The e-tailers, though, have an advantage over their storefronted competitors—humongous selections. Web stores such as Patio.com, Amazon.com and CozyDays.com have assortments that traditional retailers can only dream about.
Patio.com is a 25-year-old, Connecticut-based retailer that, in addition to it’s Web site, has 11 showrooms throughout the Northeast in Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
“We combine the best of traditional brick and mortar and e-tail,” the company says on its Web site. “Our click-and-mortar concept combines the best of a full-service retail furniture showroom, where you talk first-hand to a knowledgeable design consultant and can have your merchandise immediately, or the convenience of shopping online in your own home.”
The company does not print a catalog. The company says that a paper catalog would require well over 900 pages to include its over 70 lines of garden furniture.
Shopping is simplified on the homepage with categories arranged via wicker, teak, Adirondack and cast aluminum along with various accessories such as pillows, umbrellas and cushions. Patio.com explains the benefits of each category. For instance, cast aluminum is described as “strong, durable, rustproof, and replicates the classic artisan furniture of the 19th and early 20th centuries traditionally made out of iron, but without the rust.”
Shoppers click on a category to find the individual item areas. Under cast aluminum is dining, seating, bar groups and tables. Clicking one of these brings up the item with a photo and lengthy description.
Except for a couple of small offerings of clearance items (hammocks for $199), the home- page does not reflect a promotional approach on the home page. Despite the season’s end, shoppers must click a “sales event” button to see a flyer for summer clearance e-flyer reading “save up to 70 percent.” Discounts were offered on Lane All-Weather Wicker Sets, Kingsley Solid Teak and Cast Classics Cast Aluminum.
Items are offered individually or in collections. Patio.com appears to take a “something for everyone” approach with a variety of brands and prices. Cast aluminum offerings include the Olympia sofa from Foreman-Douglas for $1,899.99, marked down from its “in-season” price of $2,399, and the Basketweave loveseat from Outdoor Classics ($149, down from $199). Sling offerings include the Opus Chaise from Tropitone for $1,084 with no markdown.
The company also offers cushions, barbecues and fire pits, and game-room items including pool tables and arcade games.
Continuing to move far beyond its electronic bookstore roots, Amazon.com is a destination point for shopping for casual furniture on the Web with a large assortment of items from numerous brands including Outdoor Living, Agio, Adco, Pacific Outdoors, Eureka, Byer of Maine and AP Outdoors.
Typing in “outdoor furniture” on Amazon.com brought up a whopping 625 results including collections and sets made of various materials, plus individual items and assortments. In addition to casual furniture basics, Amazon.com offers outdoor lighting, fireplaces, grills, rugs and outdoor furniture covers.
Amazon.com hits a variety of mostly moderate price points. Almost all of the prices reflect markdowns, some up to 50 percent.
Dining sets run from the eight-piece Outdoor Premium from Ewins ($899) to to Kingsley Bate’s Amalfi Rectangular Dining Set for $3,114.
In patio sets, the Mooreana four-piece Wicker Deep Seating collection from Agio carries a $799 tag; the five-piece Iron Contemporary from Ewins is $479.
Product descriptions and information varies widely on Amazon.com. Some items come complete with detailed descriptions of the item, plus helpful customer reviews for which the company is known. Other items have little more than a photo and price.
CozyDays.com, a Florida-based Web site founded in 2002, gives the shopper numerous options on how to search for products. Shoppers can view offerings by style: classic, contemporary, functional, luxury, modern or traditional; by material: aluminum, cast aluminum, outdoor wicker, plastic, resin or teak; or by type: Adirondack chairs, benches, chaise lounges, club chairs, dining chair and sofas.
The products on CozyDays.com are decidedly on the upper end of the price-point spectrum. The patio dining assortment ranges from Tortuga’s Maracay seven-piece set made of wicker for $1,199 to Kettal’s XXL Wicker Modern nine-piece set for $13,045.
Deep seating sets include the four-piece Aluminum collection from Caluco for $2,199 and Triconfort’s Biarritz’s Outdoor Deep Seating Set (five pieces) made of wicker for $13,950.
CozyDays.com is chock full of interesting and unusual items including the Nuevo’s Outdoor Seating Capsule ($1,750) which stacks all four chairs and table into an oval-shaped garden sculpture.
In addition to basic information on materials and wearability, some items include “salesperson says” points about the company and collection. For instance, “Triconfort introduced the Biarritz collection in 2006. Triconfort has been the leading name behind modern outdoor furniture designs for over 30 years."