The Value Factor
By Jennifer Boncy
Casual furniture manufacturers are hoping to breathe new life into the market this year, some with bolder colors and innovatively woven fabrics and others with contemporary and transitional looks. But no matter what the style or color, the real must-have these days is value.
Manufacturers, striving to make 2010 a more profitable year than last, are answering the call for value-priced products that are on-trend, without being too trendy. Consumers, they say, are looking for budget-friendly, attractive outdoor furniture that consumers would be happy to have in their backyards for years.
Bob Gaylord, president of Agio, concurs that the outdoor furniture market is definitely showing signs of renewed life in 2010, a much-needed boost following a dismal 2009. He's encouraged by the increasing number of retailers--both furniture specialty stores and department stores--entering the casual furniture market for the first time, or at least, for the first time in a long time.
Agio, which remains focused on value-oriented pricing, has been aggressive in its effort to tailor pricing for the needs of its specialty retail partners, Gaylord reports. Last year, he said, retailers were looking for sets in the $1,499 to $1,999 range. This year the company is homing in on the $699 and $1,299 range.
As for trends in design, style and color, he adds that the company continues to find strength it traditional designs and subdued colors.
Demand still centers on "earth tones, earth tones, earth tones," Gaylord said. "I don't think customers want to out on a fashion limb because they're looking to have [their casual furniture] for along time."
Still, without going too far out on a limb, the company's new Yacht Club Collection, introduced as part of its Disney Resort line, features pieces in bold solid reds, and blue, white and red stripes.
"Today, more than ever, if it's a design element or feature that doesn't deliver value, it's dead in the water," said Zac Bryant, vice president of design and development for Laneventure.
In response to this demand, companies such as Laneventure have been busy developing product that will both excite the senses and convey value. One way the company is doing this is by offering customizable pieces, Bryant said.
"Offering customization creates value and gives the consumer a personal connection to the product," he said. "Consumers want the ability to make it their own."
As part of the company's strategy to help support retailers and stimulate sales, Laneventure is funneling more of its energy into its outdoor business, making pricing adjustments where it can and rolling out "some very competitively priced new collections."
Laneventure's new offerings will focus on synthetic wicker--a strong category for the company--and aluminum.
Companies such as Lloyd/Flanders, Pride Family and Agio also have no intention of sitting out 2010 just because 2009 was a tough year for the industry. They are rolling out designs they hope will peak consumers' interest and liven up the category.
Lou Rosebrock, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Lloyd/Flanders, expects sales to pick up as people gain confidence in the recovering economy, and the company plans to satisfy this rising demand with innovative products. Among the new offerings from Lloyd/Flanders this year will be its Coastal Living Collection, featuring four groups of products representing different coastal regions.
The company created the collection in collaboration with Coastal Living magazine, and Rosebrock said it will be supported by comprehensive marketing and advertising campaigns that capitalize on the magazine's well-known name.
"We believe we're already feeling slight up-ticks in our business, and seeing a little more activity at retail," he said. "We want to be ready with exciting new product."
Other companies are looking to stir up a little excitement in the category as well.
"We still believe in finding that next color beyond brown," Bryant said. "We understand it's safe, but we strongly feel that we need to explore other options. Weathered or silvered finishes with a natural nostalgic hand and feel to them are high on our radar."
Retailers can also expect a new take on things from Pride Family, according to Rory Rehmert, vice president sales and marketing for Pride Family Brands.
"We are seeing some bold styling and never-before-seen elements such as our turned legs to flowing, woven aluminum seat backs," Rehmert said.
This year the company introduced four collections from its Castelle line of cast aluminum outdoor furnishings including The Sophia, The Vienna, The Madrid and The Aruba Collections. Sophia and Vienna blend woven aluminum with cast elements including turned-look legs and supports.
The Madrid is a mid-range priced collection offered under Pride Family's Castelle brand. pridefamilybrands.com