Hearth & Home January 2018

Richard Wright
Publisher/Editor,
Hearth & Home Magazine
www.hearthandhome.com

Perspective:
Role Model, Internet, Acquisition

Our lead story this month concerns a remarkable businessman, a person to be admired. Oliver Ma is founder, owner and CEO of Treasure Garden, a global company manufacturing umbrellas and other shade products.

His story, as told by staff writer Tom Lassiter, is one of hard work and intelligent determination. Ma, you see, entered the U.S. market alone, and with little to no knowledge of the English language. He spent months learning the language by watching and listening to television shows and movies.

The key word there is “listening.”

Something about Ma impressed Buzz Homsy (California Backyard) deeply. “Whenever he got around casual retailers, Ma wasn’t concerned with selling. He listened. He asked questions. He jotted things down in a pocket notebook.

“He looked to us to teach him the culture of the United States and the casual business,” said Homsy.

In many ways, Oliver Ma exudes qualities that we all should try to emulate. (See The Man Behind Treasure Garden.)

Internet Impact

The greatest challenge facing specialty hearth, patio and barbecue retailers today has to be the Internet and its multitude of sellers. But this is an area in which manufacturers can make an important contribution in protecting their retail base – if they have the will to do so.

It’s one thing (and it’s a good thing) for manufacturers to promote MAP pricing (Minimum Advertised Price), and quite another to enforce it on a regular basis. It seems logical, and certainly in their best interests, for manufacturers to protect their network of brick-and-mortar stores. Yet it appears there are many who just don’t do it.

Increasingly, the price paid for such neglect is to be dropped by those brick-and-mortar retailers. A recent survey by Hearth & Home shows that 59% of specialty hearth, patio and barbecue retailers have dropped a manufacturer they feel does not do enough to protect them.

Consider the time and effort required to create a solid retail network across North America, and it seems self-preservation alone would be reason enough for every manufacturer to protect that base at all costs.

Internet Impact is discussed thoroughly in this issue of Hearth & Home. (See Internet Impact.)

Gas Buys Wood

Seemingly out of nowhere came the news that the family that owns Empire Comfort Systems (The Empire Group) had acquired SBI (Stove Builder International). Usually we find that industry rumors precede such an acquisition, but not this time. From first discussions at the HPBExpo in March in Atlanta, to completion of the agreement in November, only eight months had transpired.

Apparently the two companies complement each other in a rather perfect manner. Empire manufactures only gas products, while SBI manufactures only wood, pellet and venting products. Together, they will be able to offer dealers a full line of hearth products (with the exception of electric fireplaces, but our guess is that category will not be far behind).

There are many other synergies involved in the transaction that you can read about. (See Gas Buys Wood.)

More Stories in this Issue

The Man Behind Treasure Garden

By Tom Lassiter

Oliver Ma is a hard working, brilliant businessman who has built a global company based on understanding markets, creating quality products, and respecting his customers.

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Internet Impact

By Lisa Readie Mayer

Some dealers view e-commerce as a threat, others view it as an opportunity; either way, it’s disrupting traditional retail in a major way.

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Installation Shield

By Bill Sendelback

Hearth dealers are fortunate their product requires professional installation, nevertheless, Internet sales are still creating a variety of issues.

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Online Pressures

By Tom Lassiter

Patio dealers face fearsome Internet competitors, but manufacturers can protect their dealers to a certain extent – if they want to.

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Threat or Promise?

By Lisa Readie Mayer

Barbecue dealers weigh in on how the Internet is impacting their business, and what they are doing about it.

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Gas Buys Wood

By Richard Wright

The acquisition of SBI by The Empire Group creates a “true” hearth company that manufactures gas, wood, pellet, and venting products; it’s a combination of two well-run and profitable entities ready to capitalize on the synergies provided.

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A Common Thread

By Mark Brock

Both Phifertex and GeoBella brands are highly focused on performance and style; great customer service is a given.

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A La Plancha

By Lisa Readie Mayer

Originally from Mexico and Central America, plancha grills are the latest hot item, and a solid surface on which to build sales.

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The Time is Now

By Bill Sendelback

The market is huge, the products are refined, and the customers are ready; electric fires are prepared to take center stage.

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2017 November Business Climate

In early December Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, barbecue and patio products, asking them to compare November 2017 sales to November 2016. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 214 useable returns.

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Parting Shot: Eclectic & Whimsical

Designed by Design Studio 15, the team took this private residence living room and created a bold, eclectic, whimsical space that integrates the client’s personal style and passions in one room.

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