A Strong Season
By Tom Lassiter
The 2018 casual furniture season was, in a word, erratic.
Early-season weather was too cold. Then it was too wet, and then it was too hot. Or it was too hot and then too wet. In many areas of the United States, abnormal is the new normal.
“If anything put a damper on the year, it was the weather,” said Joseph Cilio, CEO and president of Alfresco Home. “If the weather had been reasonable to good, we could have had an even better year. We all would have.”
Summer went on and on and on, ignoring the calendar. Sales that normally dried up by Labor Day continued through September, and into October in many cases. This late boomlet helped offset some of the weather challenges of earlier in the season.
Tucson was one exception, where sales at Patio Connection slipped in September. Otherwise, “We pretty much had an increase every month,” said Mike Moon, one of the store’s owners.
Notwithstanding the seesawing weather and hurricanes that clobbered the Carolinas and Gulf Coast, 2018 turned out to be a pretty decent year. Most retailers contacted reported sales up by single digits or holding steady with 2017.
“We had a great year,” said Michelle McDonald-Ross, an owner at Leisure Living in Salt Lake, Utah. “We kind of sold everything.”
Manufacturers contacted also reported single- or double-digit gains.
Retail showroom traffic was down (again), but shoppers who ventured in usually came ready to buy.
Sales of woven resin furniture have begun to cool in most markets but remain strong. The woven look, so popular for so long, no longer is trending upwards. There’s competition everywhere, and specialty retailers must work hard to make the case for quality when lookalike, lesser-quality goods beckon shoppers. Even so, the category remains strong and important to most retailers.
Consumers are snapping up big umbrellas. Side-post, cantilevered models – big enough to shade a deep-seating chat group or a long dining table – are becoming must-have components of the Outdoor Room.
“It seems like the bigger cantilevers are what people want,” said Mariah Maydew, president of Fruehauf’s in Westminster, Colorado. “Our 13-ft. cantilevers from Treasure Garden sold out quickly.”
Homeowners have rediscovered extruded-aluminum furniture. Aluminum sling sold like it was a new concept product. So did aluminum dining tables.
Customers wanted “good dining in aluminum,” said Petey Fleischut, owner of Casual Marketplace in Hockessin, Delaware. “I couldn’t understand it. It amazed me. We haven’t seen that in years.”
Competition from other channels, most of which offer lower-priced outdoor furniture of lesser quality (even though it photographs well), continues to increase.
“It’s getting more and more difficult to get a customer to accept that there is a difference between something on Hayneedle (an e-commerce site) and what’s in front of them” in the showroom, says Chad Scheinerman, CEO of Today’s Patio stores in Arizona and California.
Scrollwork, curlicues, and ornate metalwork are mostly out. Even in markets considered stylistically conservative or traditional, cleaner lines are in. Shoppers don’t want “super contemporary,” said Reggie Grieder, owner of Corner Collection On Line, based in Shreveport, Louisiana, “just a simpler look.”
The “organic look” is important to consumers. Interpret that as mixed media, such as wood accents on metal or woven furniture. The organic look might also include rope or webbing of natural-looking fibers. Metal or composites or plastic, shaped and finished to resemble wood, also fall into the realm of the organic look. If it’s natural or merely resembles something found in nature, shoppers seem to prefer it these days.
Aura, a Barlow Tyrie collection, met all the hot-button criteria for many shoppers at the Hill Company in Philadelphia. It has clean lines and matches the organic descriptors.
“It’s a wonderful group,” said Hill Co. proprietor Linda Moran. “It’s sling. It’s aluminum. It’s teak. So it’s a perfect combination and just has a great look. We can’t keep it in stock.”
Real wood furniture, the most organic of organics, did pretty well this season in most regions, except, perhaps, in desert climates. “Teak was huge this year,” said Sandi Ricke, casual furniture manager at Mulhall’s, a garden center in Omaha, Nebraska.
Low-maintenance plastic furniture continues to boom, retailers report. It’s heavy and refuses to be moved by winds on the Great Plains. Fade-resistant, plastic/poly/HDPE furniture loves sun and withstands salt air.
If there was a hiccup in the category this season, it was with C.R. Plastic Products. Numerous retailers reported that the Canadian manufacturer had trouble shipping its products on time. One retailer’s solution to the late delivery problem: Add a second line of plastic lumber furniture for next season.
Otherwise, retailers had few gripes about delivery issues or quality problems, especially with domestic manufacturers. Manufacturers, they said, did a good job of getting furniture to them on time. OW Lee drew special praise for shipping products on pallets and protected by shrinkwrapping. Grieder, in Shreveport, called OW Lee outstanding and “the most progressive company there is. I wish other manufacturers would follow their lead.”
Retailers interviewed accepted the Trump administration’s 10% tariff on goods manufactured in China as an unpleasant reality. Most report working with manufacturers to share the additional cost and hold the line on prices for consumers. But should the tariff rise to 25% on January 1, as planned, opinions are divided.
“It’s going to be an economic disaster for the country,” said Jeremy Hodges. He and his wife, Elsa, own Hauser’s Patio in San Diego. “I don’t think the president’s going to allow it.”
Scheinerman, at Today’s Patio, said the impact on higher-end casual furniture customers perhaps will be more psychological than actual.
“What we sell is a want, not a need,” he explained. High-income households up-fitting an Outdoor Room probably won’t defer a purchase because of the tariffs. The tariffs may be a true deterrent for potential customers of more moderate means, such as customers who might consider buying casual furniture at a Big Box store.
“The lower you go,” said Alfresco Home’s Cilio, “the more careful you have to be. For sales under $2,999, you have to be really careful” about the potential impact of tariffs on sales.
Cilio said Alfresco Home’s sales were up around 9% and could have been a bit higher “had we inventoried better.” Weather, he said, most affected reorders from the company’s domestic warehouse stock.
Agio’s sales were up by 7% in 2018, said president Bob Gaylord. The company added more dealers and saw sales through specialty dealers rise.
Online sales, Gaylord said, rose at “an unprecedented rate,” with full-line furniture stores showing the second-highest growth trend.
Summer Classics’ sales were at double-digit growth this year, said president Bew White. The strongest sales were “in the designer area and in our retail stores.”
Treasure Garden saw sales of market umbrellas decline slightly, offset by strong growth in cantilever umbrella sales, said Candy Chase, National Sales manager. The company saw growth in the e-commerce channel and through full-line furniture stores that have entered the outdoor market.
“Full-line stores that commit to the outdoor category seem to be most successful,” she said.
Looking ahead, company executives expect good things in 2019 despite the uncertainty of variables such as the tariff situation and weather.
Treasure Garden anticipates “a particularly successful year,” Chase said. Summer Classics expects growth in retail sales, but some slowdown in the contract and hospitality business.
Agio forecasts sales to jump by 17% in 2019, Gaylord said. Cilio declined to forecast a growth percentage, saying only that the coming season will be “super awesome. I think it’s going to be a great year.”
Northeast Patio Wrap-up
No pun intended, but according to Dustin Bowman, buyer at Bowman’s Stove & Patio in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, weather really put a damper on casual furniture sales this year. The season started strong, but from mid-April to mid-June, record amounts of rain fell.
“I think we did pretty well with the weather we had,” he said. The lousy weather caused Bowman’s, winner of the 2018 Apollo Award in the single-store category, to see casual sales fail to match 2017’s levels. “It would have been a really good year if we’d had decent weather,” he said.
An hour’s drive to the east, the weather was no better. “Horrific,” said Linda Moran, owner of the Hill Company in Philadelphia. “It was the worst weather. Rain, rain, rain, rain.” Yet sales remained strong, probably topping those in 2017.
“We sold a ton of teak, a ton of cast aluminum, a ton of woven,” she said. “I don’t think woven’s going away.”
Aluminum sling wasn’t quite as popular, with the exception of Barlow Tyrie’s Aura collection.
In Philadelphia, Moran said, customers like to mix and match products and styles of furniture from different vendors. It’s a look local designers encourage. “For instance, they’ll have a woven sofa and two aluminum spring chairs,” she said, to avoid a “matchy-matchy look.”
The funky weather extended to Long Island, where “it just wasn’t a typical year” said Zerach “Z” Michel, patio manager and buyer for Hildreth’s Home Goods. “But overall, we still had a strong season.”
Teak always does well with homeowners in the toney Hamptons, but Michel noted a shift this year away from so-called mixed media furniture. Interest in woven casual furniture with teak accents declined. So did interest in aluminum and stainless-steel furniture with teak accents.
However, sales of 100% teak furniture in “more modern styles” rose. Michel called the variances “more of an anomaly than a trend,” except in the case of woven goods with teak accents. That subcategory, he said, “is slowing down quite a bit.”
The Washington, D.C., area also experienced a soggy season. The first three quarters of the year were the third wettest on record since the 1800s, said Eric Stalzer, district manager for Great Gatherings’ five stores.
Sales were up, he said, topping those of 2017.
“What saved us is the high-end buyer,” Stalzer said. High-end buyers budget and plan and purchase, he explained. “It doesn’t matter what the weather is.”
Great Gatherings stocks sets by Lloyd Flanders and Brown Jordan that retail for $9,995, he said, “and those did extremely well for us.” The chain also floors a group called Kenzo, by Tropitone. The price tag is $13,000 “and customers didn’t bat an eye.”
Also of note: Aluminum dining sets remain “a staple within our lineup” despite what he called the “progressive” trend in outdoor furniture. Those dining sets may be viewed as “old and stodgy or classic, but people still gravitate” to them.
Great Gatherings’ sales of teak furniture were “stable,” Stalzer said. “The only teak we carry is Gloster, because of the quality. We never want to disappoint the customer in what we sell them.”
Bowman’s saw an increase in Telescope’s products this season, particularly Telescope’s MGP furniture. “Special orders were up a lot,” Bowman said, accounting for about 30% of sales in that brand. Telescope also leads in sales of sling furniture.
Sales of plastic lumber furniture also were up. Bowman’s carries the Breezesta brand, which is manufactured nearby. A deep seating group and a dining group “both did very well,” he said.
Bowman’s saw demand rise for Treasure Garden’s 11- and 13-ft. octagonal, cantilever umbrellas. Customers this year favored octagonal models over rectangular models, he said.
Telescope’s MGP Adirondack chairs “just sell, sell, sell” for the Hill Company, Moran said. So do larger dining tables, including Barlow Tyrie’s Titan table. “Around here,” Moran said, “people are still buying large.” The larger Titan table, in rustic teak, measures 118 inches in length and weighs 245 pounds. “People seem to think the bigger, the better,” she said.
Great Gatherings’ bottom line was enhanced by some unexpected contract business, Stalzer said.
A residential customer, pleased with his experience at Great Gatherings, returned to outfit the patios for his employer, a regional supermarket with seven locations in the greater Washington area. Great Gatherings made a similar sale to a hotel chain; a purchasing manager for the hotel group returned after buying casual furniture for her home.
That business, Stalzer said, “has fallen into our lap. We haven’t sought it out.” He’s feeling upbeat about next year.
“Considering that we were able to beat last year’s numbers in a horrific weather year leads me to be very positive for next year,” he said.
Tommy Stallings, Sr. and wife, Mary.
South Patio Wrap-up
Tommy Stallings, Sr., who with his wife, Mary, owns Madison Fireplace & Patio in Madison, Mississippi, described the year as “exceptional. We’re up at least 10%,” he said.
Rick Bucy of Casual Creations in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said the most notable thing about 2018 has been “how inconsistent things have been. Some days we don’t have anything (customers), and some days we’ve got more than we can handle.” Sales are probably about the same or down slightly from 2017’s levels.
In Bluffton, South Carolina, sales are up by double digits at Casual Living, Fireside and Grillin’, said Missy Axe, who handles Sales and Advertising for the shop.
Meanwhile, Debbie Stegman of Florida’s Elegant Outdoor Living said it’s been a great year despite a “really slow” summer when red tide plagued the beaches. But winter residents have now returned and her new season is ramping up. “Business is really good,” she said. “It started off like gangbusters.”
Texas retailer Karen Galindo feels fortunate that sales at her Outside In Style stores in Austin and San Antonio are down only slightly from last year’s pace. The Texas weather has been awful.
The year started with “unseasonably cold weather in April, and rain.” That was followed by weeks of record heat and more rain in September. October brought still more rain and flooding.
“It’s horrible. A big chaotic mess,” Galindo said. “In those conditions, we haven’t had people sitting outside as much as we would like.”
Cold, wet weather in February and March delayed the start of the casual season in Louisiana, where Reggie Grieder owns Corner Collection On Line. (It’s a brick-and-mortar store on Line Avenue in Shreveport, not an e-commerce site.) Spring came and went quickly, he said, followed by summer heat that lasted into late October. The extended summer “is where I caught up, dollar-wise,” he said.
Sales patterns were as inconsistent and changeable as the early season weather, Grieder said.
“One month we’ll just blow out cast aluminum, or extruded aluminum, or wrought iron. The next month we’ll have a run on synthetic wicker. Then we’ll sell the hell out of ipé or teak,” he said. “It’s weird.”
Customer preferences seem a little more settled at Outside In Style. “Extruded metal is where it’s at,” Galindo said. “I don’t see that changing anytime soon.” She noted that Homecrest’s Grace and Elements collections “have done remarkably well.”
Another popular product is Klaussner Outdoor’s RealisTEAK virgin plastic furniture. “That has been crazy popular,” Galindo said. “My biggest problem is I didn’t buy enough of it.”
For real wood furniture, Galindo’s customers prefer ipé products by Jensen Leisure. “We do great with ipé,” she said, “because Texans like brown” and Jensen “continues to do beautiful designs.”
Stegman’s clientele leans more to mixed media products, especially woven furniture with wood accents. Teak is not a particularly strong category along Florida’s west coast, she said, but mixed media is another thing altogether. “It’s amazing how much people just love it,” she said.
Ditto for the shoppers at Casual Living, Fireside and Grillin’ in South Carolina. “Mixed media is more popular than teak,” Axe said.
Grieder’s customers have shown a preference for certain types of mixed media casual furniture over others. For instance, he said, his Louisiana market likes woven furniture with teak accents. But customers show less interest in metal furniture with teak accents. Nor do they warm up to woven or metal furniture with composite accents.
Grieder’s has seen tremendous growth in the popularity of plastic lumber furniture. Not so many years ago, the category accounted for perhaps 2% of sales. Poly furniture now accounts for about 20% of sales. Low maintenance drives sales, he said.
Plastic lumber furniture also does well on the South Carolina coast, Axe said. Casual Living, Fireside and Grillin’ sells poly furniture by Malibu Outdoor.
Stegman offers her customers Telescope’s MGP brand of resin furniture as well as Poly-Wood plastic lumber furniture. “Adirondack chairs are still the thing they want” in Florida, she said. Counter-height bar sets often are purchased for use on docks.
In Baton Rouge, wicker deep-seating remains strong, besting aluminum products. Shoppers are leaning toward cleaner lines, Bucy said.
Most Southern retailers interviewed were positive about the prospects for 2019. If, that is, the weather cooperates a little more than it did this year. And if increased tariffs don’t send shockwaves through the consumer economy. And if politics doesn’t sour the markets.
“I’m always optimistic,” said Stallings of Madison Fireplace & Patio. “At Premarket, I bought like it will be a good year.”
Stegman was upbeat. “If there’s no catastrophe, if everything stays like it is now, it’s going to be a great year,” she said.
Galindo, on the other hand, said she was nervous. However, she thinks mass merchants will be “super conservative” in buying for 2019, which could present a silver lining for specialty shops if the economy remains strong and consumer confidence remains high. In that case, she said, Big Box stores may run out of product “and that gives us an opportunity at specialty.”
Bucy expressed cautious optimism that 2019 will be better. But, he added, “If I knew for sure, then I’d have more money than I do.”
Central Patio Wrap-up
Never generalize. It almost always backfires.
Just because high winds rip across the prairie, don’t assume that heavyweight poly/plastic furniture will sell in every town in the heartland. That’s not the case in Springfield, the capital of Illinois.
Laurie McWilliams, co-owner of CopperTree Outdoor Lifestyles, says her customers aren’t interested. They think the furniture, regardless of brand, “still looks like Home Depot or Walmart.”
Sharon Law Pauza.
But not so far away, in the university town of Champaign, Cardinal Pool and Outdoor does a good business with plastic lumber furniture. “Where we’re growing in impressive amounts is with Berlin Gardens,” says Sharon Law Pauza, who owns the business with her husband, Mike. “It’s a great story and pretty enticing to people.”
On the other hand, teak, and wood furniture, is a non-starter at Cardinal Pool and Outdoor. The shop gave it a try some years ago, Pauza said, but wood furniture presented “too much trouble.”
One gets a different story at Mulhall’s, a garden center and casual furniture outfit in Omaha, Nebraska.
“Teak was huge this year,” said Sandi Ricke, a casual furniture manager. “Teak is on trend. We’re seeing that everything natural and organic looking has increased.” Mulhall’s carries teak by Kingsley Bate.
Sales of synthetic wicker furniture remain stable at Mulhall’s. Customers showed strong interest in love seats early in the season, Ricke said, while sales of sectionals picked up later on.
Mulhall’s sales of poly lumber picked up this season after adding the Breezesta line. “We had struggled with poly for a couple of seasons,” Ricke said.
Mulhall’s year “started out really strong in special orders,” she said. May brought cold, rainy weather and caused some lost sales momentum. “We struggled a little. July and August came back really well. On the whole it was a very good year.”
Sales were up by single digits for Jack Wills, which has locations in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Springdale, Arkansas. Bad weather wasn’t a factor this year.
“Our bread and butter is OW Lee and Tropitone,” says Jack Wills III. “We do real well with those manufacturers.”
OW Lee and Tropitone are domestic manufacturers that cater to the special order business, and customers of Jack Wills have responded in kind. Special orders account for 80% or more of the store’s business, Wills said.
“It’s absolutely crazy,” he said. Special orders are “way, way, way up.”
A category not faring well for Jack Wills is resin wicker. “I got hammered,” Wills said. The challenge is demonstrating to customers the quality difference between, for example, a $5,000 group on the floor and a similar looking group online or in a catalog with a dramatically lower price.
It’s easier to convey the quality difference with metal furniture, he said, whether aluminum or steel. Regardless of the construction materials, customers prefer cleaner lines and comfort. Comfort can be more important than price, Wills said.
The store had a casual sofa on the floor for $1,299 this year “and we just could not get rid of it. We’re stuck with it. And it’s just due to the comfort factor,” he said. The corollary is that it’s easy to sell a comfortable sofa for $2,500 and up.
Jack Wills had a “phenomenal year in umbrellas,” Wills said. Longtime vendor Treasure Garden was supplemented with products from Frankford Umbrellas. “Our Frankford numbers were through the roof,” he said. The retailer also carries TUUCI umbrellas.
Back in Illinois, CopperTree Outdoor Lifestyles has restructured its business following a showroom fire in 2014 and in response to the state’s ongoing fiscal crises.
McWilliams said the state’s economic malaise has caused the middle-income market to shrink and make her outdoor furniture business more dependent on the higher-income households. The catch is that large numbers of upper-income Springfield area residents have elected to move away in recent years.
People who can afford to flee “left the state in droves,” she said. That trend seems to have slowed somewhat this year.
McWilliams’ husband operates CopperTree Landscaping, and they serve many customers with turnkey design/build/furnish services for patios, Outdoor Rooms, and outdoor kitchens. Projects often range from $25,000 to well over $100,000, she said.
CopperTree projects often include custom fire features built into mortared stone walls.
“Our landscaping company is doing very well,” McWilliams said. And sales on the outdoor furniture side of the business already have exceeded those of 2017. She’s hopeful that sufficient numbers of higher-income households have chosen to “dig in and hunker down” to sustain the family business.
“We’re fond of building relationships and taking care of people over the long term,” she said. “There’s still business to be had here, taking care of people.”
West Patio Wrap-up
Today’s Patio CEO Chad Scheinerman put into words what many casual furniture retailers are already thinking.
“If you’re at single-digit increases or flat, it’s a win,” he said. “The days of being up 10% to 15% in a year are not realistic at this point and shouldn’t be something anyone’s expecting.”
Scheinerman’s six stores in Arizona and California, plus a clearance center, were slightly ahead through October. The final two months of the year typically are important ones for his business as the Southwest welcomes returning Snowbirds. “This is what we call our Second Season,” he said, warily. “We’ll see how it turns out.”
The political climate, tariffs, and international relations currently may be more important variables than the weather or economy as 2018 closes out. Those factors “definitely have a psychological effect,” he said.
Business was relatively flat for Hauser’s in San Diego. And that was just fine with owner Jeremy Hodges. A longtime Hauser’s employee, Hodges and his wife, Elsa, purchased the business from former owner Doug Wheat less than two years ago.
“This year was all over the place,” Hodges said. Months that were typically busy were slower, and months that historically have been slow were up.
“We didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “We just had to sit back and wait.”
At Fruehauf’s in Colorado, president Mariah Maydew was relieved that sales remained on par with those of 2017 following the company’s move from Boulder to Westminster. The shift puts Fruehauf’s about halfway between Boulder and Denver.
“We were lucky that the move didn’t disrupt sales,” after 40 years in Boulder, she said.
In Salt Lake, Leisure Living enjoyed “a real balanced year,” said Michelle McDonald-Ross, whose family owns the store. Wicker, deep seating, and dining sold well, she said. “Fire pits are still big, and umbrellas were great.”
Mixed-media products with wood accents sold a little better than solid wood furniture, she said. Umbrella shoppers gravitated to cantilever models. “They give you a lot of flexibility,” McDonald-Ross said.
Growing numbers of purchasers of large umbrellas this season opted for permanent installation rather than choosing wheeled, portable-base models. The summer was hotter than normal, which may have helped spur umbrella sales.
Did prices on large umbrellas generate any buyer resistance? “None,” she said. “Price wasn’t an issue for us.”
Leisure Living offers umbrellas by Treasure Garden and Sun Garden.
Fruehauf’s sells umbrellas by TUUCI and ARTiculatedshade in addition to Treasure Garden products. “Treasure Garden is our bread and butter,” Maydew said.
Sales of fire pits remained strong, she said. OW Lee is an important vendor in the category. “It gets bigger and bigger every year,” she said.
While fire pits remain “very strong,” Hodges sees the category plateauing as lookalike competitors proliferate at mass‑market outlets. Hauser’s is experiencing growth, he said, in bar‑ and balcony‑height sets. The store is located within five miles of downtown San Diego, which is experiencing a boom in high‑density residences. Towers are going up, and condo and apartment dwellers need furniture that fits their petite balconies.
“We’re seeing the request from customers,” Hodges said. “They just need smaller groups.”
Aluminum and cast‑aluminum furniture remained the leading categories at Patio Connection in Tucson. “The trend has been in deep seating,” said Mike Moon, one of the owners. “Lounge pieces are driving the market for us.”
Wood outdoor furniture has never caught on in the Tucson market, he said, and the wide disparity in price points for woven furniture just confuses customers. Plus, he noted, “There’s so much woven out there, it’s hard to compete.”
Likewise, the availability of inexpensive sling furniture in Big Box stores puts pressure on the demand for the better‑quality sling from Patio Connection. The store offers sling furniture by Tropitone and Hanamint.
Padded sling, however, is less widely available and gives the store an exclusive edge. “It’s done extremely well for us,” Moon said.
Plastic/poly/HDPE furniture is important across the board. “We do well with Telescope’s MGP mixed with aluminum,” Maydew said. Fruehauf’s also carries the Breezesta brand. Patio Connection sells furniture by Poly‑Wood and has seen “a big increase,” Moon said.
Doug Wheat, former owner of Hauser’s in San Diego, is known for having developed a significant contract and hospitality business. “Doug laid a very good foundation,” Hodges said, which he aims to build upon going forward. Most of Hauser’s contract sales are in the greater San Diego area.
Hauser’s has two national contract accounts, one of which purchases “hundreds of umbrellas every year. And each one has our name on it, of course.”
Contract sales account for between 25% and 35% of Hauser’s volume, Hodges said.
Retailers interviewed in western states generally are optimistic about the prospects for 2019. “We are definitely expecting a bigger year,” Maydew said. Fruehauf’s is counting on its new location attracting a larger Denver customer base.
Hodges, who calls himself “a glass half‑full kind of guy,” said he expects 2019 “to be a great year.” He’s implemented some changes at Hauser’s, including a cut‑and‑sew operation that should streamline the delivery process and add to the bottom line.
Scheinerman, ever cautious, is enlarging his clearance center from 4,000 sq. ft. to 7,200 sq. ft. and plans to keep his operation lean and efficient.
“The thought of ordering a six‑month supply just makes my skin crawl,” he said. He’s worried that he might make a poor decision and choose slow‑selling products.
He prefers to order stock when he needs it and, more importantly, “Always rely on the winners.”