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Hearth & Home December 2018

Richard Wright
Hearth & Home Magazine

Pretty Darn Good!

So, it was a bit of rain, and a bit of heat, that disrupted an otherwise steady march to double-digit sales growth and a substantial increase in that bank account. We should all be used to it by now, for there are far fewer sales seasons when foul weather (wet or dry, hot or cold) passes us by, than there are years when it harshly disrupts our plans for growth.

We should be used to it, and we all should look to Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and California, as reminders of what is truly harsh weather.

In this issue, you’ll find articles on Hearth sales, Patio sales, and Barbecue sales. Stop and read the one, two, or three that relate to your business. Therein you’ll find ideas and advice from your peers.

The Hearth industry, which had two miserable years in the recent past, due to climate change, this year had a spectacular sales season, one that some retailers were comparing to the stellar years of the late ’70s and ’80s. This year manufacturers and retailers were using words and phrases such as “fantastic sales year,” “off the charts,” “very solid year,” “excellent sales year,” “amazing, almost like a return to the old days.”

Sure, a few hearth retailers had a mediocre year, but that’s to be expected, isn’t it?

The Patio industry certainly was impacted to a great extent by rain. However, according to Linda Horan at the Hill Company in Philadelphia, “It was the worse weather, 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.” Doesn’t sound too bad, does it?

At Elegant Outdoor Living on Florida’s Gulf Coast, Debbie Stegman had a “really slow” summer with a red tide close to her three stores, but summer ebbed away and winter residents returned. Now, “business is really good,” she said, “it started off like gangbusters.”

Other patio retailers mentioned they “had a great year,” consumers “were snapping up big umbrellas,” “consumers rediscovered extruded aluminum furniture,” “plastic furniture continues to boom,” and “online sales rose at an unprecedented rate.”

The Barbecue industry also felt the impact of a lot of rain. Yet, retailer sales appear to be close to those in the Hearth industry. Products such as gas grills, pizza ovens, pellet grills, and kamados, to a lesser extent, caught the fancy of consumers and propelled sales to a more-than-acceptable level.

Here’s a few comments from barbecue retailers – “fantastic, business was way up,” “very consistent with steady sales,” “pellet grills are going crazy,” “best year since 2007,” and “our growth wasn’t tremendous, but it was good.”

The strong message coming from manufacturers and retailers as they discuss the 2018 sales year is that there is a great demand for the products produced by the hearth, patio, and barbecue industries. It’s a demand so strong that even periods of rain or sweltering heat are surmountable.

That, my friends, is what you should be concentrating on as we turn the calendar, as well as the forecast from those in the field that indicates the coming year should be better than this past one. We’ll leave you with the forecast of Bob Gaylord, president of Agio International (patio furniture and fire pits): “Sales should jump by 17% in 2019.”

More Stories in this Issue

That Pioneer Spirit

Dorothy and Frank Matthews started their first ‘legitimate’ hearth shop in 1986; they sold their business and retired a few months ago. This is their story.

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Call Me Crazy!

By Tom Lassiter

Somehow, for 35 years, Brett Freiberg has been able to retain his enthusiasm for the business of selling patio furniture (and there’s no sign that he’s going to change).

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2018 October Business Climate

In early November, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare October 2018 sales to October 2017. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 232 useable returns.

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Parting Shot: Towering Torches

All of Elena Colombo’s sculptures are made for congregating around an outdoor fire. Many are made of bronze, which starts out as pink gold, goes to dark brown, and eventually to a verdigris green.

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