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Hearth & Home February 2019

2018 December Business Climate

December Sales

In early January, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare December 2018 sales to December 2017. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 192 useable returns.

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Consumer Confidence

Stock Watch


RETAILER SALES – U.S. AND CANADA – December 2018 vs. December 2017

Fifty percent of Spa retailers were UP in December, followed closely by Hearth retailers at 49%. Barbecue and Patio were at 23% and 16%, respectively.

December 2018 vs. December 2017

In December, Spa retailers posted a 9% increase over the same period in the previous year. Hearth retailers were at 4%, Patio retailers were at 2%, and Barbecue retailers were even with the prior year.

Retailer Comments


Connecticut: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “This was one of our top Decembers since we’ve been in business; 2019 looks to be a great year, even though we had a very good 2018.”

Connecticut: (Hearth) “Last year’s long and very cold winter must have contributed to the increase this year. Whatever the reason, we have had a really good year. Traffic was slower, but still good.”

Connecticut: (Hearth) “Business is up nicely YTD, but since the Blue Wave came through in November, I can see things starting to tighten up with continued business starting to slow down to what appears to be another slow period on the horizon.

“I anticipate consumer confidence and consumer spending will diminish rapidly going forward until our politicians can play nice together, which I can’t see happening for some time. I hope that I am wrong, our economy doesn’t need another pull back like we saw with the last administration for eight lovely years. Time will tell.”

New Jersey: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Need cold weather in the East. People are spending more money this year. New homes and additions are helping.”

New Jersey: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Another year has flown by. Solid growth once again. Keeping up with growth is always a challenge, but who’s complaining? We’re always thankful!”

New York: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “December sales tend to be slow here in the Northeast as people start Christmas shopping on Black Friday and our taxes come out January 1.”

New York: (Hearth, Spas) “Dear God, please bring me some pellets. I’ll take any brand. Hardwood, softwood, rabbit pellets, um...owl pellets? Hallo, GOD? Are you there? But seriously, we are out of pellets! The pellet suppliers say they are out of raw materials. (#stingy #scrooge #really?).

“Gas inserts continue to dominate. Even wood stoves and inserts are up. This has been a good season. Not crazy about the rising cost of chimney and pellet pipe, but we are grateful, again, for a season that is way better than the last!”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth) “Best calendar year in the last five years. Also very profitable! Our fiscal year is July 1 and we are up 31%.”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “New construction and remodeling are still strong, booked out about seven weeks for custom work and fireplace installs. Due to the wet weather this year, pellets are very hard to get, we have had to ration our fuel so we don’t run out.”


Alabama: (Patio, BBQ) “The holiday season was very good for us. We saw an increase in low- to mid-priced grills. Looking to spring for more built-in sales. Economy and other issues still has customers extra cautious, but many still purchase quality products.”

Arkansas: (Hearth) “A good retail month to end the year. Floor traffic was good and several future installations were discussed, so 2018 turned out to be a good year overall. Customers are moving into our area and wanting new hearth products, which we are happy to provide. Hope 2019 is even better.”

Louisiana: (Hearth) “Our service business is up 67%”

Oklahoma: (Hearth) “Great winter, ready for the HPBExpo.”

Texas: (BBQ) “Barbecue product sales have seen a positive year-over-year sales increase this year due to the higher interest in grilling, smoking, and outdoor entertainment. Who doesn’t like to try a new recipe every weekend and hang out with their family and friends?”

Virginia: (Hearth, BBQ) “Wow, what a year! I’ve worked here for 27 years and have never seen it this busy. Thanks president Trump. Business is a boomin’. Can’t wait for this coming season. Woo-hoo $$$.”

Virginia: (Hearth) “2018 ended with record sales and installations of vent-free gas fireplaces, log sets, and inserts. We converted more direct-vent gas fireplaces to vent-free than in years past. All in all, for such a slow start this season, and despite lousy weather (rain and more rain and tornadoes), the year ended extremely well. Thank you Lord!”


Illinois: (Hearth) “Enrollment declined at our University, warmer weather, recent big decline in the stock market all contributed to depressed sales. Woodburning is slowly fading away, even in a rural, wooded area like ours.”

Missouri: (Hearth, BBQ) “The strong new construction market, along with an unseasonably cold October and November, contributed to record hearth product sales for us this year.”

Minnesota: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “We have to subcontract labor and the big shops are beating the daylights out of us. We have decided to send customers to the contractors and just retail from this point forward.”

Nebraska: (Hearth, BBQ) “December was feast or famine. We ran a great grill promotion for Black Friday that bled into December and provided a definite uptick in grill sales. We did, however, run into out-of-stock issues with our supplier due to high demand and great pricing on our pellet grills.

“Hearth sales were stagnant from 2017 but we look forward to a possible uptick in 2019. All in all, business was good but we’re interested in seeing where the trade war steel prices go, along with tariff surcharges. Also, freight is a constant demand on end users, which seems strange as fuel prices have dropped but freight has not followed suit.”

Ohio: (Hearth, BBQ) “The hearth season has been solid. We were worried that the bad grill season would bring down the whole year, but we finished with a 4% gain for 2018. Direct-vent inserts have continued to be a strong seller, which helped us make up some ground in the fourth quarter.”

Wisconsin: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “No slowing down in sales of high-end fireplaces, wood and gas. New construction is not slowing down. It’s January and homes are still being started. Weather is not slowing sales down. Wow, what a time in our industry.”

Wisconsin: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “Weather had a big play in sales as it was colder and wetter. Overall year-end we were way up. Looking at higher January sales due to lower December sales. Wood seems to be really strong. Will see what 2019 brings!”

Wisconsin: (Hearth, BBQ) “Busy year. Easily could have had greater sales if we could find another good employee. Such a challenge. We have had some warranty issues, and manufacturers did not stand behind their product. We, however, did bite the bullet and stood behind our name.”

Wisconsin: (Hearth) “Very strong builder market. Retail sales are trending strongly toward upscale purchases. Wood and gas fireplaces are strong. Plain steel wood stoves is a weak spot. We’re clearing inventory of all non-2020 compliant wood stoves. Will restock only 2020 compliant.”

Consumer Confidence

The Consumer Confidence Index decreased in December, following a modest decline in November. The Index now stands at 128.1 (1985=100), down from 136.4 in November.

“Expectations regarding job prospects and business conditions weakened,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, "but still suggest that the economy will continue expanding at a solid pace in the short-term. While consumers are ending 2018 on a strong note, back-to-back declines in Expectations are reflective of an increasing concern that the pace of economic growth will begin moderating in the first half of 2019."

A reading above 90 indicates the economy is on solid footing; above 100 signals strong growth.
The Index is based on a probability-design random sample conducted for The Conference Board by The Nielsen Company.

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California: (Hearth, Spas) “We finally got some rain/cold weather in California. Competing with the holidays always hurts our sales in December. But still the hearth department was up 8% and spas were up 30%. We hope and pray for a few more years of this great economy!”

California: (Hearth, BBQ) “We have been in business for 33 years and this was the best year yet.”

New Mexico: (Hearth) “December was dead. Probably caused by the 7.1 earthquake on November 31. The second week of January is picking up.”

Oregon: (Hearth, BBQ) “We opened a new hearth showroom in fall of 2018.”

Oregon: (Hearth) “December was rough; the weather hasn’t been there to help us, and it’s exposing some of the discipline that we need to go all in on. When there isn’t weather, it’s up to us to go back to the basics and master them. I’m convinced there is more business out there than ever.”


British Columbia: (Hearth, BBQ) “Hearth appliance sales were pretty much equal to 2017, but venting sales were up substantially.”

British Columbia: (Hearth) “Inquiries for wood and pellet heating options are significantly higher this year, translating into more sales and price quotes.”

Ontario: (Hearth) “We found that within our catch-basin of clients, they are more aware of the new EPA-rated products on the market that can not only heat better, but save them money by using less wood. They also are listening to our team with keener ears and understanding when they are informed that their present unit is no longer code compliant and should be replaced for safety issues.Training is key.”

Quebec: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “With cold weather, we expected more sales.”

Stock Watch

    High Low 30-Nov-18 28-Dec-18 4 WEEK 26 WEEK 52 WEEK ($000,000)
Standard & Poor’s 500 (a) S & P 2,930.75 2,351.00 2,760.17 2,485.74 -9.9% -8.6% -7.0%  
HNI Corporation (b) HNI 45.40 32.55 38.55 35.20 -8.7% -5.4% -8.7% $1,630.00
Pool Corporation (c) POOL 175.87 123.88 167.51 147.84 -9.0% -2.4% 14.0% $6,050.00
Restoration Hardware (b) RH 164.49 74.50 116.14 118.96 2.4% -14.8% 38.0% $2,640.00
Wayfair, Inc. (b) W 151.20 60.53 106.20 90.74 -14.6% -23.6% 13.0% $8,710.00


(a) = Standard & Poor’s 500 is based on the market capitalizations of 500 large companies having common stock listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ. It is considered one of the best representations of the U.S. stock market, and a bellwether for the U.S. economy.
(b) = New York Stock Exchange
(c) = NASDAQ

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