2019 April Business Climate
In early May, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare April 2019 sales to April 2018. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 212 useable returns.
RETAILER SALES – U.S. AND CANADA
The retail experience was pretty much the same across all four industries. Forty-four percent of Patio and Spa retailers were UP in April, while 40% and 31%, respectively, of Hearth and Barbecue retailers were UP.
13 MONTH YEAR-OVER-YEAR RETAILER SALES
In April, Patio Sales led the way with an increase of 12% in sales; both Hearth and Spas followed with 5% increases, and Barbecue lagged with a 2% increase.
Connecticut: (Hearth, BBQ) “The continuous rain in April seems to have negatively affected retail sales and traffic overall in the month of April. The consumer seems reluctant to make purchases with these overcast days, pretty much daily; we hope this will change when the sun decides to come out more regularly and dry out the landscape.”
Connecticut: (Hearth) “Things just keep rolling. We’ll take it! Strong gas sales, some pellet, some wood, too. Winter lasted too long. Customers are tired of being cold. It seems we’re going to have another strong year.”
New Hampshire: (Hearth) “Pellet sales have been very strong. Big Box stores ran out of inventory. Customers try to blame us for the shortage. Shortage? There is no lack of available pellet fuel. All you have to do is pay the mills. The shipment will be on the truck the same day.”
New Jersey: (Hearth, BBQ) “Steady construction sales.”
New Jersey: (Hearth) “It’s hard to judge. We are having extensive discounts on hearth products in anticipation of the May 2020 EPA ruling. The numbers were the same as last year.”
New York: (Hearth) “We have been in the hearth business in New York State for 28 years and sell primarily American made products. Between New York regulations, insurance costs, and EPA regulations, etc., we spend as much time on those issues as we do running and promoting our business. Because we do everything by the book and use only our qualified installers and service techs, it drives our cost to the end product ever higher.
“So throw in the Internet and Big Box stores’ low-end products where they don’t do installations or service work, and it becomes even more difficult to compete price-wise with a large percentage of customers who only care about price. I don’t envision this getting any better in the foreseeable future. We will hang in there as best we can.”
New York: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “April sales were awesome! Gas fireplaces and gas inserts lead the way. Wood stoves were strong due to 2020 changes. We are selling off all non-compliant products from our showroom and replacing them with new 2020 products as they become available. Some companies are ready now. Others seem to be behind in the switch over. We are about halfway there. Service continues to be great; we are booked into July now with installs and service.”
New York: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “Thank you to the (insert name here) hot tub companies that bring their dog-and-pony shows to the local arenas, dump product on innocent buyers, and run off to the next show, leaving the new hot tub owners with no one to service their new hot tubs.
“This method of marketing, if you want to call it that, puts a big black eye on the entire hot tub industry. You should be ashamed of yourselves. On the hearth front, since losing so much business to the dot.coms, we have been forced to widen our area of service and installations because the service aspect of the sale is our only leg up on the Internet monsters.”
Pennsylvania: (Hearth) “Fantastic April. Up 30% for our fiscal year, July 1, 2018 to April 30, 2019.”
Pennsylvania: (Patio, Spas) “Overall rain has been hard on sales, have to work harder to keep up.”
Vermont: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “People are anxious to get outside after the long winter. Luckily the rain isn’t slowing them down yet.”
For the following weather charts, the numbers for each state reflects the temperature and percipitation rankings for the period since records began in 1895.
In April, seven states posted temperatures Much Above Average – California, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia.
For the three-month period February – April, the heat was primarily in the Southeast, with Florida, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina at Much Above Average temperatures.
In April, nine states experienced Much Above Average precipitation – Oregon, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
Arkansas: (Hearth) “Another terrible April sales month. No floor traffic, telephone calls, etc. Very disappointing month and YTD so far for the hearth business.”
Florida: (Patio) “Moved to a larger space in January 2019; the extra square footage has helped tremendously with our patio furniture sales!”
Kentucky: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “We are currently building a new showroom in Winchester and will be adding new inventory, stuff we have not sold before.”
North Carolina: (Hearth, BBQ) “It has slowed a little but I’m hoping it is weather related.”
Texas: (Patio, BBQ) “Barbecue sales were mostly pellet grills.”
Texas: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Feels at best so-so! But numbers don’t lie. Two back-to-back record-setting years. Can the politicians screw it up? Yes! And election year is usually mushy! So hate to be negative, but the run may be near the downturn. We’ve had some really good patio sales, most revolving around the weekend. The shear number of sales is down, but the size of the sale makes life good!
“The barn is loaded so we can deliver. Seems half still want to order. Wicker demand is softer. I wonder why? There are so many places with wicker products it has to be confusing. But we can do the big patio, complete and set up immediately. Most Big Box stores can’t start to put everything together. Hopefully we’re squeezing out one more great year!”
Texas: (Hearth, BBQ) “We are very thankful for our loyal customers and loyal distributors.”
Virginia: (Hearth, BBQ) “Still only a little interest and traffic with a few orders, but the slow season is here!”,
Virginia: (Hearth) “Storms have hurt us again. New-home starts have really slowed. It rains almost every week. Hope it doesn’t continue through the summer.”
Illinois: (Patio) “We had snow on two of our weekends during April. So who knows what it could have been? We were fortunate to have several larger sales that helped carry the overall volume. Teak and woven continue to be strong.”
Illinois: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “We don’t sell much furniture but we got a big special order that accounted for our increase.”
Illinois: (Hearth) “Late spring and big discounts on 2019 models bumped us up. Profit?”
Michigan: (Spas) “After an extremely tough January and February, March was also off, but April was absolutely wonderful. Weather was awful just about every day but all product lines did extremely well. The hot tub business was absolutely outstanding – no complaints from us. We hope the ball keeps rolling through May and June. Great staff kept their chin up. We didn’t cut margin. Held the line on price. It was great.”
Michigan: (Patio) “Even though April was one of the wettest months that I can remember, we promoted pre-season sales on all our patio furniture. What really made it great was the heavy promotion of poly-lumber furniture that became more and more popular every day. That category alone more than doubled from last year in April.”
Nebraska: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “This has to be one of the worst springs we have had weather-wise. People are just not getting out and shopping for spring products. The season is getting shorter by the day.”
Ohio: (Hearth, BBQ) “We had the best January 1 through April 30 since we opened our doors in 2004. Grills in the $1,000 price point are selling incredibly well, and hearth products have remained unusually strong for this time of year. An improved staff and the solid economy are what we point to as the main contributing factors to this successful start.”
Wisconsin: (Patio) “After a slow start, store traffic and sales are picking up. Bring on the warm weather!”
Wisconsin: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “End of April felt like we were down overall, but the numbers for April show we are up; YTD is still down a bit. Hard spring (ongoing) kept us from completing a lot of jobs due to cold, ice, snow, more snow, etc. Now thinking that due to the six months (ongoing) of winter we had, it will help eventually, but due to the large amount of fuel (LP especially) people are digging out of that debt load.”
Wisconsin: (Hearth, BBQ) “Awesome month if we compare only to last year of the same month. 2018 April was a poor month; we have just had a great month. In comparison to last year, it has been outstanding. For the first four months of this year we have had an increase in sales. Love the business!”
A reading above 90 indicates the economy is on solid footing; above 100 signals strong growth.
California: (Hearth, BBQ) “Good traffic and sales.”
California: (Hearth) “Out here in the West we are finally drying out, so construction projects are all taking off at the same time and lots of fireplaces going out.”
California: (Hearth, BBQ, Spas) “The snow and rain this year hurt us. Installs were cancelled due to weather, and now we will be able to install stoves we had scheduled in February; snow is finally melting. Weather kept people out of the store, along with the price of fuel rising daily. Could not get heating pellets in March/April but we were up with our pellet sales overall. Customers are already looking for the newer stoves coming out with the 2020 listing. It’s going to be an interesting year.”
California: (Patio) “With taxes in the rear view mirror, and spring in full bloom, clients are looking forward to spending time outside with nicer weather each day, and looking forward to those visits to our store to freshen up their patio furniture.”
California: (Hearth, Spas) “Still getting rain and cooler weather here, so hearth activity is still strong. Last month was very strong. Hoping for a good spa summer.”
California: (Hearth, Patio) “Milder weather helped people to come out and shop. Once traffic improved, our staff was able to convert many of these shoppers into sales. Tariffs on Chinese-made goods were absorbed by some manufacturers or had slight effect on sales (but January and February were lower than last year).”
Colorado: (Hearth) “We are seeing a very busy spring. For us in Colorado that’s a mixed blessing – it’s good for business, but Colorado is going the same way California went – Loved to death!”
Oregon: (Hearth, BBQ) “Weather was cooler than a year ago.”
British Columbia: (Hearth) “More phone calls with questions about wood stoves, but no requests for price quotes.”
British Columbia: (Hearth, BBQ) “We have recently put on displays talking to prospective customers at trade fairs, so expect this will provide business for the slow season for hearth.”
British Columbia: (Hearth, BBQ) “Really slow start to barbecue season, which is concerning because weather has been really nice.”
Manitoba: (Patio, BBQ) “Grill sales were a little soft last year, so I think the increase is natural. Patio sales – weather is holding them back – we are pretty much flat, with a tiny increase.”
New Brunswick: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Flat, flat, flat.”
Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Huge pent-up demand for summer product after a long cold winter. New construction and renovations are booming. Major showroom renovations helping as well.”
Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “I feel very positive about an upswing in sales this year. Prayer helps!”
Ontario: (Hearth) “We’re down 31%, which we likely won’t recover from. Two reasons: it’s a correction year and an election year for us – everybody’s got their eyes on the news, and there’s nothing good there. I feel that as May approaches, this will be the month to break the cycle. We’ve slowed right down for the last four months, but we’re gearing up for spring/summer. We’ve got a lot of quotes out there right now that look positive.”
|COMPANY – EXCHANGE||SYMBOL||52 WEEK||Week Ending||% CHANGE||MARKET CAPITALIZATION|
|High||Low||29-Mar-19||26-Apr-19||4 WEEK||26 WEEK||52 WEEK||($000,000)|
|Standard & Poor’s 500 (a)||S & P||2,945.83||2,351.10||2,834.40||2,926.17||3.2%||10.1%||9.6%|
|HNI Corporation (b)||HNI||45.40||32.99||36.29||36.96||1.8%||-2.7%||7.9%||$1,570.00|
|Pool Corporation (c)||POOL||186.49||136.83||164.97||178.81||8.4%||26.7%||28.7%||$7,350.00|
|Restoration Hardware (b)||RH||164.49||94.75||102.95||105.92||2.9%||-4.7%||13.0%||$2,240.00|
|Wayfair, Inc. (b)||W||173.72||73.64||148.45||154.49||4.1%||42.1%||131.9%||$13,890.00|