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Hearth & Home July 2019

2019 May Business Climate

May Sales

In early June, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare May 2019 sales to May 2018. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 193 useable returns.

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Weather Report

Consumer Confidence

Stock Watch


May 2019 vs. May 2018

There’s little to like in the May numbers. The Hearth category posted the best numbers: 38% of retailers said they were UP, but 29% told us they were Down. Thirty percent of Spa retailers were UP, 20% were Down. Twenty-six percent of Patio retailers were UP, 19% were Down, and 19% of Barbecue retailers were UP, and 18% were Down. Nothing to write home about here.

May 2019 vs. May 2018

In May, Patio sales were UP, but by only 2%, which is a little better than Hearth, Barbecue, and Spas – all three were up but by only 1%.

Retailer Comments


Connecticut: (Hearth) “Interest has slowed down since we finally got warmer weather, but we’re still up 100% from last year. We have to attribute that to the colder, longer winter and semi-high gas prices, but we would also like to think that the repeat business we get and referrals are due to our honest, dependable service.

“Our A+ BBB rating is due to the fact that we insist our employees be friendly, helpful, and honest, not to mention timely and courteous on the job and in the store. Our employees get awesome reviews and work together like a family. Just want to give them a big thank you for their loyalty and hard work.”

Connecticut: (Hearth, BBQ) “The rains have subsided and we can see Mt. Ararat. With any luck, something positive will happen to Connecticut’s economy, but I won’t get my hopes up. We are patiently waiting.”

Maryland: (Hearth, BBQ) “Customers are buying but are being very frugal on the amount they are spending. They’re fighting down to the last dollar, which makes it hard when they get five or six estimates and you have a one-man show giving it away because he has no license, no insurance, and no employees to worry about. That gets frustrating and old very quickly!”

Massachusetts: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “Sales are spotty because of weather.”

New Hampshire: (Patio, BBQ) “We are located in New England (Massachusetts and Southern NH); the weather was rainy and cold through May and just turned warm the beginning of June. We have been doing digital advertising for patio products since the middle of March, and that is the only thing that has kept us afloat and selling anything in April and May.”

New York: (Hearth, Patio, Spas) “We are getting out of the barbecue business, thanks to the grill companies that have sold their souls to Amazon. You know who you are. We supported and well-represented these manufacturers for literally decades just to have this slap in the face.

“I’m sorry to see Traeger, Big Green Egg, and Weber on Amazon. Tsk, tsk. The patio folks are next. You sell it on Amazon, it’s leaving my store. Period. End of story. Our plan going forward is to expand our hot tub display, marketing, and sales goals. At least the brands we carry are not selling out. They actually support their dealers. For now.”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth) “We are 11 months into our fiscal year, and 30% ahead of last year. It’s the best year in the last five years. Thank you, Donald.”

Pennsylvania: (Patio, Spas) “Rain every day - holding sales back. Sunny days are great but cannot make up lost sales. Just take every day and do the best we can.”

Pennsylvania: (Hearth, BBQ) “We have had the strongest six months in the 40-year history of the company. Tear outs with total rebuilds using gas fireplaces, stone faces, etc., have been strong. State-funded change-out program has increased pellet stove sales. New construction is up slightly. Wood stays constant.”

Weather Report

For the following weather charts, the numbers for each state reflects the temperature and percipitation rankings for the period since records began in 1895.

Florida set a record – the warmest May since recording began in 125 years, while nine other Southeastern states experienced temperatures that were Much Above Average. We can’t forget the outlier state – Washington, at Much Above Average. And it was wet. Nationwide, it was the second wettest May since 1895.

Again, the heat was in the Southeast, while the Midwest was mainly at Below Average temperatures, with South Dakota at Much Below Average. For the contiguous U.S., it was the sixth wettest March – May in 125 years.

Only 10 states were at Near Average precipitation during the month of May. All the rest were Above Average, and Nebraska, Kansas, and Missouri experienced the Record Wettest month of May since 1895.

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Arkansas: (Hearth) “Very disappointing retail month and YTD position. Just cannot get any sales going this year despite having lots of good sales on wood products. No floor traffic whatsoever. What’s going on?”

North Carolina: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Higher-end products are driving sales growth.”

Oklahoma: (Hearth) “Foot traffic slower, lots of rain!”

Tennessee: (Hearth, BBQ) “We experienced a bad fire about two and half years ago; about 2,500 units burned. Since then our sales have increased over the previous years – 30% to 100% in some months. Of course, some of the increase includes first-time units. The greatest increase has been in direct-vent gas. Most are the linear-type units. Vent-free units and vent-free log sets have been strong both for rental units as well as homeowners for supplemental heat.

“Our winters for the last two or three years have been rather mild. Surprisingly, wood fireboxes have been very good; wood stoves have been good to start the season but flattened out later.

“Our business in hearth, barbecue, etc., is rather steady; it’s not as seasonal as some even though it’s more sideline than main line. We have a strong venting and piping business with gas parts etc.”

Texas: (Hearth, BBQ) “Pellet grills are up.”

Texas: (Hearth, BBQ) “We are very thankful for our loyal customers and loyal distributors. After almost 24 years in the hearth and barbecue industry, we still see there are some vendors and distributors that work hard to acknowledge our loyalty to them and their product lines as well.

“For many years, manufacturers and distributors alike counted on brick-and-mortar stores like ours to market and sell their products. Sadly, with a few exceptions, we are no longer as valuable to them as they still are to us.

“This is a real, heartfelt thank you to all vendors and distributors that work actively to show they think about their brick-and-mortar stores. Our staff and our families appreciate all that you do.”

Virginia: (Hearth) “May really slowed down, which is not that unusual for this time of year. Even new home construction has slowed a good bit. Mainly because spec home sales are really down. Without the normal cash flow from sales, the high-end builders are holding back. Hopefully, it will pick back up soon.”


Iowa: (Hearth, BBQ) “Indeed we are up for the year. Did not figure the percentage. This spring is slow and I could not be happier! Our small shop has been so busy through the fall and winter, the slower business in the spring has allowed us to catch up!”

Illinois: (Patio) “May was one of the rainiest Mays in history. We felt it at the end of the month. Usually the last few days we have lots of people through the door. That didn’t happen this year. We continued to see strong sales in woven and teak. We did see some cast-aluminum interest which had not been the case earlier in the season. We are looking for a strong June as the weather has settled down to a more normal range.”

Illinois: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Weather has been bad, affecting grill sales!”

Indiana: (Patio, BBQ, Spas) “The rain and cool temps have been a drag on store sales for the spring of 2019. I was told it has only rained twice in Indiana so far this year, the first one lasted for 35 days and the second one was 26 days. The farmers, and anyone who works outside, are dealing with some of the worst weather I have ever seen in this part of Indiana. I was happy to see a full day-and-a-half of no moisture from the sky at the end of this week.”

Michigan: (Patio, BBQ) “Warmer spring temperatures gave our clients motivation to start working on their outdoor spaces. Grill sales are likely up due to lack of quality units available in our market.”

Missouri: (Hearth, BBQ) “The wet spring didn’t help business. Building is being delayed and the cool, wet spring has slowed barbecue sales. Gas grills are down remarkably; charcoal and pellet grills are steady, but not as good as last spring. It seems the economy is slightly slowing but still OK. The end of May turned around and we finished the month slightly up from last year.”

Ohio: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “Grill sales in the $1,000 - $1,500 range are selling well. Otherwise, barbecue sales are flat. We are happy to see that gas fireplaces and insert sales are still going strong. The hearth season never really ended. We’re still having a record-setting start to the calendar year.”

Wisconsin: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Sales dropped off; weather warmed up. Our only thoughts are that, after six months of winter, the last thing people want to think about is that winter is only four months away. Seeing some nice activity in patio and fire tables, though. Hell, it’s almost fall, and we will start making money again!”

Wisconsin: (Hearth, BBQ) “Perfect working weather. Could use another new employee. We are booked for work way into July. Makes me very nervous for this coming fall.”

Consumer Confidence

The Consumer Confidence Index improved in May, following an increase in April. The Index now stands at 134.1 (1985=100), up from 129.2 in April.

“Consumer Confidence posted another gain in May and is now back to levels seen last Fall when the Index was hovering near 18-year highs,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “Consumers expect the economy to continue growing at a solid pace in the short-term, and despite weak retail sales in April, these high levels of confidence suggest no significant pullback in consumer spending in the months ahead.”

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) “Our rainy season was a big help this year, but our Easter break, spring break and graduations were extended and interfered with our sales. Now that Memorial Day is behind us our sales should pick back up and we are expecting a productive summer. Lots of projects coming in already, and the economy still seems strong if the media doesn’t poison it.”

Oregon: (Hearth, BBQ) “May is seeing payback for investments and new products, as well as the fact our spring weather start was late.”

Washington: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “So far so good this year.”


British Columbia: (Hearth, BBQ) “We have received virtually all our booking orders of chimney and stoves so are scrambling to see how many we can sell before the final booking payments are due. For all of the past five years, we find we have to reorder because we based our estimates on last year’s sales, and this year’s will be up once again.”

British Columbia: (Hearth, BBQ) “Barbecue sales have been nonexistent this year despite more advertising and promotions. Hardly getting any inquiries – bizarre year.”

Ontario: (BBQ) “Very poor month. Cold and wet most days. Not even the most dedicated barbecue grillers will go outside and cook in this weather.”

Ontario: (Hearth) “Weather stinks and it’s killing business!”

Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Nothing exciting. Just plain, cold, rainy days. Yuk! Maybe we will have summer in the fall. Who says there is no climate change?”

Ontario: (Patio, BBQ) “Coldest spring I can remember. Traffic is way down in the store. Competition is fierce.”

Stock Watch

    High Low 3-May-19 31-May-19 4 WEEK 26 WEEK 52 WEEK ($000,000)
Standard & Poor’s 500 (a) S & P 2,945.83 2,351.10 2,945.64 2,752.06 -6.6% -0.3% 0.6%  
HNI Corporation (b) HNI 45.40 32.79 37.46 33.16 -11.5% -14.0% -9.9% $1,440.00
Pool Corporation (c) POOL 186.50 136.83 184.44 179.78 -2.5% 10.6% 26.8% $7,110.00
Restoration Hardware (b) RH 164.49 84.11 108.80 85.15 -21.7% -26.7% -13.4% $1,740.00
Wayfair, Inc. (b) W 173.72 76.50 148.82 144.04 -3.2% 35.6% 51.6% $13,200.00


(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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