By Lisa Readie Mayer
A recent trend report by design, decorating, and remodeling platform Houzz, reveals what many specialty hearth, barbecue, and patio retailers already know: Consumers want to create an indoor-like outdoor-living environment at home.
Since you’re most likely in the know about that, it’s also likely you already offer a wide variety of grills and outdoor-cooking products. Maybe you even carry outdoor kitchen cabinetry, fire pits, fireplaces, bar elements, heaters, and patio furnishings.
But there are plenty more products you could be offering to help homeowners live and entertain better outdoors. Innovative, new, entertainment-focused products amp-up customers’ fun, enjoyment, and comfort in their outdoor spaces, and in the process, earn them bragging rights with the neighbors.
Introducing these type of products to your line-up can add excitement to the sales floor, differentiate your business, cement your positioning as an expert in the Outdoor Room category, and create add-on sales opportunities. Here’s a look at some of them.
The Aurora from Furrion.
An outdoor television is one of the most-requested and most-used elements in an Outdoor Room. It is the focal point for game-day home-gating, dinner-and-a-movie parties, and relaxing evenings of Netflix-binging. Early versions of outdoor-rated televisions were pricy, putting them out of reach for many homeowners. But today, there are more affordable options and alternative solutions than ever.
“Most outdoor-rated TVs cost at least $5,000, so many people end up (spending $500) and using an indoor TV outdoors,” says Aaron Mellow, Senior Key Account manager at Furrion, makers of outdoor TV and audio systems. “They figure if they spend $500, and have to replace it in a year or two, they are still ahead of the game. But we saw a gap in the market that was not being met.”
To answer the need, Furrion introduced its Aurora line of affordably priced, fully weatherproof, outdoor televisions this year, with sizes ranging from 43 to 65 inches, and retail prices between $999 and $2,699. The televisions come in sun and shade versions to provide the crispest visuals for the installation conditions. Though all models incorporate speakers, the company also offers affordable, wall-mount-able, Bluetooth-capable, weatherproof Sound Bars for higher-quality sound while watching television or listening to music outdoors.
“We have gotten tremendous interest from designers and retailers,” says Mellow. “It’s about creating an outdoor living experience. Why not watch the football game on the patio or have music outdoors when you’re entertaining? People want to be living life outdoors. Retailers have been successful running promotions around Memorial Day, Father’s Day, or other key summer holidays. Sometimes they’ll even offer a free Sound Bar with the purchase of an outdoor TV.”
Another alternative is the new Storm Shell, a waterproof case that encloses and protects a regular indoor television so it can be used outdoors. The UV- and impact-resistant, hard-plastic case is available in 44-, 55- and 65-inch sizes, and comes with a rotating wall-mount bracket and hardware suitable for installing on brick, concrete, stucco, wood, or siding. The front cover is attached by lockable buckle latches, and easily removed for TV viewing.
“It is a simple solution for watching television outdoors and much less expensive than buying an outdoor-rated TV,” says managing partner Derrick Longson. (Retail prices range from $349 to $599.) “The response has been great.”
In sophisticated indoor-living spaces, many designers and homeowners prefer to keep the TV out of sight. So it is with luxury Outdoor Rooms. When not in use, Cabinet Tronix hides the television within an attractive, waterproof cabinet base, but when ready to watch, elevates it to a comfortable viewing position with the push of a button.
Made in the USA, the weatherproof cabinets have 10-year warranties, heavy-duty lift systems, and compartments to hide cable boxes, DVD players, sound bars, remotes, and other components. They come in a wide variety of exterior finishes, including a selection of porcelain tiles, woods, stacked stone, and more than 60 colors of stucco.
On casters, the cabinets can easily be relocated on the patio, and have 360-degree swivel mounts to position the television for viewing from multiple areas within the outdoor space, such as the pool, spa, outdoor kitchen, fire pit seating area, or bar. When the TV is recessed, the cabinet becomes an extra tabletop or counter surface for serving.
“This is a solution-based product that’s also a cool luxury item and a conversation piece outdoors,” says Cabinet Tronix owner Trace McCullough. “It’s something that homeowners may not have known about, but as soon as they see it, they want it.”
The Game Cabinet by NatureKast Weatherpoof Cabinetry.
Fun and Games
The Game Cabinet by NatureKast Weatherproof Cabinetry is designed to help families “put down their devices and go out and play,” says vice president of Sales and Marketing Chris Exelby. The eight-foot-tall cabinet is made of high-density resin that replicates the natural color and texture of real cypress wood, and coordinates with NatureKast outdoor kitchen cabinetry. The Game Cabinet, a 2019 Vesta Award winner for Outdoor Room product innovation, is stocked with classic lawn games such as darts, Kan Jam, horseshoes, bocce, croquet, and corn hole, as well as unusual ones, such Molkky from Finland, and a Viking-inspired game called Kubb.
Florida-based Gameroom Concepts Unlimited manufactures outdoor ping-pong, foosball, shuffleboard, and pool tables, as well as corn hole games, to turn an Outdoor Room into the ultimate rec room or man cave. Made of aluminum, the products are designed to hold up in any outdoor weather or climate conditions, according to Joe Grasso, company vice president. “They are very durable and last 30 years or more outside,” he says. “The trend is bringing the indoors out. These tables add to the outdoor experience and enhance the fun.”
The company also offers a full complement of accessories, including cue-stick racks and conversion tops that fit over tables and convert them to a buffet surface or additional dining-table seating. “The homeowner can get double use of the table and the space,” Grasso says. “For the retailer, it’s another source of revenue.”
Coyote Fire Pit powered by Blazing Beats.
Life of the Party
Blazing Beats, from Coyote Outdoor Living, is a next-level fire table that incorporates a marine-grade, Bluetooth-controlled, weatherproof audio system to deliver great sound, while a patent-pending “Sound Visualization Burner” synchronizes flames to the music. The fire flickers and dances to the beat in a mesmerizing display that adapts whether it’s an easy-listening evening for two, or the music is rockin’ for an outdoor party. The natural- or propane-gas-fueled fire pit is available in a number of finishes, including weathered wood and stacked-stone bases with concrete tops, so it looks stylish in the Outdoor Room even when the music isn’t playing.
For quality sound sans flames, Soundcast’s VG5 outdoor speakers offer high-quality streaming from Internet radio, personal music libraries, and apps like Pandora or Spotify, to provide a soundtrack to any grilling session or outdoor party. The speakers are fully protected against rusting, rain, snow and sun, and at only 3.5 pounds, they are lightweight, portable and easy to move about the outdoor-living space. Two speakers can be paired together for twice the volume and coverage.
While these speakers are more likely to be heard and not seen, wood-fired fire pit grills such as OFYR Grills, Arteflame, and Le Bol Grill by Renaissance Fireplaces, command attention on the patio. These novel, garden-sculpture-like, multipurpose products inspire fun and interactive outdoor experiences that are sure to be talked about long after the party ends.
The VG5 from Soundcast.
The Outdoor Big Screen from Camp Chef.
Drawn to the warmth, romance, and aroma of the wood fire in the center of the unit, guests linger to socialize, and help cook on the wide, plancha-griddle band that encircles the fire. These fire pit grills are ideal for keeping self-serve appetizers and melted cheese dips warm on the flattop cooking surface, while providing live-fire cooking drama and wood-smoke flavor for the main course and even dessert. Besides the units themselves, there are plenty of add-on, accessory sales opportunities, including grilling-grid inserts, skewer sets, rotisserie systems, wood storage units, covers, and more.
For theater of another sort, outdoor movies are the ticket to memorable backyard campouts, kids’ parties, and family nights. Outdoor Big Screens by Camp Chef come in a variety of sizes, are lightweight, and easy to set up. Depending on the model, the oversized screens can be hung against a wall, strung between trees, or stand-mounted on legs.
“People shopping at specialty barbecue stores tend to host friends and family for events and parties,” says Camp Chef Marketing manager Ryan Neeley. “They are looking to invest in their outdoor cooking and entertaining options, and this is another extension of outdoor living.”
Retailers looking to extend their outdoor living business might want to consider expanding their outdoor entertainment offerings.