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Hearth & Home August 2020

Richard Wright
Hearth & Home Magazine

Where Would We Be?

Where would we be without the Outdoor Room trend?

Not nearly as healthy as we are right now, that’s certain.

During two major catastrophes – the global banking crisis of 2007-2008, and the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 – the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue industries have flourished – at least the smart retailers and manufacturers have.

Step back about two decades, to 1989, and you will find that the Outdoor Room trend was but a babe and, as usual, that trend was occurring first in southern California. Patio furniture manufacturers were upping their game, and David Swers and his dad Alan Swers were (still) trying to convince reluctant retailers that their new Sunbrella fabric could hold up under the sweltering sun, frigid winters, and the ketchup dropped by very young kids.

Barbecue grills were also changing, as a number of former appliance employees decided to leave the world of washers and dryers to set up their own barbecue manufacturing business (darn good move!). That quickly morphed into full outdoor kitchens, with everything including the outdoor sink, and a TV for the chef.  

As we entered the ’90s, many major newspapers and magazines began to write about the Outdoor Room trend. It was also fueled, to a great extent, by Jamie Durie, an Australian ex-stripper turned horticulturist and television star; his program showed us how to create our own Outdoor Rooms. He also wrote at least a half dozen books on that subject.

By the first decade of the new century, both the Patio and Barbecue industries were producing very sophisticated products. They had upped their game appreciably. Companies such as Summer Classics, Woodard, Brown Jordan, and many more had taken the industry into the new century. They, and many others, were ready for what was coming.

During the global banking crisis of 2007-2008, we learned that when people are restricted to their home, they quickly find an outlet for their energy – and their money. Luckily, that energy has been poured into projects, mainly into the creation of a better backyard, one that would accommodate the family, and bring everyone together.

BUT, and it’s a big but, many in the Patio and Barbecue industries hunkered down and didn’t take advantage of an opportunity placed at their feet.

The Patio and Barbecue industries came out of that downturn within two years. The Hearth industry, which had done little to ride the wave of the Outdoor Room, required many years (4 to 8?) to finally get back to where it was prior to the banking crisis. But then it recognized that fire does have a place on the patio. Fire pits became the hottest product in the stable; fireplaces also have been selling very well, as are fire sculptures, fire bowls, etc.

So when we were confronted by the coronavirus, everyone in the Hearth, Patio, and Barbecue industries was ready to capitalize on another opportunity. Not really. Many manufacturers immediately pulled back; many retailers canceled orders, and locked up shop. Those who pushed forward and found creative solutions to problems they faced are just coming off one of the best five months they’ve ever had.

By the way, the Outdoor Room trend, which has been around for about 25 years now, is still going strong.

Remember that when the next catastrophe comes along.

More Stories in this Issue

The Outdoor Room® Design Ideas

By Lisa Readie Mayer

We are pleased to present Hearth & Home’s 7th Annual Outdoor Room Design Ideas special section, a showcase of some of the most fabulous and awe-inspiring Outdoor Rooms around.

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Elements of the Outdoor Room®

Here’s a wide variety of new products that you couldbe selling for the well-appointed Outdoor Room – Patio furniture, grills, outdoor kitchens, shade products, outdoor fireplaces, and fire pits.

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2020 June Business Climate

In early July Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare June 2020 sales to June 2019. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 233 useable returns.

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Parting Shot:
Into The Green

After achieving national renown as a leader in horticulture, Dave MacKenzie – horticulturalist, biologist, and inventor – had sufficient experience to re-think and improve Green roofs as a key contributor to responsible Green building design.

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