As hardscape projects come together, including trendy patio furniture in a design or suggesting it to a client can round out your next job. Executives from three retail garden centers who are successful in selling outdoor furniture talk about the latest trends from that segment of the market.
Jessica Salisbury, CEO and creative director at Village Green Home & Garden in Rockford, Illinois, says that her IGC started selling patio furniture more than 30 years and hasn’t looked back since. In fact, patio furniture makes up 51% of Village Green’s business.
Kate Terrell, general manager of Wallace’s Garden Center in Bettendorf, Iowa, says Wallace’s has sold outdoor furniture for nearly 20 years and it contributes to a decent chunk of profits. “Last year, I think it was probably 10-15% (of profits), which sounds low, but when you add in all those accessory pieces, it's really a big part of our center and it's a big part of our merchandising,” she says.
Similarly, AJ Petitti, president of Petitti Garden Centers in Cleveland, says they have been selling patio furniture for more than 15 years and about 10% of their sales come from this category.
Salisbury says the latest trends she’s noticed are that customers are drawn to neutral tones while accessories provide pops of color. “Pillows, rugs, pottery – that's where they're drawing in all of the color, but the base fabric on a lot of the furniture is still in that neutral tone,” she says.
Petitti also says that neutral tones are popular with consumers. “Traditional pieces do really well, and accent pillows are still going really strong,” he says. “Cantilever umbrellas have really been picking up steam, too.”
Terrell notes that there is an uptick of sales from furniture made of recycled plastics. People like the fact that it's made from post-consumer recyclables and, while it is expensive, the materials are durable and weather resistant. Terrell says they’ve experienced a resurgence in natural materials too, such as eucalyptus and teak.
“A lot of people lose their price resistance once they realize, ‘Oh my gosh, I can sit this on my deck and never move it again,’” Terrell says.
Traditionally, Wallace’s best-selling colors are neutral slate gray, chocolate or lighter neutral shades in between. However, a lot of people shy away from white because of the dirt, Terrell says. People with swimming pools tend to buy bright-colored pub set chairs to go around the pool and offering tropical colors like lime green or turquoise are a good way to cater to those people, she says.
Both Salisbury and Terrell agree that fire pits are huge sellers in the Midwest, as they help extend the seasons because consumers use them earlier in the spring and later on in the fall.
“People are doing outdoor seating groups, whether it's sofas, sectionals, chat groups,” Salisbury says. “It's about cocktailing and conversations and having fun, and that's usually done around a fire pit.”
Offering products at various prices can help all budgets.
“We offer everything for every pocketbook. We offer an opening price point, which for us – for like a dining set – would be $1,000. And then our most expensive set is $15,000. That sweet spot is the middle price range, that $2,500 to $3,000 price,” Salisbury says.
At Petitti, they offer selections between $999 and $7,999 and try not to stray from those points.
For a long time, Terrell says they tried to stick in the middle price points, but they had a hard time doing so.
She says their real wood or recycled plastic furniture tends to be on the high end of the price point, while their outdoor interiors tend to be middle-of-the-road. They also offer low price point options such as benches.
“When we would kind of sacrifice quality for cheaper price points, we personally had a hard time selling it to people because there's a lot of middle of the road out there in the market,” Terrell says.