By: Chip West, Client Marketing Director, Valassis
Published Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
Here in New England, we had a rough winter. From weeks of sub-zero temperatures in early January to a seemingly endless series of March Nor’easters dumping dozens of inches of snow – it wasn’t fun. Even we skiers had enough.
Something happens when spring arrives… good feelings emerge. The clocks get turned ahead and we can magically drive home after work without the use of headlights. Walking through department stores and seeing cabana, cruise and warm weather fashion makes us smile. The crack of the bat and the umpire’s shout of “play ball” gives us a bounce in our step. And when our HDTVs lock in on all those magnificent flowers, lush greens and fairways at The Masters, we know we’ve turned the corner and fun times lie just ahead.
Many of these good feelings we are sensing are the result of envisioning ourselves outdoors. And, consumers are already in a better mood and feeling more confident due to an improving economy with lower unemployment, rising wages and benefits from new tax laws. We’re ready to spend – and spend on outdoor furnishings.
Demand for Outdoor Furniture
The outdoor furniture category has come a long way from agonizingly uncomfortable aluminum-strapped lounge chairs and one-piece picnic tables. Today, outdoor furniture is comprised of a wide variety of exciting styles, lines and functionality; itis one of the most rapidly growing categories in the furniture industry. In fact, outdoor furniture is estimated to be over $4.7 billion and experienced 4.1 percent growth last year vs. 2016.¹
The popularity and growth of the outdoor furniture category has garnered greater focus from manufacturers and retailers looking to expand their product offerings and revenue channels. Against a back-drop of overarching industry optimism, the recent Winter Las Vegas Market show enjoyed record-breaking attendance by furniture buyers and suppliers.² Many of the thousands of attendees were there to discover an abundance of new, exciting and unique offerings in the outdoor category.
Seizing the Outdoor Opportunity
Realizing significant opportunity, a number of furniture retailers have entered the outdoor arena. Ashley announced in 2016 it would be adding outdoor furniture to its home furnishings lineup. CEO Todd Wanek stated, “Outdoor furniture is a rapidly growing category, and the outdoor room is a room we want to fill with both fashion and value.”³ Earlier this year, Rooms To Go expanded into the outdoor furniture category after buying Carl’s Patio, a South Florida-based marketer of luxury outdoor furniture and accessories.⁴
With 56 percent of U.S. households planning to purchase this year, 2018 is expected to be a stellar one for outdoor furniture sales.⁵ Increased demand for the addition of outdoor spaces is driving growth, as consumers add patios, sunrooms, decks and porches to extend their living areas and maximize outdoor enjoyment. It’s no surprise that outdoor features are included in 91 percent of newly constructed homes.⁶
March through May is the most popular time for U.S. consumers to buy outdoor furniture. One notable survey uncovered that more than half prefer to purchase during these three months. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23 percent) conveyed that May was the preferred time to purchase, followed by March (17 percent), then April (16 percent).⁷
What Shoppers Want & Will Spend
Most consumers expect their outdoor furniture to last and have an approximate six-year lifespan (millennials expect just two- four years).⁷ Outdoor dining sets continue to retain the largest market share (48 percent), but it is clear that “chat groups,” – furniture designed for intimate conversation – (25 percent) are sustaining popularity and seeing growth.¹
According to a 2017 Impact Consulting Services survey, 72 percent of outdoor furniture consumers spent less than $1,000 on their recent purchase⁸
How Marketers Can Inspire & Influence Consumers
Today’s shoppers are engaging with and consuming information from a myriad of sources and media. Marketers should keep in mind that print media is the top source for outdoor furnishings’ inspiration (42 percent). It offers a high-quality, impactful and long-lasting opportunity to remain in front of consumers during the purchase consideration period. Print is closely followed by internet sources (40 percent),⁵ and not coincidently, integrated print and digital represent two-thirds of media influence on purchases among those planning to buy furniture.10
Five Outdoor Furniture Take-a-ways for Retailers
Outdoor furniture is one of the fastest-growing categories in the furniture industry. At $4.7 billion in sales and over 4 percent growth in 2017, retailers across all channels are taking notice.
Much of the country experienced a long tough winter. Entering a new season and empowered by a variety of positive economic factors as well as a desire to extend living space, over half of U.S. households are planning to buy outdoor furniture in 2018.
Spring, notably May, is a key time for outdoor furniture sales. Retailers should make sure they have dedicated floor space with a variety of product lines and choices.
Conversation sets including dining and “chat groups” are the most popular product segments, especially among millennials.
Print and digital media are the most inspirational sources for outdoor furniture, representing the greatest combined share of media influence for purchases among those planning to buy furniture. Marketers can leverage an integrated strategy to impactfully connect with high-opportunity outdoor furniture shoppers.
¹ PBM Strategic Insights, Casual Living Study, Sept. 2017
² “Busiest-Ever Las Vegas Market Records Striking Attendance Gains,” lasvegasmarket.com, Feb. 2018
³ FURNITUREToday, July 2016
⁴ “Rooms To Go Moves Outdoor With Latest Acquisition”, Tampa Bay Business Journal, Jan. 2018
⁵ Wakefield Research On Behalf Of International Casual Furnishings Association, Feb. 2018
⁶ US Census Data & PBM Strategic Insights, Casual Living Study, Sept. 2017
⁷ FURNITUREToday/Fung Global Retail & Technology, Oct. 2016
⁸ Impact Consulting Services Survey, Sept. 2017
⁹ “Millennials vs. Boomers” Outdoor Survey, Casual Living, Jan. 2017
¹⁰ Prosper Insights & Analytics, January 2017