Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Evolution of the Casual Furniture Market Place

The Casual Furniture Industry is a Multi Billion dollar industry providing Chaise Lounges, Pool Furniture, Patio Furniture, Tables, Outdoor Chairs and Casual Dining Sets.

Prior to the past several years the industry has been dominated by many Domestic Companies such as Brown Jordan, Telescope, Tropitone, Woodard and others. Distribution occurred mainly through specialty furniture retailers.

The industry is very seasonal and requires manufacturing to cycle with the demand. These are some of the reasons that imported goods have been slow to penetrate the US market. The cost to ship containers made it difficult for Imports to be profitable. However, as with many sectors of the US market, the available margin between the selling price of the domestic goods and the cost of imported goods made it feasible to sell large quantities through the mass market retailers.
The past 5 years has seen imported casual furniture market quickly change.

Foreign manufactures began to court mass retailers and find enough shelf space to handle sending containers from China and other Asian Countries. Grocery stores Walmart/Sam’s Club, Costco -- Cosco, Kmart, Sears and the large Box Retailers brought cheaper imported furniture for store stock. Tables, Chairs that had held higher domestic value were ”knocked off” for a lower price. This furniture limited the style and color options. For instance, “you can have any color you want just as long as it is white!”.

Consumers found the tradeoff acceptable, lower price with fewer options. However, limited style wasn’t the only compromise. Many times there was a difference in quality as well. Imports commonly used steel to reinforce aluminum tubing which rusts. Many times the furniture left out in the weather would leave rust stains on the floor and furniture. Finish quality also failed to meet customers’ expectation as paint flaked off and was not up to domestic standards.

Pressure of imports, costs of raw materials and energy costs are and have been accelerating prices giving way to inflation. Manufacturers will have to be keen to compete or loose more domestic business.

Today we have almost every big box retailer from the Grocery Store to Cosco and Sam’s selling Casual Outdoor Furniture. The main fare is Outdoor Dining Sets that are used in combination with an umbrella. This leads to a new story about a new product UBrace™ to anchor the table/umbrella mechanism. To be discussed another day soon.

About the Author
John Gravlee is the Owner of Furniture Leisure, Inc. Mr. Gravlee has supplied outdoor furniture to the hospitality, multi-family housing and business industry for over 20 years. Seven years ago he developed his first e-commerce on line store. Since then sales have expanded domestically and to international destinations.

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