Hello friends: I am honored to be the current chairperson of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA). I assumed the role during the HPBExpo in Salt Lake City this past March, and will be in this position for one year.
It is quite a privilege and a little daunting as well. I have served on the Mid-Atlantic HPBA affiliate board for 12 years. I joined the HPBA national board five years ago, and what an experience it has been.
My interest in the hearth industry started while I was selling Carrier Air Conditioning to Carrier Dealers for Peirce Phelps Distributing Co. We decided that hearth could be a perfect counter cyclical business for us. That was 14 years ago, and from the minute I started calling on hearth dealers, I was hooked. I found them to be unassuming, under-served, and in general the nicest, most authentic folks I had ever met.
Since then, I have grown to respect their work ethic, skills, and resilience in light of the most difficult economy that we have seen in many years. I have admired the patience that they exhibit while dealing with the public. Over and over again, I have watched dealers find solutions for the most demanding customers.
It is fortunate that this year looks so much brighter than it has looked for quite a while. Most dealers are up substantially from last year and I think that the outlook is very bright—particularly regarding outdoor products. I think that since we have had such a brutal winter where we had to hunker down and remain indoors for much of it, we are really poised for the outdoors.
There has been a trend over the past five years for outdoor living, but I predict this year will be one for the records. I have been seeing a greater demand for all kinds of outdoor products from fire pits, grills, patio heaters, lights, islands and furniture. It is wonderful to see the hearth and outdoor products categories come together as they are this year.
I actively participate in HPBA because the association presents our industry with a forum to see new products, learn new technology, and perfect some of the current technology. The opportunity for networking is an important benefit as well. The HPBExpo this year was all of that and more. It was a great show in Salt Lake City and the feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly positive—even in light of lower attendance figures. That momentum is going to kick into high gear as we plan for Nashville.
The housing market is on the rise, and so are new opportunities for retailers and manufacturers. Hundreds of leading manufacturers and suppliers will come to demonstrate their newest innovations to thousands of mass-market retailers. With the one-of-a-kind outdoor burn area, tailgating parties, learning opportunities and much more, the 2015 HPBExpo in Nashville promises to deliver. If you’ve skipped an Expo in the past few years, you won’t want to miss this one in Music City!
While this is all good news, there are still hurdles we must face as well. HPBA continues to defend our products from unreasonable demands being made by the government. We need your help as the industry tackles the twin challenges of EPA’s New Source Performance Standards and DOE’s energy efficiency regulations.
I urge everyone to take an active role in these battles and voice your concerns to your elected representatives. If you need assistance in making these contacts, or just need more information so you are comfortable discussing the issues, HPBA’s Government Affairs team is ready to help. Just call the HPBA office and they will assist you. This is critical to the future of the industry. We must do this together!
During this busy year, I hope to represent all of the members of HPBA with a particular eye on the retailer. I consider those dedicated professionals to be our front line and the life blood of the industry. If you have suggestions on how HPBA can work better for you, please let me know. I am grateful for the collaboration among the people who make up this great industry.
Loretta Dolan is chairperson of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association.