As more specialty retailers strive to set themselves apart from the competition, they are increasingly looking at contemporary designs to boost sales. Officials at Pride Family Brands, Hollywood, Fla, have keyed into this trend with heavy investments in time, money, and design expertise.
Rory Rehmert, senior vice president of Sales, Pride Family Brands, says the effort has been worth it. “A very high percentage of our customers added at least one slot of the new contemporary products,” reports Rehmert. “In markets with Fall selling seasons, the retail activity on the contemporary collections was outstanding, and we are looking forward to an amazing Spring 2016.”
Many outdoor retailers are flooring a contemporary collection (such as the Park Place Collection [top left] featuring a Contemporary Coffee Table in Platinum- DeVries Casual Furniture, North Brunswick, NJ) from Pride Family Brands for the first time and experiencing success from the start. In fact, Rehmert reports that two of the company’s new contemporary collections are now in Pride’s top 10 collections.
Carrying a bold contemporary collection (Park Place Sling Dining and Contemporary Table on right – DeVries Casual Furniture, North Brunswick, NJ) is a great way to stand apart from the competition, but Rehmert points out that merely buying the collection and hoping for the best is not enough.
“Providing inviting product presentations, featuring superior products sold by well-educated and professional sales personnel is essential,” he says. “Our message is to seek out brands that are innovative and responsive to retail and higher-end consumer trends and demands. Seek out quality products that maintain a favorable margin that ultimately benefits you, the retailer, and your sales team. High-end, customizable outdoor furniture is in high demand, and is here to stay.”
Rehmert has specific ideas about the best ways to show these new contemporary products, and Patio & Hearth Products Report (P&HPR) recently got a chance to chat with him about the showroom floor, current challenges for retailers, and how to appeal to all market demographics.
P&HPR: What is the best way to balance contemporary and traditional collections on the showroom floor?
Rory Rehmert, senior vice president of Sales, Pride Family Brands: With the popularity of contemporary styling in outdoor furnishings (Park Place Horizon Sectional and Icon Table pictured on left- Today’s Patio, Scottsdale, AZ), the proper display and merchandising of modern designs is important to the success of the collections. For casual retailers who have done well with traditional designs, there is a need to carve out a specific space and create a distinct section with a more contemporary feeling within the showroom, while also maintaining a separate traditional section.
The balance should be determined by the market demographics; however, if equally presented, there are distinct elements that need to be taken into consideration with regard to the style and the applicable customers. The set-up of the specific sections, along with the transition between each, can be best accomplished by doing merchandising research or by consulting a design firm. For the modern design trend, one must take note that it is driven by the high end consumer, including boomer or gen X age groups—or even wealthy millennials. For this group, styling, lighting, and accessorizing should present a high-end appeal as well. Done correctly, it should earn a great return on investment.
P&HPR: What is the greatest challenge for retailers today?
Rehmert: The single biggest factor and challenge affecting businesses in the outdoor segment is weather. From a late spring to record breaking rainfall, weather is a constant of which retailers have no control. They are challenged daily to manage expectations and outcomes as best they can.
2016 is a new year, and everything is lined up for the industry to have a good season. It then falls upon each business to maintain a high energy level within retail sales personnel. This in part is created by selecting manufacturers that deliver fresh, eye-opening designs (see Eclipse Sling Dining with Live Edge/Altra Dining Table on left – McGannon Showrooms, Dallas TX), and stress the benefits of selling better goods. Improving product flow with new, exciting, customizable products that are higher quality and built for longevity is key.
P&HPR: What is the best way to appeal to all market demographics when featuring contemporary collections?
Rehmert: For the proper showcasing of contemporary seating, modern buyers tend toward clean lines, less clutter, and a cohesive streamlined look. The amount of separation allowed between contemporary vignettes and traditional product also will enable lighting to be style specific.
A brighter and more cheerful setup captures the contemporary feel with a well-lit space, in conjunction with neutral background coloration including floor coverings. If applicable, positioning nearer to front windows will place a focus on the furnishings in relation to the clean lines of glass and the bright open lighting. Positioning a representative selection of throw pillows near to a contemporary set allows sales personnel to change throw pillows from more traditional and classy to colorful and youthful. Within the proper showroom display, asking open-ended questions to determine color preferences will direct pillow selection as well as other product decisions.
P&HPR: What is the biggest mistake that retailers make when displaying products on the showroom floor?
Rehmert: Placing sets too close together is a big mistake and does not allow for the product to be properly viewed or experienced. Mix and mismatch is a definite mistake. The contemporary buyer is not the same buyer as the traditional buyer. In traditional furniture stores, catering to contemporary and traditional is found; but still is segmented.
Modern buyers, in general, do not like clutter. However, one does not want the display to lack a lifestyle look. Keeping displays relatively clean, well-lit, and accessorized with coordinating contemporary items is encouraged.