Seeing opportunity through change in the outdoor industry

Wes Stewart, Managing Director and Founding Partner of Sunset West, wrote and editorial for Casual Living Magazine which was featured on December 12, 2018.

New channels of distribution and new competitors force existing business models to change. Why else would someone choose to disrupt a perfectly good and profitable model?

Change is a frightening word for most of us, myself included. Changing routines, changing jobs or changing business practices can all induce anxiety. It disrupts the comfort of our daily routines and forces us to reconsider what we do on a regular basis; however, with change comes opportunity.

Increasingly, traditional furniture manufacturers, online stores and catalog companies are all showing interest in casual furniture. Why does there seem to be more competition? The simple answer is because there is a tremendous amount of business to be had for both retailers and manufacturers.

OUTDOOR IN DEMAND

Today, the architecture of new homes almost always includes an outdoor living area, whether that’s a covered back patio, a front porch or a beautifully integrated indoor/ outdoor entertaining space with disappearing doors. Sometimes, homes have all three spaces, and as research points out, home buyers and those remodeling existing homes are demanding these outdoor spaces.

The best news about these relatively new entertaining hot spots is that they happen to be focal points of the home. And homeowners tend to spend more money while furnishing these focal points.

Now that we’ve established there is opportunity to furnish these new spaces, how do we continue our dominance in the channel?

As a manufacturer, we continue to look for ways to differentiate ourselves from the masses and overly available product, not just in comfort, quality, design and value, but also in how we present and support our offerings— hence our Color Stories at Sunset West were born.

SOMETHING SPECIAL

This is not just a collection, but a compilation of several collections in different materials and textures that all work together to form different color palettes. I believe the color-palette approach allows our retail partners to offer something special and different vs. the standard matched set that is available through too many other channels.

No longer will our partners ask: “What material are you looking for? Aluminum, resin wicker, wrought iron, wood, poly-wood?” The idea of color stories allows the questions to evolve into: “What is the style of your house? What style do you prefer?” The customer may not be able to answer the first question, but they will certainly be able to answer the second one.

The color-palette approach can challenge the norm in the retail store, but when executed correctly, the ticket averages increase, and the customer is more satisfied with a “stylized” solution for their home. Our retail partners can offer something that big box stores and the Internet cannot—a bespoke service/solution for the discerning client.

Through spending time on the road, talking with customers at trade shows and sharing ideas at industry-sponsored roundtables, I have had the opportunity to meet creative thinkers who continue to modify their traditional retail model to succeed in ways that big box stores and the Internet simply cannot.

IDEAS FOR SUCCESS

  • Store gatherings centered on education or televised sporting events, not just discounted sales.
  • Constant contact with customers via email to share new installations, local news or even holiday recipes.
  • Offering in-home consultations with a lead designer/salesperson.
  • Providing furniture on loan so the customer can have something for their party, but still order exactly what they really want.
  • Barbecuing lunch for shoppers at weekend events.
  • Sending “thank you” cards after a purchase, sometimes with a gift card to come back to the store.
  • Donating a product or a gift card to a local school auction (ask us; we’ll participate).
  • Any activity or contact that can create a personal connection between the community and the company.

NO ONE IS IMMUNE

By listing suggestions on how to successfully retail outdoor furniture, I know I just opened myself up to a list of suggestions about what I can do as a manufacturer to succeed in the industry, as well. I welcome those emails and look forward to the conversations.

The casual industry is not insulated from the requirement to change. Industries all around us are being forced to change. Grocery stores have enticed customers with Starbucks coffee shops. Now many are adding bars that serve wine and craft beers. Best Buy just announced in-home consultations.

Challenges and competitive forces require us to change, but there also exists fantastic opportunities with change when it is embraced and then executed.

Thank you all for a fantastic 2018, and as we all prepare for the changes ahead of us in 2019, I wish you a happy and a very prosperous New Year.

 

To view the full original article, click here.