At Chicago Pre-Market, Summer Classics introduced over 188 new products and vignettes featuring a completely new eclectic mix of outdoor furniture.
I interviewed Jennifer Bringle, Senior Features Editor at Casual Living Magazine who commented on the overall themes at Pre–Market.
Style: She reports how “transitional mid-century and contemporary styles are hot, but not full on contemporary.”
Finish: “Grey finishes and fabrics are continuing to grow and grow.”
How we fit in: I asked how Summer Classics new products compared to other manufacturer’s introductions. She explained that the concept of “mixing materials like metal, teak and woven is picking up steam”, and Summer Classics who pioneered this many years ago is “on trend” and even ahead of the curve.
How we’re different: When asked what is unique about SC, she explained that “no one else is using reticulated foam”, a chemically treated and expanded foam that water doesn’t stick to, but passes right through it. You can see this is the new White Label group Acero, and the fully upholstered Venti.
Scale: For new trends in the market she was “seeing a lot of smaller scale products for a younger demographic” that prefer smaller spaces like apartments, and empty nester “baby-boomers that are downsizing”.
Fabric: Trends include “softer blues, greys, and lots of bright pops of color on neutrals.” Custom pillow maven, Laurie Bell quoted “I like the brights like orange and white. I’ve seen acid green used very nicely. Color always brings excitement, which is especially important in merchandising, even if it isn’t a top seller.”
Materials: The teak category is “timeless and trending, especially in the higher end. Wicker and aluminum are still popular. There are a lot of alternative materials like table tops and firepits, and plastic wood in the mid-price range.”
Buying patterns: “I am seeing less containers and more quick turnaround products.”
VP of Sales for Summer Classics and Gabby, Schon Duke commented, “This is a remarkably different market for Summer Classics. There are almost no brown furniture finishes in our showroom. You will find monochromatic and textural mixes of dry-brushed greys and distinctive fabrics. Our look is far more sophisticated and eclectic, and resembles many high end indoor brands now. As a result, sales are way up over last year.” Summer Classics believes the “sea of patio sets” look seen in most casual furniture showrooms is depressing and dead. We have master merchandisers who are showing our luxury furniture in distinctive vignettes that we hope inspire our retailers and interior designers. Our new Essentials Program is almost entirely neutrals like our popular Slate Grey and Oyster.
Founder Bew White continues, “We have added to our family some of the best sales reps in the business, and doubled our infrastructure with key management that have been where we want to grow. Our products, systems, staff have now outmatched our growth. This is a very important time in our evolution, and I have never been this optimistic about the future.”
Summer Classics Private Label president, Harold Hudson comments, “For the mid-tier furniture category, I am offering some ultra-realistic wickers made of our N-dura UV resistant resin, and three step finishes with sophisticated dry brushing in several new pieces. This may sound counter intuitive, but I am also lowering prices 5% on a few best-selling collections like Alyssa.
We offer an incredible value for these premium quality goods, and I believe this will answer the demand for Summer Classics customers who want lower priced staple pieces with great margins. We don’t have the breadth of product like Summer Classics, but you can add any Summer Classics fabric or accent pillows for a higher end look.”
I then had a conversation with Richard Wright and Jackie Avignon of Hearth and Home Magazine, who confirmed that the sales channels are changing. The more sophisticated independent retailers are getting stronger and the weaker ones are closing up shop. I also spoke with Sunbury and Outdura performance outdoor fabric representatives who both gave me some insight that nicer fabrics on floor models will separate the independent retailers’ look from the mass merchants. Richard and Jackie confirmed that the designers and contract business is a new channel for us, and the future is bright. I described to him how our new programs and pricing make us a “designer friendly” company. It’s always inspiring to speak with thought leaders who I believe are virtual walking encyclopedias of the casual industry. These to me are “Life’s Best Moments. Furnished.”