NEW YORK – After meeting every conceivable consumer need in the kitchen and laundry room, major appliance retailers are turning their attention to the last unchartered section of the home: the backyard.
Once the province of home-improvement chains, furniture stores and big-box discounters, patio products have now crossed the radar of white-goods dealers, who are broadening their assortments beyond simple gas grills. According to Bill Bazemore, president of Nationwide Furniture, a division of the Nationwide Marketing Group, outdoor living has become a $4 billion business and is growing rapidly, as consumers look to enjoy spring and summer on fully appointed patios. “Outdoor is absolutely huge,” Bazemore said. “We’re all changing our lifestyle and spending more time outdoors” — especially after these last two brutal winters.
Not surprisingly, the category has also caught the attention of fellow buying organizations like BrandSource, which created a dedicated outdoor division two years ago. Its Outdoor Source unit was developed “to help members compete with big-box stores by offering a compelling and affordable assortment of outdoor products,” the group said.
Similarly underscoring the importance of the sector was the recent addition of “outdoor” to the title of Mega Group USA’s appliances VP Melissa (“Missy”) Hodges. Mega, which serves some 1,700 independent bedding, appliance and CE dealers across the country, described the category as “highly profitable,” and said the seasonal furniture, cooking and lawncare brands it carries, such as Broil King, Briggs & Stratton, Laguna Grills and Trex Outdoor Furniture, account for nearly half of all outdoor industry sales.
While a growing variety of specialty retailers have joined the bandwagon, Bazemore believes that “appliance stores have probably been one of the most successful [channels] at adding outdoor,” perhaps owing to their cooking heritage. Dave Bilas, president/COO of Bazemore’s $15 billion parent organization, also attributed the category’s growth to the wide net it casts, offering something for everybody. “What’s the most important outdoor product? It depends on who you talk to,” Bilas said. “For the husband it might be an outdoor TV or a grill. For the wife it might be furniture or an outdoor fireplace. It’s very broad and is going in a lot of different directions” – which plays to the multi-category strengths of the group’s TV and appliance dealers.
For Bazemore, the grill, hearth and furniture-based business can be summed up succinctly in three words: “Eat, heat and seat!”