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THE VOICE OF THE HEARTH, BARBECUE AND PATIO INDUSTRIES

FEBRUARY 2020

FIRE OUTSIDE

®


thiS yeaR iS dieReNt Gain unexpected insight and learn how to grow your business. HPBExpo 2020 New Orleans.

Margins are getting tighter, products are getting more complicated, and customers expect your business to be as quick and easy as an everyday online purchase. It may seem like there’s never enough time to devote to growing your business. As a result, it’s never been more crucial for you AND your team to attend HPBExpo 2020 in New Orleans to get tangible, real-world solutions that could save your business in the long term. • Meet with manufacturers face-to-face and build relationships that can be critical to growing your business. • Connect with thousands of professionals from around the world who share your same challenges and learn what they’re doing to win. • Get training and education that can really move the needle; from hands-on technical instruction to learning how to master social media and digital marketing. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that HPBExpo is the “same old trade show” and miss out on this opportunity to run your business better.

REGISTER NOW AT HPBExpo.com Exhibition: March 12–14, 2020 Education: March 11–13, 2020 Ernest N. Morial Convention Center

2020

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| CONTENTS |

FEATURES

28

Fire Outside 10  Some may still consider outdoor fireplaces, fire

pits, and fire tables as niche products, but if so, then it’s a nicely lucrative niche.

Entertainment Is Key 18  Pat Sullivan knew he had to be bigger and better to combat the Big Box stores and the Internet – just look at him now!

Sloow Groowth 28 New Home Construction ended 2019 48% down from the 2006 peak of 1,654,000 single-family homes.

On Fire! 36 Pellet grills are selling exceptionally well, perhaps

36

because they provide the perfect trifecta of flavor, convenience, and smart features.

Blocking the Sun 44 Shade products are in the front lines of defense

from skin damage, and 90% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun.

Embracing Tangent 50 From furniture manufacturers, to retailers,

to consumers, everyone loves Tangent, and its ability to supply product consistently, and innovate constantly.

Summer in the City 60  The Outdoor Room trend can be found at a very high level.

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10 DEPARTMENTS

7

66

Perspective New Products

68 Business Climate 72 74

Stock Watch Ad Index

44 ON THE WEB News Trends of the 2020: Slow-Go Boomers 2010s: Slowest Population Growth in U.S. History?

Recipes Lollipop Lamb Chops with a Mint Demi-Glacé by Evo

50

Chocolate Gourmandize by Wood Stone

THE VOICE OF THE HEARTH, BARBECUE AND PATIO INDUSTRIES

FEBRUARY 2020

®

On the Cover A mountain modern home nestled in the forest near Truckee, California.

FEBRUARY 2020

Architect: Ted Brobst, Ward-Young Architects. www.wyarch.com. Builder: Jones Corda Builders. www.jonescorda.com. FIRE OUTSIDE

www.hearthandhome.com COVER PHOTO: ©2020 VANCE FOX PHOTOGRAPHY. WWW.VANCEFOX.COM.

www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020 | 5


Publisher/Editor Richard Wright wright@villagewest.com Editorial only, send digital images to paquette@villagewest.com

Advertising Jackie Avignone, Director avignone@villagewest.com Melody Baird, Administrative Assistant baird@villagewest.com

Contributing Writers Lisa Readie Mayer, Tom Lassiter, Bill Sendelback, Paul Stegmeir, Mark Brock, Kathi Caldwell-Hopper

Creative Services Erica Paquette, Art Director paquette@villagewest.com April Brown, Graphic Designer brown@villagewest.com Katie Pelczar, Graphic Designer pelczar@villagewest.com Susan MacLeod, Proofreader

Circulation Sheila Kufert circulation@villagewest.com Karen Lange lange@villagewest.com ÂŽ

Office S U P E R I O R F I R E F E AT U R E SY S T E M S

Judy McMahon, Accountant mcmahon@villagewest.com

Copyright Š 2020 by Village West Publishing. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. All advertising is subject to approval by the publisher. Please address all correspondence to Hearth & Home, P.O. Box 1288, Laconia, NH 03247, (603) 528-4285, (800) 258-3772, FAX: (603) 524-0643. Hearth & Home, The Outdoor Room and Vesta Awards are registered trademarks of Village West Publishing. Village West Publishing is not associated with, and has no financial interest in, the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association.

100% Sustainable Brass Lifetime Warranty

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6 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Hearth & Home (USPS 575-210/ISSN 02735695), Vol. XLI, No. 3 is published monthly by Village West Publishing, 25 Country Club Road, Ste. 403, Gilford, NH 03249/P.O. Box 1288, Laconia, NH 03247. Subscription price $36 per year; $60 (USD) in Canada; $120 (USD) overseas (first class, airmail only). Single copy price $15 (includes postage and handling) in U.S. and in Canada. Periodicals postage paid at Laconia, NH and at additional entry office. POSTMASTER: Please send address changes to Village West Publishing, Circulation Department, P.O. Box 1288, Laconia, NH 03247.


| Perspective |

Selling Shade

T

he year was 1967. We landed at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, a deep-water port situated on a peninsula of sand housing 50,000 men – and a few women – tasked to receive and move 98% of all the supplies required to support the 500,000+ men in the field. On top of that sand, an asphalt road had been laid down so that men and goods could be moved more easily. | Shade Products | By Richard Wright

T “Up in the mornin’ out on the job, Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin’ to do But roll around heaven all day” – Haven Gillespie, Lyricist; vocals Frankie Laine

he warm days are getting hotter; the seasons (spring and fall) are getting longer, and the sun remains a ball of fire to be watched and avoided. In Phoenix, Arizona, certainly one of the hottest places in the U.S., in 2019 there were 128 days when the temperature was over 100°F, including 29 days over 110°F. Let’s face it, there’s a major need for shade. Here’s the view from Chad Scheinerman, owner, CEO of Today’s Patio with six stores in Arizona and one in San Diego.

Scheinerman: “Umbrellas are, and have been, a great category for us. Being located in Arizona (with a store in San Diego) certainly helps; however, we display a lot of options in our stores which shows the customer we are in the umbrella business. It’s tough to be in the business if you only show 5-10 umbrellas. We usually will show anywhere from 3-5 cantilevers and upwards of 30 center-pole umbrellas per store.” Treasure Garden In 2020, Treasure Garden introduced its 9-ft. Starlux Collar Tilt market umbrella as a complement to the extremely popular

Hearth & Home: Are you selling more or fewer umbrellas now than you did, say, four years ago? Chad Scheinerman: “We are selling a similar amount of umbrellas as four years ago. We may be slightly up, but not significantly in terms of total dollars.”

perfectly in hospitality and/or in highend residential applications. According to Ben Ma, vice president, “Treasure Garden had a very good 2019, but 2020 has been a bit challenging coming off a short selling season due to extended inclement weather and the ever-changing tariff scenario. However, domestic sales are very brisk, further reinforcing the need for shorter in-season lead times and quick turnaround on our offerings.” Climate Change is always a concern, said Ma. “Our product does provide much needed sun protection and, with the advent of the extended Outdoor Room time, shade is even more important in all sizes and shapes.” In the past few years, Treasure Garden has seen an upsurge in its hospitality/ contract business.

Is Climate Change (the earth getting hotter) helping your umbrella business, or hurting it because people just don’t want to sit outside in the heat? Scheinerman: “Arizona has always been hot, so even though the earth is getting warmer, it’s not significant enough where it would affect our sales, i.e., 100°F vs. 103°F – hot is hot!” Which are your best sellers: parasols, market, cantilevered, other?

BLOCKING THE SUN Shade products are in the front lines of defense from skin damage, and 90% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. 44 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Scheinerman: “Center-pole market umbrellas are by far our best seller, however, we have definitely seen an increase over the years in cantilever sales. The additional sizes and features over the years have attracted customers’ interest, which is resulting in more transactions for this type of umbrella.” Monterey fiberglass market umbrella with Heather Willow frame finish from Frankford Umbrellas.

What umbrella brands are your best sellers? Scheinerman: “Treasure Garden and Frankford.” Anything else you want to say concerning umbrellas?

13-ft. AKZ Plus Starlux Cantilever. It features sleek modern rib strip lighting and a USB port to charge electronic devices. The battery-operated umbrella features up to eight hours of mood lighting. Treasure Garden also introduced the versatile 11ft. Vienna Alu Teak market umbrella featuring a mirrored anodized pole, teak-look aluminum ribs, and a double pulley system with aluminum alloy locking pin. Canopies can feature elegant trim options as well as a choice of over 150 fabric options. This umbrella works

“To this end,” he said, “we offer our Shademaker and Jardinico brands to capture our share of this evergrowing segment of business. Sales have grown substantially within these two brands over the past few years. Both lines offer superior workmanship and Europeaninspired designs that work well in contract, as well as in high-end residential installations.” Starlux Collar Tilt umbrella from Treasure Garden.

www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020 | 45

The heat in Vietnam was 120°F day-after-day during the hot season. For new arrivals in-country, it was debilitating. We watched the asphalt road melt and turn into a black liquid stream moving across the sand (I guess the asphalt is much better here in the States). A few fun loving guys were cracking eggs on a section of asphalt that had not yet turned to liquid – not to eat, but merely to see if the asphalt would cook the eggs. It did cook them, sunny-side up, and very rapidly. In 2019 there were 29 days in which the temperature in Phoenix, Arizona, was over 110°F, and another 99 days in which it was over 100°F. That, too, is debilitating. It’s no wonder that even those who have spent their lives in Phoenix find it difficult to tolerate the heat. The other nine cities making up the 10 Hottest Cities in the U.S. in 2019 are the following: Las Vegas, Nevada; Tucson, Arizona; Riverside, California; San Antonio, Texas; Miami, Florida; Houston, Texas; Fresno, California; Dallas, Texas; and Orlando, Florida.

My Point? Vietnam was incredibly hot. What’s happening now in the U.S. and in countless places worldwide is similar. There is a great need for shade products, and that need will increase as each year goes by. If you’re selling outdoor products and not displaying a substantial number of shade products, then you’re leaving money on the table. (See page 44.) Outdoor Living in the City It has been over 20 years since Hearth & Home began discussing the Outdoor Room trend. It began in the backyards of California homeowners, and slowly moved across the country, primarily in the suburbs and mainly in the Sunbelt states. Then it moved north, to states such as Michigan, and Massachusetts, and upstate New York. We can recall writing an article about a company in Chicago that was creating beautiful Outdoor Rooms on the rooftops of skyscrapers – that was at least 15 years ago. In researching an article on Outdoor Rooms in urban areas, writer Lisa Readie Mayer found that the trend is red hot in those areas. “It’s gaining momentum” she writes, “in multifamily apartment buildings, office skyscrapers, hotels, restaurants, trendy bars, downtown convention centers, and other commercial spaces.” In short, Outdoor Rooms are flourishing in urban areas throughout the land, and well into areas such as Vancouver. Christopher Myers, founder of Just Terraces in New York City, expects the trend to continue. Myers has carved out an exciting career for himself; he has created many residential and commercial Outdoor Rooms in New York, Paris, London, and other cities. Myers says the trend is accelerating. (See article page 60.) Meet Pat Sullivan Sullivan purchased Sullivan Hardware and Garden from his Dad back in 1954. When a Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse moved in, he knew he had to do something different. First he traveled around the Midwest, visiting other garden centers and hardware stores. Then he created a list of categories “that we wanted to do better than everybody else.” What he created is really stupendous. (See article page 18.)

Click here for a mobile friendly reading |experience www.hearthandhome.com FEBRUARY 2020

| 7


FIND OUT how to light a in your business!

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| Fire Places, Pits & Tables |

FIRE OUTSIDE Some may still consider outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables as niche products, but if so, then it’s a nicely lucrative niche. By Bill Sendelback

T

he growing trend of Outdoor Rooms as home improvement renovations, and features in new custom homes, is pushing the interest and sales of outdoor fire features, especially fire pits. Grills continue to be the top desire for an outdoor living area, but an outdoor fire feature is a close second, according to manufacturers. Fire pits and fire tables are sold by 88% of grill retailers, and 85% sell outdoor fireplaces, according to Hearth & Home magazine’s 2018 Buyer’s Guide. A survey in recent years by a large hearth

10 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

products manufacturer pegged the fire pit market at $60 million. However, a large outdoor furniture manufacturer says it annually sells more than $50 million in the category, both reports show that fire pit sales are a substantial business. Sales of outdoor fireplaces, fire pits, and fire tables (often lumped into fire pit sales) are growing with more and more new shapes, sizes, models, finishes, and price points. Outdoor fireplaces, for instance, are no longer offered in just standard 36-inch models. Today’s outdoor fireplaces are available in sizes

as wide as 72 inches at suggested retail prices from $1,500 to $10,000. Fire pits and fire tables offer an even wider range of shapes, sizes, and finishes, with suggested retail prices from $200 to $6,200. Fire tables, basically a fire pit with features allowing for an eating surface, are available in coffee-table heights of 15 to 18 inches, chat heights of 24 inches, counter heights of 30 to 36 inches, and bar height of 42 inches. Manufacturers today offer consumers a very wide range of fire features to fit every outdoor living space, every budget, and every consumer’s wants and needs. The market for outdoor fire features will continue to grow, according to Nick Bauer, president of Empire Comfort Systems. “It may not grow at a 50% rate TruFlame 40 see-through fireplace from Empire Comfort Systems.


41%

of today’s homeowners are planning upgrades to their outside living areas.

This revised standard that went into effect Jan. 17, 2020, requires a fixed barrier over glass viewing areas if the temperature of the glass exceeds 172°F, a safety pilot or IPI on models rated at 65,000 Btus or more, and an automatic gas shut-off device if the flames of the model are extinguished during a new simulated rain storm test. “Outdoor fireplaces continue to be a strong category for us,” says Monica Turner, director of Growth Enablement for Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT), “and we see much more sales opportunity in these products.” Turner points out that 41% of today’s homeowners are planning upgrades to their outside living areas, according to LightStream, an online lending company and a division of SunTrust Bank. “And 59% of new, like it did in the past,” he says, “but it will certainly grow. Consumers will always love fire.” Fire pits are the greater unit volume for Empire Comfort, but the majority of the company’s outdoor fire feature sales dollars are in outdoor fireplaces, a category that showed a double-digit percentage sales increase in 2019 for the company. Bauer sees a trend toward indoor/ outdoor see-through fireplaces that feature fire viewing both inside and outside the home. “These models are relatively expensive, but we’re getting more requests for this unique style.” Empire Comfort has been spending most of its R&D efforts preparing its outdoor fire features to meet the recently revised ANSI Z21.97 standard for outdoor decorative gas appliances, so the company currently is not introducing any new models.

The Plaza from Hearth & Home Technologies' Outdoor Lifestyle Collection.

Click here for a mobile friendly reading| experience www.hearthandhome.com FEBRUARY 2020

| 11


| Fire Places, Pits & Tables | single-family homes now include a patio, and this number is rising, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ (NAHB) “2019 Builder Practices Survey.” Turner, like most manufacturers, expects the sales growth of outdoor fireplaces to continue in 2020. “These products help to bring to the outside the comforts of the home inside,” she said. Turner also sees strong sales growth in linear outdoor fireplaces, even if the homeowner features traditional styling inside the home. “People want a dramatic outdoor space,” she said, “one that is more fun and entertaining, more in fashion with contemporary linear styling.” But Turner sees a gap between what a homeowner wants and how they can get it. “Consumers don’t know where to turn for Outdoor Room planning and products. This is a real opportunity for specialty hearth dealers to get aggressive about selling outdoor living and outdoor fireplaces.” HHT’s latest outdoor fireplace is its Courtyard model in the Outdoor Lifestyles Collection, a model made to fit into tight corners to take up less space. The Courtyard is available in 36- and 42inch sizes. Also new in HHT’s Outdoor Lifestyles Collection is its Plaza outdoor fire pit burner for installation in fire pits and fire tables. A modular two-foot burner, the Plaza burners can be fitted together to make one burner as long as 10 ft. Suggested retail prices for HHT’s outdoor fireplaces and fire pits range from $1,200 to $8,388. New from Innovative Hearth Products (IHP) is its Starlite Series of outdoor fireplaces that can be installed as vented or vent-free models. “The oxygen depletion system (ODS) used with ventfree gas appliances does not work well in the open air of a standard outdoor fireplace installation,” according to Michael Lewis, vice president of Marketing. “By supplying the burner and logs as separate items,” he says, “the fireplace can be installed as a vented model, but if the area around the fireplace later is enclosed, it can be made vent-free by swapping burners, and the ODS then will work.” IHP formerly offered fire pits but found that, for many fire pit installations, it was cheaper and easier for them to be site built.

12 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Outdoor Fire Table from the Barbara Jean Collection by Kingsman.

Kingsman Fireplaces has seen “not quite double-digit growth” in its sales of outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, according to Dave Ivey, National Sales manager. Much of Kingsman’s sales of outdoor fireplaces are to the homebuilder market with its Barbara Jean Collection of outdoor fireplaces and fire pits. The Barbara Jean Collection is named in honor of the late mother of Ed Reyher, Kingsman’s president. With the continuing trend toward linear

styling in indoor fireplaces, Ivey sees that trend growing in outdoor models as well. The company offers linear outdoor fireplaces in 36-, 48- and 72-inch sizes in single-sided and see-through models. Kingsman also is adding sizes to its line of fire tables. Kingsman offers linear gas burners for commercial installations. “We’re seeing a growing market for these outdoor fire features in developments, such as the common areas of condominiums,” said Ivey.

StarLite vent-free firebox by Innovative Hearth Products.


LMFP48 fireplace by Mason-Lite.

The company is developing intermittent pilot ignition (IPI) particularly for commercial installations. This year, Canada will require IPI in gas fireplaces. All of Mason-Lite’s modular masonry fireplaces are tested for both indoor and outdoor use for wood- or gas-burning, but its sales of outdoor products “continue to grow,” says Bill Harris, managing partner. “Grills are the number one product going into outdoor living areas, but outdoor fireplaces are more and more in demand,” he says. Harris says more of Mason-Lite’s vent-free models are being sold. “These have become a big part of our business because, like indoor vent-free models, they don’t require a chimney.” Harris also reports that Mason-Lite’s outdoor fireplace packages include not only the modular masonry parts for the fireplace, but also the mortar, fire-brick lining, and a 3-ft. masonry chimney if it is a vented model. “This is a turnkey package including everything needed but the facing,” he says. “We’re seeing more interest in these models because they are complete. “With today’s smaller lot sizes where space is at a premium, we’re seeing more interest in smaller fireplaces. And we’re selling a lot more contemporary models, especially on the West Coast.” MasonLite models can be ordered with higher openings to make them more Rumfordstyled. “Normally our openings are 30 inches tall, but we’ve sold some with openings as tall as 4 ft.”

Harris admits that Mason-Lite does not sell many fire pits. “We offer them in wood- or gas-burning models, including the burner, but, frankly, a mason can make these types of fire pits a lot cheaper on site.” Outdoor fireplaces, fire pits and fire tables are “selling well” for Napoleon Fireplaces, says John Czerwonka, vice president of Hearth Sales. “We’re doubling down on the outdoor category, stepping up our efforts by increasing our offerings. This Outdoor Room phenomenon started

in more moderate climates, but it has moved north to colder climates where homeowners have found they can extend their outdoor living season. Forward thinking homebuilders are offering outdoor fireplaces as an option so that the cost can be included in the home mortgage.” Another growing market for outdoor fireplaces is in the common areas of multifamily buildings or communities, says Czerwonka. “These builders want to create lifestyle experiences for these tenants by including outdoor living areas. We’re even seeing some urban area multifamily buildings with rooftop outdoor living areas. Even renters want the amenities of a home.” Napoleon sees its growth in outdoor fireplaces in clean-faced, linear-styled models in mid- to high-end price ranges. New from Napoleon is its Luxuria and Elevation X fireplaces that now can be used outdoors with the company’s outdoor accessory kit. Napoleon offers six dedicated outdoor fireplaces, including single-sided and see-through models, five Luxuria and Elevation X models with the outdoor kit, and 12 models of outdoor fire tables. Fire pits are a “giant” part of OW Lee’s business, totaling 30% of its sales, says Leisa McCollister, vice president of

Galaxy See Thru fireplace by Napoleon.

www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020 | 13


| Fire Places, Pits & Tables | Marketing. “We now offer 132 fire pit and fire table models with suggested retail prices ranging from $1,300 to $6,200, and our customers still want more options,” she says. While its fire pit sales were flat in 2019, OW Lee has seen 7% sales growth in recent years, according to McCollister. “Contemporary styling continues to grow in fire pits and fire tables. We’re being asked for longer, narrower, sleeker styles.” OW Lee features a variety of porcelain tiles and Spanish tiles as options on its fire tables. “Materials on the top and sides are so important,” says McCollister. “With the options we offer, the customer can build his or her own look.” New from OW Lee is a new version of its bowl-shaped Basso model fire pit, a taller model that allows an LP bottle to be hidden inside the fire pit. In its all-metal Forma line, the company has added a new 25 x 75-inch size. RH Peterson (RHP) is seeing “steady” sales growth in its American Fyre Designs outdoor fireplaces, fire pits and fire tables, says Bob Dischner, senior vice president of Marketing. “There is a lot of interest in this category. About 80% of what we sell in this brand is fire pits and fire tables. This is our fastest growing segment because there are more possible applications, or uses, for fire pits and fire tables and the prices are lower.” Dischner confirms that contemporary is the most popular styling in outdoor fire features. As part of that trend, RHP now features its new “industrial” look with a more natural, concrete finish. “Our reclaimed wood look remains popular,” he says. RHP’s American Fyre Designs brand has offered many models with classical, traditional styling, but now is moving more toward contemporary styling with a simpler, more industrial look that Dischner describes as “shabby chic.” Popular in RHP’s fire pit lineup are its simple, urn-shaped, bowl-shaped, and linear models. “Coffee table-height fire tables are 15 to 16 inches high, and that’s not high enough to hide an LP tank, so we are looking at smaller LP tanks that can be installed sidewise to fit.” Also new from RHP is its Brooklyn model fire table, styled in RHP’s contemporary, industrial look in a low table for use with

14 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Casual Fireside Chat-Height Basso Fire Pit from OW Lee.

Brooklyn Fireplace with French Barrel Oak Mantel from RH Peterson.

Black Cove 30-inch Gas Fire Pit Bowl from The Outdoor GreatRoom Company.


THE STAGE IS SET ENTRY DEADLINE

FEBRUARY 21

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| Fire Places, Pits & Tables | these smaller LP bottles. RHP’s new Calais model is another low profile fire table in an oval shape. Suggested retail prices for RHP’s outdoor fireplaces range from $5,000 to $10,000, and fire table prices range from $2,000 to $3,000. While also offering outdoor fireplaces and fire pits, fire tables have become the best-selling category for The Outdoor GreatRoom Company (OGR), according to Joey Shimek, vice president of Business Development and Marketing. “We’re adding more models and we continue to diversify our lineup as we forecast more solid sales growth in 2020 for our outdoor fire categories.” Shimek sees a trend toward bigger and longer outdoor linear fireplace models for commercial and hospitality installations. But for residential installations, he sees a trend toward smaller sizes. “With the smaller sizes of many of today’s residential lots, smaller fireplaces, or even fire tables or fire pits, fit better into these smaller spaces.” New from OGR includes a line of ready-to-finish outdoor fireplaces in single-sided, see-through, and corner linear models in lengths to 10 ft. OGR’s new Havenwood Collection of fire tables features the company’s new Everblend modified concrete top material that is half the weight of regular concrete. Available in a 44 x 30-inch rectangular size in “chat” heights from 18 to 23 inches, the suggested list price is $1,799. Also new are models in OGR’s Supercast Series of bowl-styled fire pits made of a new material similar to glass-fiber reinforced concrete but lighter weight. These new models will be available in new colors including black and white. And OGR’s Crystal Fire gas burners now are available as Crystal Fire Plus models offering more Btus, brighter, taller, and more natural flames in round, rectangular, and square shapes and linear sizes to 120 inches plus custom sizes. Tropitone Furniture had a “really strong” sales year for its lines of outdoor fire pits. “This is a fast-growing category, and we continue to heavily invest in it,” says Frank Verna, senior vice president of Consumer Sales. “We see this category continuing to trend up.” Verna, too, sees the category of fire pits and fire tables trending toward cleaner and less ornate styling. He also sees a trend

16 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Rectangular Matrix fire table from Tropitone.

H5 Series; Pebble Beach Driftwood, with a Plain Black liner from Valor Fireplaces.

toward lower coffee table heights, 15 to 18 inches, and narrower and longer shapes. New from Tropitone is its Matrix fire tables featuring tops of a faux concrete made of glass-fiber reinforced polymer to emulate stone. “Previously we offered only metal tops,” Verna adds. Available in 10 colors with two styles of tops, the Matrix includes an integrated glass wind guard and is available in 42 inches round and 55 x 50-inch rectangular sizes. Valor Fireplaces offers outdoor kits to make its indoor gas fireplaces ready for outdoor installations in protected and covered outdoor areas, says Paul Miles, president and director of Sales and Marketing. “This is not a big category

for us,” he says, “but it’s growing. We’re finding success where customers in cooler climates want the heat of our radiant fireplaces rather than just the aesthetics of a flame.” In this type of outdoor installation, fireplaces are vented up through the roof covering or out the back of the covered area. One of the great facts of the Outdoor Room is that it is no longer a fad; a fad can go away. No, the Outdoor Room is now a way of life, and thanks to the hard work and imagination of many manufacturers in the hearth, barbecue, patio furnishings, and spa industries, it will be around indefinitely, and Fire Outside will remain the focal point of that lifestyle.


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| Retailing |

IS KEY

Pat Sullivan knew he had to be bigger and better to combat the Big Box stores and the Internet – just look at him now!

By Tom Lassiter

T

ravel time to see Santa at the North Pole is seven and one-half minutes. Not by SpaceX rocket, not by reindeer-powered sleigh, but by the Sullivan Santa Express. A Sullivan Santa Express train leaves from Central Station, right outside the restaurant known as Sully’s Grill, every 15 minutes. Seating for the family in a private car is by reservation only, so there are no lines, no fidgeting, no tears. Parents remain happily dry-eyed, knowing that they won’t be pressured to buy a photo of the kids squirming in Santa’s lap. At this North Pole, Mom and Dad take the pictures. Once the Christmas lists have been shared with St. Nick, families re-board

18 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

the train for the ride back to Central Station. Day or night, more magic awaits at Sullivan Hardware & Garden. This scene played out 6,000 times between Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s as many bookings as the schedule would allow, even with four trains running up to 12 hours a day. Each family paid $50 to $60 to ride the train and see the kids get lap time with Santa. You do the math. Along with a guaranteed holiday memory, each family was treated to a rolling tour of what must be one of the most vibrant, fun destination shopping locations in the Midwest. Mom saw The Yellow House, a century-old farmhouse chock-full of gifts,

decorative items, and fashion apparel. Dad saw Big Green Eggs and Weber grills, and the place where cooking classes are held. Everyone saw the nearly 200 artificial Christmas trees, the cut live trees, the seasonal greenery, and greenhouses prepping plants for spring. The only specialty product line not on display during the holidays was casual furniture. What remained from last season was packed away to make room for Christmas. Soon the warehouse will be brimming again, refreshed with containers from Hanamint, NorthCape and other vendors. That twinkle in Santa’s eye? It’s a lowwattage glimmer compared to the one Pat Sullivan has – and it’s there year-round.

PHOTOS: ©2020 AJ MAST. WWW.AJMAST.COM.


Hardware Roots Thirty years ago, when Pat Sullivan purchased the business his dad had founded in 1954, Sullivan Hardware & Garden was a typical hometown retailer of necessities trading on service and goodwill. On the north side of Indianapolis, it was the place to go to get keys cut, gallons of paint, plumbing repair parts, and plantings for the yard. Business was still strong when a Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse located nearby. The better selection of plants at the Sullivan garden center gave shoppers sufficient reason to trade with the locallyowned store. Sullivan could compete on that turf and win. “I could see that’s what people came to us for,” he says. It was a different story on the hardware side. Sullivan’s would never be able to go head-to-head on price or selection. Much of the hardware business that remained, he says, was “sympathy business.” Customers coming in for a box of nails or washers often would say, “We always bought our hardware from your daddy.”

“I still rang up the sympathy business,” Sullivan says, “but that really wasn’t what I was craving.” Sullivan wanted products that would allow the store to not just compete but crush the competition. He wanted to offer products that would establish Sullivan Hardware & Garden as the premier source for those goods in the market. Those products would draw greater numbers of customers and generate higher revenues and profits than screws, bolts, paintbrushes, and fertilizer. At the same time, the higher revenues and profits would allow Sullivan Hardware & Garden to maintain its historic product lines and continue to offer those necessities, necessities that drive foot traffic to the store every day of the year. At a friend’s suggestion, Sullivan traveled about the Midwest, visiting other large, successful garden centers to get ideas. From his research he developed a list of new categories “that we wanted to do better than everybody else.”

Pat Sullivan.

The list included: • A bigger, broader selection of plants. “Plants were a natural,” he says. “We were already doing plants.” • A rtificial Christmas trees to supplement sales of fresh cut trees. • Patio furniture. “Good quality, mid-price patio furniture.” • A better selection of grills. “We wanted to blow that up.” • Gifts and decorative items. • A fireplace department. Sullivan made the transition in 2004. The expansion of the product lineup coincided with the construction of new, larger facilities. The retailer moved into a 14,000 sq. ft. store, and constructed a 10,000 sq. ft. greenhouse.

Click here for a mobile friendly reading| experience www.hearthandhome.com FEBRUARY 2020

| 19


| Retailing |

Customers travel as much as two hours to shop Sullivan’s at Christmas.

Most retailers probably would take a gingerly approach to such an undertaking. Test sales in a new category, maybe two, then expand after a season or two of market acceptance. That wasn’t Sullivan’s approach. His gut told him to go all in. Enter the new categories with a splash. Make an impression. Go big or go home. For example, other retailers in town might put up a dozen artificial trees. A Big Box store might display 20. Sullivan was not about to let the competition offer a greater selection. Sullivan Hardware, which had never sold an artificial Christmas tree, bought $70,000 worth of inventory that first year. “We put up 70 artificial trees” throughout the store, giving shoppers options and ideas. “We instantly had the biggest selection in our city,” Sullivan says. The tree gambit worked. The trees sold well and drew lots of traffic. The selection grew year-after-year. Sullivan Hardware & Garden mounted 170 artificial trees for the 2019 Christmas season. Customers often travel as much

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as two hours to shop Sullivan’s artificial tree selection. Wasn’t it a challenge to take on so many new categories at once? Not at all, Sullivan says. “You’ve got to remember,” he explains, “I was coming from hardware,” not a specialty retail business. “Hardware is plumbing, electrical, housewares, fasteners, building supplies. It goes on and on and on.” When you’re already dealing with thousands of SKUs and a diverse product lineup, adding a few new categories is not a problem. “It may seem like a big list to you,” Sullivan says. “But it was pretty small to me, after trying to figure out how to do plumbing, how to do the paint department, and all the different things that are in a hardware store.” The only tweak that didn’t work out was the fireplace and hearth department. “I don’t know why we weren’t successful at it,” Sullivan says. “Everything else just skyrocketed. We finally just got out of it,” leaving more space for casual furniture and Christmas.

Sullivan Hardware & Garden eventually opened two more Indianapolis locations, but the original store on the north side of town remains the largest and most prominent. Media Star There’s a good chance that people in the Indianapolis media market who have never been to Sullivan Hardware & Garden know Pat Sullivan’s voice. They might even recognize him on the street. Sullivan has had a radio show for almost a quarter-century. He co-hosts a four-hour “Home & Garden” program each Saturday morning on WIBC-FM. A recent topic focused on caring for patio furniture during the winter. The radio show is a paid gig. Sullivan also regularly provides helpful tips on home maintenance and outdoor living during regular Sunday morning features on WTHR, Channel 13 in Indianapolis. Sullivan isn’t paid for these TV appearances, nor does he pay the station. The “Home & Garden with Pat Sullivan” segments make clear his relationship


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| Retailing |

Customers can grab a cold beer at Sully's Grill.

with Sullivan Hardware & Garden, and segments often are recorded at the store. Recent segments looked at preventing house fires, plumbing preparation for the holidays, and turkey cooking tips. Sullivan has a comfortable, easy-going, on-screen presence. His delivery is warm and conversational yet authoritative. When discussing outdoor living products, he’ll talk about the features and benefits of certain materials and categories versus others, leaving it up to the viewer to decide which is best. He doesn’t mention brands. After watching a handful of threeminute TV segments online, one thing is clear: Whatever this guy is selling, people will buy. He’s a natural. Internet Counterattack Sullivan’s strategy to distinguish his business from other competitors, especially Big Box stores, worked well. But the rise of e-commerce provided an even greater challenge.

“None of us saw the Internet coming,” Sullivan says. His counter-offensive was not to push the store into online sales. The challenge, as he saw it, was to convince people “to get out of their pajamas and come into the store.” Products alone weren’t sufficient, he reasoned. Good prices weren’t sufficient. People need motivation to take a break from surfing the Internet and shopping with one click. The motivating factor, Sullivan reasoned, was entertainment. “We decided we needed to entertain them while they’re here, and make it a cool place to hang out,” he says. “So that’s what we’ve created. Sullivan Hardware & Garden launched its entertainment offensive about five years ago. The space where cooking and grilling classes were held was transformed into a restaurant. Sully’s Grill is open six days a week for lunch and dinner. The casual dining menu with sliders, wings, hot dogs,

and pulled pork is grill-focused, of course. Item descriptions reflect a good-natured sense of humor that seems to permeate the place. Who could resist Sully’s Chips ($5), kettle chips “seasoned with a secret blend of spices developed by the guys in the electrical department?” Beer and wine are available, and customers are welcome to stroll about with beverages and shop. “Saturday nights are busy now,” Sullivan says. “We’re open until 10pm, because it’s date night. A husband and wife come in. They’ll grab a beer or wine and just wander around. Maybe before dinner, maybe after.” Nothing puts people in the mood to buy casual furniture, Sullivan says, like relaxing with a favorite beverage. As a Big Green Egg dealer, Sullivan Hardware hosts an annual EggFest that draws about 1,600 people. As Big Green Egg dealers know, it’s a great, fun event. But why limit the fun to just one event a year?

Sullivan’s hosts an EggFest that attracts about 1,600 people.

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EGGFEST PHOTOS: ©2020 MARK SHELDON. WWW.MARKSHELDONPHOTOGRAPHY.COM.


I N T R O D U C I N G P L A Z A LU X U RY F I R E P L AC E S F E AT U R I N G U N L I M I T E D D E S I G N F L E X I B I L I T Y Bring any finishing material right up to the opening of the fireplace – no need for non-combustible board or special framing. p l a z a f i re p l a c e.c o m


| Retailing |

Pat (at right) hosting a radio broadcast from Slaw Fest.

On the weekend before Thanksgiving, Sullivan Hardware hosted its annual Turkey Fest. About 2,000 people turn out each year to get turkey-cooking tips and see cooking demos on products from the Big Green Egg, Traeger, Weber, and Broil King. For those who prefer a DIY approach to cooking the bird outdoors, there’s also a demo of Trash Can Turkey. (This apparently is a thing; Google it.) Sullivan Hardware & Garden held its third annual Slaw Fest in 2019. According to Sullivan, it is the first (and perhaps only) festival dedicated to the celebration of cole slaw. About 400 people showed up and paid $10 to sample 25 varieties of slaw. “We have slaw wontons and all kinds of crazy stuff,” Sullivan says. Half of the proceeds were donated to the Salvation Army. Ladies Night at Sullivan Hardware last September drew about 500 women. There’s beer, wine, and food, plus decorating seminars. Invitations go out to the 15,000 people on the store’s customer-rewards list. “It’s a wild one,” Sullivan says.

Entertainment is serious business and sometimes requires serious investment. Sullivan Santa Express, which first ran in 2015, has grown from one train to four. The most recently purchased unit, with an engine and four passenger cars, cost about $70,000, Sullivan said. Engineers must be hired and trained, and the trains absolutely must run on time to accommodate the tightly scheduled ticket holders. The 2019 season required a team of seven Santas, with two usually on duty in separate houses on the property. Sullivan Santa Express ran several North Pole trips for adults only and, after Christmas, staged a series of North Pole Comedy Club shows featuring comedian Ross Bennett. Memories of his childhood in the 1960s, and visits to Indianapolis department stores to see Santa, prompted Sullivan to bring Santa and the North Pole to his store. He knew that families would want to create those moments with their children, but he also wanted to eliminate the frustrations he remembered.

Cocktails among the casual furniture at Ladies Night.

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A sample of “Charcuter-Slaw” (where charcuterie and coleslaw meet) at Slaw Fest.

A ticket good for a certain time would eliminate lines and waiting, making parents and children happy. There’s no need for a photographer; everyone carries a cellphone camera to snap the kids on Santa’s lap. Plus, mom and dad have already paid for the train ride, and Santa. Sullivan reasoned that hitting them up again for a photo just didn’t seem fair. The community’s enthusiastic response proved him right. Online tickets for the 2019 Sullivan Santa Express went on sale on November 1. “We sold 1,700 tickets in 14 minutes,” Sullivan says. “Fifty percent of the tickets were sold in about eight hours.” (Pause here and think about that. We’re talking about a pint-size train and Santa Claus, not the Rolling Stones.) One house used by Santa during the Christmas season serves as an event venue during the rest of the year. “We have wedding showers, birthday parties, baby showers, literally every day of each weekend,” Sullivan says. Clearly, Sullivan Hardware misses few opportunities to draw people to the complex.

“Chopped” container garden contest at Ladies Night.


When people visit Sullivan Hardware & Garden to see Santa, attend a baby shower, or to purchase a quart of white latex or five pounds of grass seed, they catch a glimpse of the wide variety of home and outdoor living products available. Sooner or later they buy stuff, including lots of casual furniture. Big Volume Sullivan Hardware & Garden moved about 40 containers of casual furniture in 2019. The retailer carries products by a handful of manufacturers – Hanamint, NorthCape, Berlin Gardens, and ScanCom. Sales of patio furniture generated about $4.2 million, Sullivan says. The positioning of Sullivan Hardware in the casual furniture business remains the same as it was when he entered the category

Store Name: Sullivan Hardware & Garden Locations: 6955 N. Keystone Ave, Indianapolis, IN 4838 N. Pennsylvania St., Indianapolis, IN 60 W. Jackson St., Cicero, IN Owner: Pat Sullivan Year Established: 1954 Website: www.sullivanhardware.com Email: pat@sullivanhardware.com Phone: (317) 255-9230 Number of Stores: Three

in 2004. The aim is to offer mid-priced products of excellent quality, better than furniture at Big Box stores, with a better selection and immediate availability. Sullivan Hardware & Garden doesn’t chase after designer business. Nor does it dive deep into special orders, providing endless variations of frame colors and fabrics. But it does offer customization options that apparently satisfy customers to the tune of more than $4 million annually. People often shop for new casual furniture when they have a pressing need, Sullivan says. The reason may be a graduation party or similar special occasion, and it is imminent. Perhaps just days away. Telling the customer that ordering frames and cushions will take six or eight weeks “doesn’t get them to pull the trigger,” Sullivan says.

Number of Employees: Full-time: 55 Part-time: 70 Gross Annual Sales: $13.5 million Sq. Ft. of Building Space: Keystone - Showroom: 28,000 Keystone - Warehouse: 37,000 Keystone - Outside Area: 80,000 Lines Carried: Patio: NorthCape, Hanamint, ScanCom, Berlin Garden, Treasure Garden Barbecue: Big Green Egg, Weber, Traeger Advertising % of Gross Revenues: 2.8% Advertising: Radio 30%, TV 50%, Other 20%

So Sullivan Hardware offers this solution: cushions in four stocked colors or loaners. If the customer wants something other than the four stocked colors, Sullivan delivers the furniture with loaner cushions. An order is placed for the customer’s chosen cushion fabric. A few weeks later, when the cushions are ready, Sullivan’s calls the customer to return to the store to swap the loaner cushions for the custom order. “That sells so much furniture,” Sullivan says. Is it a hassle to steam clean the loaner cushions when they are turned in? Maybe. But the return is well worth the effort. Remember, he says, “It sells a lot.” At the end of the season, Sullivan Hardware cleans the loaner cushions one more time and slips them onto in-stock frames. The outdoor furniture is displayed at closeout prices, making the warehouse ready for fresh containers of new season products. Sullivan acknowledges that the niche he’s created sidesteps the highest end of the market, and he’s OK with that. “We feel like there’s a lot more people who are going to spend $3,000 or $4,000 than there are who will spend $20,000 or $30,000,” he says. Sullivan Hardware occasionally writes five-figure orders, but the average ticket “is in that $3,000 to $5,000 range.” The store is looking into expanding its grill offering to open an angle on the outdoor kitchen business. Sullivan is investigating a Midwest company that makes modular cabinets for outdoor kitchens. That, and a planned 3,000 sq. ft. expansion to make more covered space for grills and outdoor furniture may soon give shoppers something new to discover. That’s an important element of Pat Sullivan’s success. There’s this “constant thing,” he says, “of getting people to come in and wander around.” Eventually those wanderers see something that captures their imagination, something that will spice up their Outdoor Room or freshen their garden, and they buy. Sullivan remembers a comment posted on his company’s website. “Sometimes,” the person wrote, “when I’m having a bad day, I just come over and walk around.” Sullivan savors the memory. “Yeah,” he says. “That’s what we’re trying to capture.”

www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020 | 25


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| New-Home Construction |

SLOOW GROOWTH New Home Construction ended 2019 48% down from the 2006 peak of 1,654,000 single-family homes. By Bill Sendelback

N

ew-home construction in the U.S. is improving, slowly, but it still has a long way to go to reach levels of a decade ago. The modest increases that have been forecast for 2020, if met, will continue on that slow pace. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), in early November, estimated total housing starts at 1,238,000, up only 1% from 2018 levels. The NAHB forecasted total starts in 2020 at 1,258,000, up only 1.6% over 2019.

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Single-family housing starts for 2019 were estimated by the NAHB at 854,000, while forecasting 2020 starts at 873,000, up only 2.2%, but still a far cry from the 2006 record of 1,654,000 single-family starts. The NAHB estimates 2019 multifamily starts at 383,000, and forecasts 2020 starts at 385,000, an increase of only 0.5%. Factors that might improve these forecasts include the NAHB-predicted unemployment rate in 2020 dropping to 3.5%, a 50-year low, and mortgage interest

rates dropping from 3.92% in 2019 down to 3.88% in 2020. Fannie Mae forecasts 2020 mortgage interest rates at 3.7%. Along with continued slow growth in U.S. housing starts, the hearth products industry has two major challenges facing hearth products as it relates to new homes – a declining incidents rate of fireplaces included in new homes, and the increasing number of proposed and finalized bans on natural gas being used in new homes. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that, in 2018, 56% of new, single-family homes did not include a fireplace. The percentage of new homes without a fireplace has steadily increased since 1990, when only 34% of new homes were without a fireplace, a change of 65% since 1990. In a story titled “What Home Buyers Really Want” in the November issue of Builder magazine, a fireplace was not even on that “want” list. This declining fireplace

PHOTO: ©2020 GETTY IMAGES. WWW.GETTYIMAGES.COM.


Oxford also points out that more attached homes are being built. “I’m not talking about multifamily units. I’m talking about common wall, singlefamily homes such as townhouses. In these units, builders are finding it more difficult to find a place for a fireplace, given the constraints on venting. But fireplace incident rates in multifamily units are also dropping.”

Another major challenge for homebuilders and the hearth products industry is the rapidly increasing number of municipalities considering, or finalizing, bans on natural gas in new-home construction. California has been the leader of these bans, but they have expanded to Seattle, Vancouver, and even to Brookline, Massachusetts. In mid-December, the California Energy Commission cleared the way for

“We’ll not get back to the record number of housing starts of years ago, but I see growth in low single-digits, with some predicting starts to be up 11%. There still is high demand for new-home purchases…So we’re optimistic about 2020.” — Roger Oxford, Senior Vice President of Strategic Accounts Hearth & Home Technologies

incident rate has drawn the attention of the fireplace industry and of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA). In reaction, the HPBA recently hosted a gathering of fireplace manufacturers to discuss what can be done to stem that tide. “Sure, we’re concerned about the dropping incident rate, but the numbers may not tell the whole story,” said Roger Oxford, senior vice president of Strategic Accounts for Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT). “A greater percent of today’s new homes are being built in housing markets that historically have had low fireplace incident rates, such as Florida and Arizona. It’s not that fewer homebuyers are choosing a fireplace. It’s also that more lower-priced homes are presently being built without a fireplace to keep the price down. We, as an industry, need to make sure that homebuilders recognize a fireplace as a value, a feature that helps them sell more homes faster.”

“Homebuilders are worried and don’t know what to do about current regulatory challenges such as natural gas bans, possible efficiency standards on gas models, and required ignition systems on gas fireplaces,” according to Dave Ivey, National Sales manager for Kingsman Fireplaces, “so some simply have elected not to include or offer fireplaces.”

25%

of all U.S. homes, including of single-family homes, are now all-electric, particularly in the Midwest and the South

18%

“In some areas, such as California and the Sun Belt, fewer homebuyers are requesting a fireplace because they don’t want, nor need, the heat from a direct-vent gas fireplace now being prescribed in many areas,” says Bill Harris, managing partner of Mason-Lite.

six local governments to limit the use of natural gas in many new buildings, including new houses. The action, which took effect on Jan. 1, 2020, is designed to encourage all-electric homes. Berkeley, California, was the first city in the U.S. to pass such a ban, and now more than 20 California municipalities are considering similar bans, according to the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper. In ordinances where some natural gas usage is allowed, those homes or buildings that may use some national gas are required to meet higher efficiency standards that, obviously, will increase building costs. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says that “new homes are more likely to be all electric.” It reports that 25% of all U.S. homes, including 18% of single-family homes, are now all-electric, particularly in the Midwest and the South. “Builders are putting up more allelectric homes in reaction to these proposed and real bans,” says Oxford, “so as an industry, we better embrace electric fireplaces if we want to keep a fireplace in tomorrow’s home. But we need to make them look better to differentiate them from the cheaper offerings at mass merchants.” Click here for a mobile friendly reading| FEBRUARY experience www.hearthandhome.com 2020

| 29


| New-Home Construction | North America is not alone in the challenges of bans on natural gas. In the UK, its Committee on Climate Change has said that no new UK homes should be connected to the gas grid beginning in 2025.

construction. “Homebuilders are looking for ways to differentiate themselves in their markets, and offering quality fireplaces is one way to do that. But we as an industry need to be proactive with homebuilders, to give them knowledge about our products

TruFlame 40 model by Empire Comfort Systems.

New-home construction activity in 2019 was not as strong as predicted, according to HHT’s Roger Oxford. “This slowdown was driven by an early increase in mortgage interest rates, and the increasing prices of new homes, plus consumer uncertainty as to whether we were headed for a recession.” Oxford believes there will be a return to growth in new-home construction in 2020. “How strong will that growth be? That’s the question, and nobody knows,” he says. “We’ll not get back to the record number of housing starts of years ago, but I see growth in low single-digits, with some predicting starts to be up 11%. There still is high demand for new-home purchases. Consumer traffic with builders is back, mortgage interest rates should be less than 4%, and U.S. consumers feel more secure with our economy. So we’re optimistic about 2020.” Oxford also is optimistic about the future of fireplaces in new-home

30 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

“We would like to see a fireplace become like stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops, features that consumers want and builders see as a selling point.” — Michael Lewis Vice President of Marketing, IHP

and to convince them that adding a fireplace is not a cost but a positive way to help them sell more houses.” Heat management with today’s gas fireplaces is a very important feature, says Oxford. “That allows unwanted heat to

be vented to another room or outside. Homebuyers in warmer climates want the ambiance of a fire, but may not need or want the heat. Today, more customers want to place a TV above the fireplace.” Oxford also points out that, with the increasing bans on using natural gas in new-home construction, electric fireplaces are becoming more important to homebuilders as a replacement for woodor gas-burning models. “Our dealers have been busy with homebuilders, busier than in the recent past, but not as busy as in past years,” according to Nick Bauer, president of Empire Comfort Systems. “For 2020, the indicators are positive, so we are cautiously optimistic about new-home construction sales. Even so, we expect a flat sales year to homebuilders, maybe up 2% or 3%. With home mortgage rates expected to be less than 4%, we hope it will be a normal year.” Most of Empire Comfort’s builder business is to custom homebuilders, and Bauer sees the trend in custom homes going toward larger homes, somewhat the opposite from that of tract homes. “We’re selling more higher-end fireplaces with more features and bigger flames, maybe requiring a heat-dump feature. These homebuyers want to customize their fireplaces.” New from Empire Comfort for the new-home market is its TruFlame 40, a high-end, 40-inch wide see-through gas fireplace that can be installed as an indoor and outdoor model, allowing the flames to be viewed both indoors and outdoors. Innovative Hearth Products (IHP) sees new-home construction continuing to grow in 2020, but like many manufacturers, IHP is concerned about the falling incident rate of fireplaces in new homes. “We’re not counting on that incident rate increasing overall,” says Michael Lewis, vice president of Marketing, “not in tract homes, but we will see it increase in custom homes. Homeowners still want a fire. Unfortunately, prices for new homes will be flat and builders will be trying to protect their profit margins, so fireplaces will suffer as one of the easiest items to remove from a new home in order to hold down prices and help margins.”


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| New-Home Construction | Lewis points out that, with increasing new environmental regulations such as Net Zero in California, homebuilders have to spend extra money to meet those demands. “We would like to see a fireplace become like stainless-steel appliances and granite countertops,” says Lewis, “features that consumers want and builders see as a selling point.” Like most manufacturers, IHP is noticing an increasing trend toward contemporary, linear styling, and expects

“Homebuilders may not be including fireplaces, but we’re seeing more builders offering the customer an allowance for a fireplace, and then sending them to specialty hearth product shops to get that fireplace.” — Dave Ivey, National Sales Manager, Kingsman Fireplaces

Bentley line by Kingsman Fireplaces.

32 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Compass Series from Innovative Hearth Products.

that trend to continue. “In the past five years we’ve seen increased sales of outdoor fireplaces in new-home construction,” says Lewis. “That is now a strong category. Besides being a good category for renovations, more homebuilders are specifying outdoor fireplaces in high-end custom homes as a sales feature.” New from IHP is its Compass Series of smaller, linear, gas fireplaces in its Astria brand. In the same opening sizes as its traditional Gemini Series, 35 and 45

inches, the framing size is the same for both the traditional and linear models, thus allowing the homebuilder to go in either direction even after completing the fireplace framing. Dave Ivey of Kingsman Fireplaces sees a “dramatic difference” between the new-home construction markets in Canada and the U.S. “Canada is seeing a slowdown in housing starts as its economy has slowed,” he says, “and larger municipalities are running out of space for new homes, giving rise to an expansion in multifamily units. In 2020, we expect new-home construction to be up in the U.S., but housing starts to be flat in Canada.” New-home construction represents about 25% of Kingsman’s sales, says Ivey. “But our sales are more to custom-home builders, not to the ‘down and dirty’ large tract homebuilders. Homebuilders may not be including fireplaces, but we’re seeing more builders offering the customer an allowance for a fireplace, and then sending them to specialty hearth product shops to get that fireplace.” New from Kingsman is its Bentley line of gas fireplaces in 39-, 42- and 48-inch sizes, aimed at custom-home builders. The company’s new Enclave model is available in linear and bay styling in 49and 60-inch sizes and featuring cool glass construction.


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| New-Home Construction | In 2019, Mason-Lite, a manufacturer of modular masonry fireplaces, saw a 19% sales increase in its products going to custom-home builders. “But sales were down in Southern California where direct-vent models have taken over for environmental regulatory reasons,” says Bill Harris. “Nationally, we think 2020 will be a good sales year to homebuilders, up 12 to 15%.” Mason-Lite’s 42-inch contemporary fireplaces are its best sellers. But Harris sees a trend to larger, linear models. “Now we’re seeing sales in 48- to 60-inch sizes, with some as wide as 120.” Suggested retail prices for Mason-Lite’s modular masonry fireplaces range from $3,450 to $19,000. Napoleon Fireplaces has also seen Canadian housing starts going down. “Housing starts in the U.S. are going very well, but Canadian starts are off 30% and even more in some areas, because Canada’s economy is down,” according to John Czerwonka, vice president of Hearth Sales. “U.S. housing starts in 2008 were at an all-time high of about 2.5 million, but

“The Net Zero and Build Green movements are gaining traction. If natural gas is not allowed in newhome construction, electric models can fill that spot.”

Modular pre-cast fireplace sytems by Mason-Lite.

sets, and facings to allow homebuilders to finish any fireplace to fit the styling taste of the customer. Napoleon is also enhancing its lines of electric fireplaces to builders with new logs, better aesthetics, and more realistic flames. “The Net Zero and Build Green movements are gaining traction,” Czerwonka says. “If natural gas is not allowed in new-home construction, electric models can fill that spot. Sales of electric fireplaces are increasing. The industry needs to provide

— John Czerwonka, Vice President of Hearth Sales, Napoleon Fireplaces

since then we have not gotten back to 1.9 million. But we think U.S. housing starts will escalate in 2020, and we’re investing heavily in the U.S. market.” New from Napoleon are more linear fireplaces, a styling trend that Czerwonka says is taking marketshare on both sides of the border. Napoleon also is improving its “out-of-the-box flexibility,” with many options including ember bed media, log

34 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Altitude X Series from Napoleon.

hearth products to fill any void caused by bans of natural gas.” Traditional-styled, clean-faced gas fireplaces still are Napoleon’s top sellers, but linear styling is growing at a faster percent, says Czerwonka. New fireplace models from Napoleon are its Altitude X and Elevation X clean-faced models, each in two sizes with glowing ember beds, multiple surrounds, and several log set options. “We’ve been getting rave reviews from our dealers on these two new models,” he says.


| Pellet Grills |

On Fire! Pellet grills are selling exceptionally well, perhaps because they provide the perfect trifecta of flavor, convenience, and smart features. By Lisa Readie Mayer

W

hen two of the oldest and biggest names in the barbecue industry recently announced their entry into the pellet category, it was big news. Kingsford, the brand synonymous with charcoal briquettes for a century, launched a nationally available line of wood-pellet fuels in 2018. Then Weber, the market leader in charcoal and gas grills for more than six decades, debuted its SmokeFire pellet grill this year.

36 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

The moves made a statement to the industry that the pellet category is mainstream, has significant growth potential, and is here to stay. The stamp of approval from two trusted brands signaled to consumers that pellet cooking is worth a try. The impact is expected to further transform a category that is taking flight. “Pellet grills are on fire, and when the biggest brands in the barbecue industry enter the space, it legitimizes and validates

the category,” says Jeff Thiessen, president of Dansons, manufacturers of Louisiana Grills and Founder’s Series pellet grills for specialty dealers, and Pit Boss grills available at mass retailers. According to Thiessen, Dansons has experienced annual, double-digit sales increases for years. To keep up with demand, it opened satellite offices in Asia and Paris this year, and purchased a pellet processing plant in Ohio. “We believe the pellet category will become bigger than gas,” Thiessen says. “Years ago, when gas grills were introduced, people didn’t believe gas would overtake charcoal. But look at what happened. Now we see an absolute shift in the industry toward pellet grills. It’s the fastest-growing grill segment.” The Weber SmokeFire EX4 Pellet Grill.


Market research from Statista backs that up. It reports the pellet grill category grew 9.1% between 2015 and 2016, while during the same period, charcoal grills grew 0.5%, gas grills declined -3.1%, and kamados declined -5.5%. True, the pellet category remains a small part of the industry overall. A 2019 consumer survey by the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) indicates only 3% of grill owners currently own a pellet grill, unchanged from 2017. However, according to HPBA Communications director Emily McGee, the study shows “consumers’ intent to purchase” a pellet grill rose from 11% in 2017, to 16% in 2019. In other words: A lot of people plan to buy a pellet grill. The Pathway to Pellet Grills “Companies such as Traeger and Green Mountain Grills have done a great job of educating the consumer and building awareness of pellet grills through social media, instructional videos, recipes, and other online content,” says Stephen “Ruff” Ruffatti, owner of Ruff’s Barbeque Shoppe in Golden, Colorado. “Once people see they are so easy to use and the food tastes so good, they’re convinced and willing to try.” According to Ruffatti, pellet grills appeal to gas grillers who desire better wood-smoke flavor but are unwilling to sacrifice convenience. He says a pellet grill’s smart controls, precise temperature settings, and virtually foolproof operation make the transition from gas grilling to wood cooking relatively easy. “Much of the newfound interest in pellet grills is coming from average Joes who might otherwise never have tried old-school smoking and barbecuing on a smoker or kamado,” says Ryan Neeley, Marketing manager at Camp Chef. “Pellet grilling simplifies the process and the pathway to creating Instagramable cooking moments such as the grilled tomahawk steaks you see all over social media. Our goal is to help the average person cook better food with a limited learning curve required. “With pellet grills, there is so much versatility – you can grill, sear, slow-cook, do a crawfish boil, make a pizza – that they have eliminated the need for multiple grills,” Neeley says. “Of course, some people are

Founders Series Premier 800 Wood Pellet Grill from Dansons.

Woodwind Classic 24 Pellet Grill from Camp Chef.

grill junkies and want every type of grill on their patio. But with a pellet grill, you don’t have to. You can have better food with great wood flavor, without breaking the wallet or cluttering up the outdoor living space (with single-purpose grills).” This year, Camp Chef is expanding its popular Wi-Fi-enabled Woodwind pellet grill line with additional sizes, an optional propane sideburner, and a feature to automatically set smoke levels between zero and 10, depending on the desired flavor profile.

“The pellet grill has revolutionized outdoor cooking because you don’t have to know what you’re doing to get great-tasting food,” explains Brian Eskew, Marketing director of Twin Eagles. “It’s good for people who are intimidated by barbecuing because it eliminates fails. There’s no maintaining the fire or adjusting the vents like with a kamado. Our pellet grill is foolproof and easy to use. Even if you’ve never cooked a beef brisket, you just go to the control panel, select brisket, input the desired level of doneness, and press start. That’s it.” Click here for a mobile friendly reading| FEBRUARY experience www.hearthandhome.com 2020

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| Pellet Grills | Twin Eagles’ pellet grill is designed as a hybrid grill. It can cook like an oven with indirect heat at temperatures as low as 140˚F, but with its ceramic-briquette

“Increasing competition in the category keeps everyone focused on developing better and more innovative products,” says Thiessen. “It sets the bar much higher.”

Twin Eagles 36-inch built-in Wood Fired Pellet Smoker & Grill.

radiant tray in place, the grill can reach temperatures up to 725˚F for direct grilling and searing. The grill also has a solid-fuel tray insert for cooking with wood or lump charcoal, as well as an optional rotisserie. It has an integrated front-load pellet hopper, three temperature probes to monitor grill and food temperatures, and grill controls that can be managed manually on the digital display panel or remotely via an app. Innovations and Advancements It’s hard to say whether product innovations such as these sparked the recent growth in the pellet grill category, or whether it was the growth in attention, sales, and competition that inspired the plethora of innovations and advancements. But whether it was a chicken or egg scenario, today’s pellet grills are light years ahead of the first appliances introduced by category pioneer Traeger more than three decades ago. Most of today’s grills have improved auger systems, roomier grill cavities, smoking-to-searing temperature ranges, precise and programmable digital controls, and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability. Many even sport outdoor-kitchen-worthy fit and finishes.

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He says Dansons currently has over 100 new products in development. The company’s soon-to-be-released crown jewel, the Founders Series, named for company founder and leader Dan Thiessen, has been developed exclusively for the specialty channel. The grills have double-lining for heat retention, heavy-duty construction,

Beale Street Pellet Grill from Memphis Grills.

five-year warranties, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, and “aggressive price points,” according to Thiessen. “This is my dad’s passion product and he’s shepherded it through development for four years,” he says. “We showed prototypes at last year’s HPBExpo, continued to refine it, and expect to officially release it this year. We’re very excited about its potential in the specialty space.” Last year, Coyote Outdoor Living earned a Vesta Award for innovation when it introduced its new stainless-steel pellet grill. Its gravity-fed, integrated, pellet hopper and auger system is designed to make it easy to remove and change the flavor variety of pellet fuel used from cook to cook. The system is also efficient, using 20% fewer pellets than other grills. “It’s a very versatile outdoor appliance with features that mirror an indoor oven,” according to Jim Ginocchi, company president. The grill has an oven-quality gasket, meat probes to monitor internal temperatures, and Bluetooth-enabled digital controls to set specific cooking temperatures between 200 and 600 degrees for slowcooking, smoking, roasting, baking and searing. A smoke button adds an extra boost of smoke when desired. With stainless-steel finishes, sleek designs, and premium quality, Memphis Wood Fire Grills was one of the first pellet grill brands designed to look at home in an outdoor kitchen. Last year, the company


Multi-position spring adjustment to accommodate a variety of lid weights. Hinge opens beyond 90° to allow full access to the smoker.

Complete your kit with a high-quality, stainless steel drum smoker hinge; fueled by Vectis™ Technology. Learn more by visiting: weberknapp.com/drumsmoker vectisoutdoor.com weberknapp.com


| Pellet Grills | introduced its new Beale Street Grill, a moderately-priced line to supplement its premium Memphis Pro and Memphis Elite offerings. The Beale Street line offers the same polished look, precise temperature controls, cooking versatility, and searing capability of its flagship brand, but at a price point accessible to more budgets. Broil King Pellet Grills have convenient preset programs for smoking, roasting, and grilling, and Wi-Fi-enabled app controls to set and monitor temperatures between 180° and 600°F. The grills also have reversible cooking grids, a removable ash tray for easy clean-up, and some models have rotisseries.

Category leader Traeger recently integrated Amazon Alexa voice-control technology on its smart grills. The voicecommand device can select and change grill temperatures, monitor food temperatures, set a timer, check pellet fuel levels, shut down the grill, and activate other functions by verbally asking Alexa to do it. Weber’s new SmokeFire pellet grill was developed in collaboration with technology-company June, makers of the computer-controlled, indoor-countertop June Smart Oven. Like the June Oven, the grill incorporates software developed to run automated, multi-step, food-specific cooking

Daniel Boone Pellet Grill from Green Mountain Grills.

Landmann’s new kettle-shaped pellet grill, a finalist for the German Design Award, sports a taller profile, enameled finish, side-table, and wind shield. Offered in three sizes, it hits 500°F as easily as low-and-slow temperatures for smoking and barbecuing. Highlighting High-Tech While cooking on kamados, smokers, and charcoal grills involves a “high-touch” experience – definitely part of the appeal for many fans – pellet grills rely on “hightech” features to do the work and achieve results. In fact, pellet grill manufacturers are continually adding smarter and savvier technological bells and whistles to their products, and using them to differentiate their grills in an increasingly crowded field.

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programs that yield perfect and consistent results. Amazingly, the SmokeFire debuted, not at a barbecue industry trade show, but at the Consumer Electronics Show, last month. The brain of the grill is the Weber Connect smart-control system. To start, the user inputs the type of food, thickness, desired doneness, and other information on the LCD control panel or on a Wi-Fi and Bluetooth-enabled app. Then the technology takes over, guiding the grill chef step-by-step through the entire cooking process. The system provides precise, real-time updates on grill and food temperatures, and offers an “ETA” on when food will be done. It signals when it’s time to flip food, tells when to remove food from the grill to account for carry-over temperature increases so it reaches the perfect doneness,

and even indicates the precise time to wrap meat in tin foil during a long, slow cook. The technology communicates with four food probes that can be programmed individually for different rare, medium, or well doneness preferences when cooking steaks, or for simultaneously cooking different foods, such as chicken breasts, pork roast, fish, and steak. Initially the technology will offer 30 cook programs, but Weber Grill Master Kevin Kolman says it will be continually and automatically updated as other foods and grilling techniques are programmed into the software. “We took the time to understand the category and design a product that feels, cooks, looks, and has the quality of a Weber,” says Kolman, who spent more than 800 hours testing prototypes, as well as other brands of pellet grills “to identify areas that need improving.” In early 2020, the company plans to introduce the Weber Connect Grilling Assistant as a separate smart-grilling accessory product that can be paired with any grill. Integration with voice-activated Alexa is planned for later this year. Moving into Mass, But Better in Specialty With the amount of complex technology increasingly being incorporated into pellet grills, you would think the specialty channel would have a lock on the category. Not so. Today, pellet grills are sold in warehouse clubs, home improvement centers, and other Big Box retailers, as well as through online marketplaces. Some manufacturers, such as Weber and Traeger, also sell direct to consumers on their own websites. Some industry experts believe broad distribution has largely been a good thing. “Being in mass channels helps specialty retailers because it grows awareness of the category,” says Thiessen. “Mass retailers might get someone trying a pellet grill for the first time, but specialty retailers get the consumer who is looking to trade up.” “We love that a lot of competitors have jumped into the market and that pellet grills are more widely available,” says Jason Baker, director of Business Development at Green Mountain Grills. “It proves pellet grilling is not a fad. Big-player marketing dollars bring more eyeballs to the pellet category. We believe a rising tide lifts all boats.


“But that being said, it’s laughable when you go into a Home Depot or other Big Box stores because their employees usually don’t know anything about pellet grills,” he says. “We believe independent retailers are best to educate consumers. They have dedicated employees who

customer for the long term. Our strategy is to sell exclusively through brick-andmortar retailers. It’s important to dealers to know that we have their back.” Not surprisingly, retailer Ruffatti also agrees that pellet grills are better suited to the specialty channel. “In my

“There’s a lot of moving parts on a pellet grill, so the dealer will be tied to the customer for the long term. Our strategy is to sell exclusively through brick-and-mortar retailers. It’s important to dealers to know that we have their back.” — Jason Baker, Green Mountain Grills

know these grills like the back of their hands and understand how to work them. They can explain the complexity of the product and provide customer service after the sale. “There’s a lot of moving parts on a pellet grill, so the dealer will be tied to the

opinion, pellet grills are not yet ready to be a commodity purchase in a Big Box store. Costco and other stores get a lot of returns because people don’t know how to use the grills. When a customer buys something from us, we teach them how to use it and they’re more satisfied. Traeger

is still the big dog that brings customers in our door, but really, their goal is to sell grills without (sales)people.” Baker says Green Mountain Grills helps to support and drive traffic to its specialty dealers with Google ads, social media, and grassroots marketing efforts. This year, the company had success participating in barbecue festivals in Denver, St. Louis, Kansas City, and other cities, partnering with local dealers in each market so consumers can purchase on the spot, or go to the store to buy later. “At a competition, there aren’t many opportunities to talk to the pitmasters or even to eat the food,” Baker says. “But at a barbecue festival, we can demonstrate the grills and how they operate. We can bring our pitmasters on stage to show that our pellet grills are easy, versatile, and fun, and that you can turn out great food without overwhelming effort.” Whether it’s the flavor, the convenience, or the smart features that hooks them, consumers are going all-in on pellet grilling. Specialty retailers should be, too.

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Designed and engineered with the precision and versatility of its flagship brand, the new Beale Street offers a sophisticated cart design that sets it apart from most pellet grills in its price category. Great wood fire flavor and one-touch ITC™ Intelligent Temperature Control means precision cooking and perfect meals every time. Grill like a Pro at a price to fit most budgets!

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www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020 | 41


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| Shade Products |

“Up in the mornin’ out on the job, Work like the devil for my pay But that lucky old sun has nothin’ to do But roll around heaven all day” – Haven Gillespie, Lyricist; vocals Frankie Laine

BLOCKING THE SUN Shade products are in the front lines of defense from skin damage, and 90% of skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. 44 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Monterey fiberglass market umbrella with Heather Willow frame finish from Frankford Umbrellas.


By Richard Wright

T

he warm days are getting hotter; the seasons (spring and fall) are getting longer, and the sun remains a ball of fire to be watched and avoided. In Phoenix, Arizona, certainly one of the hottest places in the U.S., in 2019 there were 128 days when the temperature was over 100°F, including 29 days over 110°F. Let’s face it, there’s a major need for shade. Here’s the view from Chad Scheinerman, owner, CEO of Today’s Patio with six stores in Arizona and one in San Diego. Hearth & Home: Are you selling more or fewer umbrellas now than you did, say, four years ago?

Scheinerman: “Umbrellas are, and have been, a great category for us. Being located in Arizona (with a store in San Diego) certainly helps; however, we display a lot of options in our stores which shows the customer we are in the umbrella business. It’s tough to be in the business if you only show 5 to 10 umbrellas. We usually will show anywhere from 3 to 5 cantilevers and upwards of 30 center-pole umbrellas per store.” Treasure Garden In 2020, Treasure Garden introduced its 9-ft. Starlux Collar Tilt market umbrella as a complement to the extremely popular

Chad Scheinerman: “We are selling a similar amount of umbrellas as four years ago. We may be slightly up, but not significantly in terms of total dollars.”

According to Ben Ma, vice president, “Treasure Garden had a very good 2019, but 2020 has been a bit challenging coming off a short selling season due to extended inclement weather and the ever-changing tariff scenario. However, domestic sales are very brisk, further reinforcing the need for shorter in-season lead times and quick turnaround on our offerings.” Climate Change is always a concern, said Ma. “Our product does provide much needed sun protection and, with the advent of the extended Outdoor Room time, shade is even more important in all sizes and shapes.” In the past few years, Treasure Garden has seen an upsurge in its hospitality/contract business. “To this end,” he said, “we offer our Shademaker

Is Climate Change (the Earth getting hotter) helping your umbrella business, or hurting it because people just don’t want to sit outside in the heat? Scheinerman: “Arizona has always been hot, so even though the Earth is getting warmer, it’s not significant enough where it would affect our sales, i.e., 100°F vs. 103°F – hot is hot!” Which are your best sellers: parasols, market, cantilevered, other? Scheinerman: “Center-pole market umbrellas are by far our best seller, however, we have definitely seen an increase over the years in cantilever sales. The additional sizes and features over the years have attracted customers’ interest, which is resulting in more transactions for this type of umbrella.” What umbrella brands are your best sellers? Scheinerman: “Treasure Garden and Frankford.” Anything else you want to say concerning umbrellas?

13-ft. Starlux AKZ Plus Cantilever. It features sleek modern rib strip lighting and a USB port to charge electronic devices. The battery-operated umbrella features up to eight hours of mood lighting. Treasure Garden also introduced the versatile 11-ft. Vienna Alu Teak market umbrella featuring a mirrored anodized pole, teak-look aluminum ribs, and a double pulley system with aluminum alloy locking pin. Canopies can feature elegant trim options as well as a choice of over 150 fabric options. This umbrella works perfectly in hospitality and/or in high-end residential applications.

and Jardinico brands to capture our share of this ever-growing segment of business. Sales have grown substantially within these two brands over the past few years. Both lines offer superior workmanship and European-inspired designs that work well in contract, as well as in high-end residential installations.”

Starlux Collar Tilt umbrella from Treasure Garden.

Click here for a mobile friendly reading| FEBRUARY experience www.hearthandhome.com 2020

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| Shade Products |

Aurora cantilever umbrella by Frankford Umbrellas.

Frankford Umbrellas For decades, Frankford Umbrellas were sold to the contract/hospitality channel. It was only in the past few years that the company began to target the specialty retail channel as well. That effort has already paid off. According to Laura Dudley, National Sales manager, “Frankford exceeded its 2019 sales goal set for our team, and achieved an overall 2019 retail sales increase of 51% over our 2018 retail sales. “The strongest area geographically for Frankford’s retail sales was the Northeast,” she said, “followed by the Southeast. We have the greatest opportunity for sales growth on the West Coast, followed by the South Central region. “We are very excited about our new team members in those regions; the response we are receiving from existing retailers, and the new retailers who are joining the Frankford family, has been great. The potential for growth in these regions (and the rest of the country) is unlimited! “Frankford continues to grow its retail footprint across the U.S.,” says Dudley, “increasing the number of retailers by almost 20% in 2019 (versus 2018). Consumers can now find Frankford Shade umbrellas in approximately 250 retail locations across the U.S.”

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The company is also keenly aware of Climate Change, and is doing what it can to reduce its carbon footprint, from recycling its cardboard/paper/glass/plastic, to installing motion detector lighting in the factory (its electricity usage has been lowered by over 20%), to a solar panel project scheduled to begin this year.

(with 10-year warranties) we are helping to ensure our umbrellas stay in service, in some cases for well over a decade. “Frankford continues to benefit from the longer seasons in the Northern states – where, even though some private pools are closing, restaurants are promoting outdoor seating now more than ever. Due to overall warmer temperatures, demand for shade products has now stretched into more months of the year, as our clients continue to have ‘outdoor weather’ on their mind for much more than just the typical warm summer months. “Over the past few years, outdoor living itself has proven to be an increasing trend. Consumers are investing both time and money into their outdoor living spaces, and shops are broadening their outdoor product offering as a result. This is, and will continue to be, a huge positive for Frankford and the rest of the shade/ outdoor industry.” Woodline Shade Solutions Woodline, a South African company, entered the U.S. market a few years ago, but the company is no neophyte when it comes to manufacturing shade products. It was founded in 1990 by Fritz Walter in South Africa, and has created privatelabel umbrellas for Gloster, Barlow Tyrie,

“Due to overall warmer temperatures, demand for shade products has now stretched into more months of the year, as our clients continue to have ‘outdoor weather’ on their mind for much more than just the typical warm summer months.” – Laura Dudley, National Sales Manager Frankford Umbrellas

“Frankford firmly believes that purchasing a quality umbrella – that will last – is a small, but clear way to help the environment. There are very few Frankford umbrellas added to landfills each year. Additionally, fabric production continues to be a large source of pollution across the world, and by using premium fabrics from Recasens and Sunbrella

Smith & Hawken, Country Casual Teak, and Williams-Sonoma, and many others throughout Europe. Based in New Jersey, Kathleen Ferry is the U.S. Sales manager for Woodline. “We now have over 50 dealers,” she said. “It’s really a saturated market in our category. We have the product that people don’t know that they need – until they see it.


“People are always going to need shade products…Consumers are getting more comfortable spending money on an umbrella to protect themselves and the investment they made in their furniture.” – Kathleen Ferry, U.S. Sales Manager Woodline Shade Solutions

Our market umbrellas are a bit nostalgic, and they’re coming back in style. We’re doing well; we’re hitting our growth markers that we set for ourselves, and we’re looking forward to a really strong 2020.” Ferry says the East Coast is primarily where they have seen success, and that’s because they started there with a rep force. They went from New England, to the MidAtlantic, and the Southeast. Now they’re gaining momentum in the Midwest. Surprisingly, Ferry has found Texas, Florida, and California difficult areas in which to find reps. Woodline has been making wooden market umbrellas for 30 years now, but Ferry says sales of the wood and metal umbrellas are “a nice mixture. We do make a quality, beautiful wood market umbrella, and we make it 52 different ways. It’s our number one selling umbrella. But we do have a considerable amount of business with our aluminum umbrellas as well. “People are always going to need shade products,” she says, “it’s an important category. Consumers are getting more comfortable spending money on an umbrella to protect themselves and the investment they made in their furniture.” At the past Casual Market Chicago, Ferry says they streamlined their product range, and only added a few items, one of which will be a mixed material umbrella, aluminum with wooden accents. “It’s very pretty, very elegant,” she says. Phifer When it comes to shading fabrics, Phifer has the market covered, inside and out. Its SheerWeave brand of shading fabrics is designed for interior applications

that not only offer solar protection, but provide decorative touches for homes and commercial properties. Phifer’s SunTex brand of fabrics are engineered for exterior window shading, also for residential or commercial applications, providing benefits that range from solar protection to insect control. “Innovation is helping to drive increased demand for shade products, including

motorization, remote controls, sun and wind sensors, and zippered screen options that allow for insect proofing and increased wind resistance,” said Andrew Caldwell, Corporate Market manager for Phifer sun control products. “Energy saving is also an important advantage that shading provides.” From creamy white and bone to darker charcoal and chestnut tones, SheerWeave fabrics can complement any interior design scheme. SheerWeave fabrics are available in a variety of openness factors ranging from 1% light filtering to 100% blackout, and come in wide widths to cover large window openings often featured in modern homes and commercial settings. Simple, clean, and classic, SheerWeave

fabrics can be fabricated into many different types of window treatments, from manual and touch-of-a-button motorized roller shades to Roman shades. The aesthetic quality of these fabrics allows them to pair easily with other draperies and window coverings. In addition to their aesthetic qualities, SheerWeave fabrics enhance privacy while reducing glare and heat gain for interior spaces, resulting in reduced energy costs and helping to prevent the fading of interior furnishings while maintaining views to the outside. Manufactured according to strict environmental standards, SheerWeave fabrics are GREENGUARD certified as contributing to indoor air quality. The fabrics also feature Microban antimicrobial protection that protects them from the growth of mold and mildew, making them ideal for healthcare settings and for areas of the home subject to moisture, such as bathrooms.

While SheerWeave fabrics provide shading from the inside, Phifer’s SunTex brand of shading fabrics provide sun and heat protection from the outside in touchof-a-button motorized roller shade applications that block UV rays that increase interior temperatures and fade interior furnishings. SunTex exterior sun control products are designed to absorb and dissipate 65% to 90% of the sun’s heat and glare before it reaches window or door glass. This feature results in a more comfortable indoor air temperature, more efficient air conditioning, and ultimately energy conservation. The products are easily installed as window and door screens, enclosure screening, or for use in retractable shades and systems. Bravura mixed medium umbrella from Woodline Shade Solutions.

www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020 | 47


| Shade Products |

SheerWeave interior shading fabric from Phifer.

SunTex fabrics also feature Microban antimicrobial protection and are GREENGUARD certified for contri­ buting to air quality. Of particular importance for commercial applications, SunTex fabrics meet the strict California flame retardant standards and are

SunTex exterior sun control fabric from Phifer.

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printable for logo and other branding applications. SunTex fabrics come with a 10-year warranty and have the Seal of Approval from the Melanoma International Foundation (MIF) for effectiveness in preventing sun damage to the skin and eyes.

“We are seeing fast market growth for exterior shades,” Caldwell said. “Trends include wider width and lighter weight fabrics that can be railroaded across 15- to 20-ft. openings, designer patterns, and color choices, as well as blackout fabric options that appeal to landscape architects, designers, and consumers. Shade product manufacturers are featuring Phifer fabrics because of our multiple fabric options in terms of openness factors, colors, wide widths, composition, and valueadded features such as Microban and GREENGUARD.” Phifer was founded in 1952 as a weaver of aluminum insect screening, and today is the world’s largest manufacturer of both aluminum and fiberglass insect screening. Based on its expertise in weaving screening products, Phifer has also expanded steadily throughout its 67-year history to become a highly diversified, technically-based manufacturer. Phifer’s engineered metal and textile mesh products are integral components for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. These applications include interior and exterior sun control fabrics for homes and commercial buildings, filtration, commercial and marine flooring, awnings, fireplace screens, ventilation, and reinforcement. In 1980, Phifer entered the casual furniture market with the launch of its Phifertex woven sling fabrics. This new vinyl-coated polyester product, which drew upon the company’s strength in weaving engineered materials, was launched in two colors, yellow and white, and has since grown into an expansive offering that is considered an industry leader in innovation, style, and performance. Phifer later added the GeoBella brand to its Designed Fabrics product line as an option for cushions, deep seating, and upholstery. Not only is GeoBella comfortable and stylish, it also has an environmental story, woven from recycled Olefin yarns. Both Phifertex and GeoBella are GREENGUARD certified as supporting indoor air quality, and feature three-year warranties. Phifer serves customers throughout the U.S. and also has international operations.


Phifertex is the only outdoor fabric infused with exclusive MicrobanÂŽ Antimicrobial Technology - the leading brand of continuous product protection against mold, mildew, and bacteria growth.


| Manufacturing |

Comfo-Back Counter Chairs with 48-inch Round Garden Classic Table from Berlin Gardens.

EMBRACING TANGENT From furniture manufacturers, to retailers, to consumers, everyone loves Tangent, and its ability to supply product consistently, and innovate constantly. By Tom Lassiter

A

sk a casual furniture retailer which category is red hot and growing, and the answer you’re likely to hear is plastic. The retailer might describe the category as HDPE, or recycled plastic, or plastic lumber, or perhaps MGP, but the general meaning is the same. The furniture in question isn’t wood. It’s not metal. It’s plastic. When consumer tastes gravitate toward a certain category, competition among the companies making that furniture intensifies. Leaders in the plastic

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furniture category duel it out each season, striving to increase market share with innovative designs and fresh interpretations of beloved standards. The picnic table is alive and well in casual furniture’s plastic category. Furniture made of plastic lumber or marine-grade polymer (MGP) is one category that has not gone offshore. There’s plenty of raw material in North America (virgin plastic or recycled), and the weight of the finished product makes it impractical to ship from Asia.


Some makers of plastic lumber furniture are vertically integrated, taking post-consumer waste (often in the form of used milk jugs), processing the plastic, and extruding it into boards or panels to be cut and milled like lumber. C.R. Plastic Products takes this approach in Canada, as does Poly-Wood in the United States. Other makers of plastic furniture depend on independent suppliers of plastic lumber and panels for the material from which they craft their products. More than a few of these furniture makers have something in common: They use extruded plastic lumber manufactured by Tangent Technologies. Some, such as Seaside Casual Furniture Company and Berlin Gardens, depend solely on Tangent for the lumber-like extrusions used to build their furniture. Telescope Casual Furniture, which initially used only marine-grade polymer (MGP) for its plastic furniture products, recently integrated premium plastic lumber from Tangent into its product lineup. “Even though you’ve not heard of Tangent,” said Tangent CEO Guy DeFeo, “we’ve been a leader in that space since we opened the doors in 2003.” Tangent doubled down on its leadership with the 2016 introduction of PolyTuf Premium, the first plastic lumber with a wood-like grain. Two qualities set PolyTuf Premium apart: The material has grain, similar to real wood. It’s not only visible on the surface, but runs throughout

the extrusion. This allows the product to mimic the look of wood quite convincingly when it is milled and shaped into furniture components. PolyTuf Premium’s second distinctive characteristic is its color. A PolyTuf Premium extrusion isn’t a single shade of brown or blue or white. The most wood-like version of PolyTuf Premium contains multiple, related hues or tones that markedly increase the material’s resemblance to fine hardwoods. Tangent Technologies has applied for a U.S. patent on PolyTuf Premium and expects approval later this year. One Tangent customer had exclusive rights to PolyTuf Premium for a year. It then became available to all customers, DeFeo said. The aesthetics of PolyTuf Premium, he said, have caused casual furniture makers who previously had dismissed extruded plastic lumber to give the material a second look. In the case of Telescope Casual Furniture, the grain features of PolyTuf Premium provide a radically different look to that of MGP. The material’s aesthetic qualities, DeFeo said, also have led makers of interior furnishings to consider it as an alternative to wood. PolyTuf Premium appears to be a gamechanger for the company that already is the leading U.S. supplier of extruded plastic lumber to casual furniture manufacturers. “There are a lot of people out there who are trying to figure out where this product

The HIP Collection from Seaside Casual Furniture Company.

Guy DeFeo.

is coming from and how they can quickly get it into their product lines,” DeFeo said. “It’s been a very exciting time for us.” The heightened interest in the marketplace led Tangent to set up a booth in temporary space at Casual Market Chicago last September. It featured no furniture, just samples of extruded plastic lumber and information. DeFeo said 20 of Tangent’s best furniture-making customers had a presence at the Merchandise Mart last fall. Thanks to the Tangent booth, that number probably will increase. PolyTuf Premium, he said, has “transformed how people are thinking” about the applications for plastic lumber. “What we can do from a technology standpoint is opening up a lot of new avenues,” DeFeo said. A Recycling Leader The empty milk jug in your recycling bin may find its way to Tangent’s facilities in Aurora, Illinois, just west of Chicago. Tangent buys bales of empty milk jugs and other recycled plastics from recycling companies and municipalities around the nation. The company recycles some 210 million empty milk containers annually. The milk jugs are part of the 15,000 tons of post-consumer plastic waste, specifically high-density polyethylene (HDPE), Click here for a mobile friendly reading| FEBRUARY experience www.hearthandhome.com 2020

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| Manufacturing |

The Tangent recycling plant.

that the company recycles each year. Plastic packaging with a recycle symbol surrounding the numeral 2 is HDPE. Tangent, founded by DeFeo and two partners in 2003, is a vertically integrated manufacturer of extruded plastic materials. Francisco Morales remains with the company as chief Innovation officer. Andy Stephens serves on the company’s board of directors but is no longer involved in daily operations, DeFeo said. PolyTuf Premium is specifically engineered for the furniture industry and other non-structural applications, such as trash receptacles, golf course equipment and accessories, and playground equipment. Another product line, TanDeck, is a decking material designed for residential and light commercial dock and pier waterfront applications. TanDeck is sold through marine specialty dealers. Tangent’s third product line is PolyForce, designed to meet the more stringent structural requirements of boardwalks, dune crossovers, fishing piers, and other shoreline installations. It’s taken nearly 20 years, but the outdoor furniture industry’s enthusiasm for plastic lumber and other types of plastic materials is beginning to catch up with DeFeo’s vision. He was fresh out of college when he went to work for Eaglebrook Plastics, which began as an Illinois recycler in the early 1980s

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to make plastic lumber for decking and other uses. The company didn’t emphasize plastic lumber for furniture, but DeFeo was convinced that channel would one day be a tremendous business, and he concentrated on that aspect of the business. DeFeo stayed on when Eaglebrook was purchased by a competitor also focused on the decking business. He eventually left that company and, with Morales and Stephens (also plastic lumber veterans), launched Tangent Technologies. Their

focus would be what DeFeo calls OEM clients, companies that buy Tangent’s plastic lumber to build their own products. DeFeo, then and now, likes the OEM business because “it’s very repeatable.” Tangent’s customers buy plastic lumber to build things, sell them, and buy more of the extruded material. Tangent in the early days had no distributors and no sales representatives. DeFeo handled production. “It was just basic, good old business-to-business contacts and customers,” he said. Tangent, he explained, was “a custom shop” that found customers that needed material of a specific size. “We had the expertise internally to design products around (the customer’s) application,” he said. Tangent in 2003 ran the four production lines in a 20,000 sq. ft. facility. Today the company has 40 production lines, around 230 employees, and occupies 600,000 sq. ft. The company’s success, he said, is based on its ability to supply product consistently, even as demand fluctuates, and to continually innovate. That’s especially true now that the plastic furniture category is booming. DeFeo said the plastic furniture category is growing about 10% annually, while the casual furniture industry as a whole is growing at 3% to 4% annually. Furniture makers, he said, must have “a supplier that can grow with them and have surge capacity.” In other words, when a

Bales of milk jugs ready to be recycled into “lumber.”


Garden Classic Fire Table and Comfo-Back Chairs from Berlin Gardens.

furniture company has a hit on its hands and needs to build 30% more plastic furniture products than forecast, Tangent must be able to crank out the material. Just as important is the ability to innovate and develop premium products that keep Tangent’s OEM customers “out front.” PolyTuf Premium, DeFeo said, offered such innovation, and the market

for us,” said Sam Yoder, president of Berlin Gardens. “We have a good partnership with them.” Tangent is “very good at what they do,” said Kate Carret, CEO of Seaside Casual. “They’ve got the best material out there.” Today, DeFeo said, Tangent has certain capabilities that are unmatched by competitors. The company, for instance,

“We’re always innovating ways to make products faster, better, more efficiently. That’s all part of the equation. We’ve got to be nimble. We’ve got to be innovative. We’ve got to be resourceful, so we can still make the margins we want to make.” — Guy DeFeo

responded. “Now they have a product,” he said, “that looks, from two feet away, identical to high-end hardwood.” DeFeo and his partners saw the potential for plastic lumber in the outdoor furniture business early on. “We knew, even back in those days,” he said, “that the furniture industry probably was going to be the biggest” customer of Tangent’s products. But earning the business of those furniture makers and keeping them coming back would require guaranteed performance and continual innovation. That philosophy has worked for longtime customers Berlin Gardens and Seaside Casual. “They’re a good supplier

can extrude a panel of plastic 60 inches wide and make it any length. PolyTuf Premium is the only plastic lumber in the world with “an internal wood grain that runs continuously through a cross section,” he said. “That’s really the innovation that ties it to the look of real wood. That’s really what got people excited, especially the higher-end, more sophisticated furniture companies.” In the past, he said, makers of highend casual furniture viewed recycled plastic lumber “as an inferior product. I guess that’s the best way to say it.” Plastic lumber’s durability, weight, strength, and low-maintenance characteristics were

highly desirable. But its appearance – the obvious fact that it was plastic – was an issue for some manufacturers and markets. Tangent’s push to create a product with the look of high-end hardwood came from casual furniture makers as well as from specialty retailers. The company conducted field research, interviewing retailers about customers who purchased plastic lumber furniture and, more importantly, about those who did not. Dealers told Tangent that “there was a whole demographic that they were losing.” Sales were lost because the plastic lumber “was not close enough to the look of wood for (consumers) to spend that kind of money on it.” Consumers instead chose to spend twice as much for a chair made of ipé or teak, even though a wooden chair exposed to the elements often requires regular care and maintenance to maintain an as-new appearance. Now, DeFeo said, Tangent’s topend plastic lumber provides an option for customers who want “the look of a really high-end hardwood without the maintenance. And it’s been very successful for us.” The company has a track record of working closely with furniture companies to provide custom solutions for their designs. “We have literally hundreds of sizes” of extrusions, DeFeo said. Many “have been created around specific applications for our customers.” Seaside Casual, for example, might provide a rendering of a new product that calls for legs of a certain dimension and a seat back with other nonstandard characteristics. “We have the ability to create any type of extrusion that our customers would need,” he said. Tangent’s innovative abilities also apply to what DeFeo calls “the extrusion side.” As volume demands increased, the company faced the challenge of investing more capital in additional extrusion equipment or “figuring out how to get the current extrusion line to run twice as fast.” The company, he said, chose the latter. Tangent’s ability to manufacture, he said, is second to none. “We’re always innovating ways to make products faster, better, more efficiently. That’s all part of the equation,” he said.

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| Manufacturing | “We’ve got to be nimble. We’ve got to be innovative. We’ve got to be resourceful, so we can still make the margins we want to make.” The recycling stream that feeds Tangent’s process is wider and deeper than just post-consumer waste, such as milk jugs and detergent bottles. Tangent also works with its customers to reuse scraps of plastic lumber that are byproducts of the manufacturing process.

“We have a closed-loop recapture program,” DeFeo said. Furniture companies send “truckloads of material back to us. We repurchase it and then reuse all of that into our mix.” The casual industry’s embrace of Tangent’s plastic lumber that looks like hardwood, and the growing interest of makers of interior furnishings, has DeFeo optimistic about the company’s future. Tangent will continue to produce plastic lumber that obviously is plastic.

Many consumers, especially those with coastal or lakeside waterfront properties, love the vibrant colors and smooth textures that are hallmarks of many styles of plastic lumber furniture. Those products, DeFeo said, “are still the flagship of what we sell.” But the wood-grained, “higher-end aesthetic product is going to be a big component of what we do,” he said. “Five years from now, I imagine it may represent 50%” of Tangent’s business.

PLASTIC FURNITURE—WHAT’S NOT TO LIKE? It’s heavy. No tariffs. No trees felled. No fuel burned. Recyclable. Indestructible?

Q

uality plastic furniture isn’t all that different from other types of casual furniture. The good stuff isn’t cheap, and sometimes shoppers have to be educated about that. A deep-seating group or a dining set constructed of plastic lumber or panels of MGP may cost as much as, or maybe more than, a competing product made of resin wicker, or hardwood, or aluminum. Grant Henegan, owner of four Fire House Casual Living Stores in North and South Carolina, said that educating consumers about good-quality plastic furniture, and why it costs what it does, is one of the category’s challenges. Yet that hasn’t stopped him from expanding the offerings of plastic furniture available at Fire House Casual Living. For 2020, he’s added a third well-known brand. Joining furniture by Seaside Casual and Pawleys Island is Poly-Wood. “I think we’ve got a good range now,” Henegan said. “We’re excited about the category.” Henegan is excited because, once people understand the plastic casual furniture story, sales often follow. It’s a good time to be in the business of making and selling plastic casual

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furniture. Growing numbers of consumers are embracing the category. The benefits of plastic furniture fulfill many of the requirements of today’s harried homeowners, people who want to spend their time away from work using their outdoor furniture, not perpetually cleaning and maintaining it.

U.S. consumers who care about spending their dollars on domestically made products often find what they are looking for in plastic furniture. Canadians can keep their dollars at home by purchasing goods made by C.R. Plastic Products, the behemoth of that market.

Much of the furniture is made of plastic reclaimed from recycled milk jugs and other consumer plastic waste…This means that when the day comes for the furniture to be retired, it can go back into the recycling stream to become something new again. The furniture tends to be darn near indestructible, requires no more maintenance than an occasional washdown with a hose, and is heavy enough to resist gusts on the Great Plains or the sustained blow of a nor’easter. People who are looking for classic Adirondack styling, or something more transitional, or even contemporary, can find options from a number of manufacturers.

U.S. consumers have a wide range of American-made brands from which to choose, including one of the industry’s most famous, Telescope Casual Furniture. Many brands of plastic furniture depend on specialty retailers as their primary sales channel. The customization available from brands such as Seaside Casual Furniture, Telescope Casual Furniture, and others make plastic furniture, which can


command medium- to high-end prices, less likely to experience competition from online and mass merchant sellers. Here’s another reason specialty merchants like the plastic casual furniture category: Sourced from North America, the products avoid tariffs resulting from the lengthy and ongoing trade spat between the United States and China. Stable pricing makes everyone happy, manufacturers as well as retailers. Last, but certainly not least, the environmental story couldn’t be better. No trees are felled to make plastic furniture. No fuel is burned to ship it across the Pacific. Much of the furniture is made of plastic reclaimed from recycled milk jugs and other consumer plastic waste bearing the No. 2 recycle symbol. This means that when the day comes for the furniture to be retired, it can go back into the recycling stream to become something new again. What’s not to like about plastic casual furniture? Here’s a look at some of the leading brands competing for shares of this growing market. Poly-Wood Poly-Wood enjoyed sales that grew more than 10% in 2019, said Megan Pierson, senior vice president of Business Development. Business, she said, “has been fantastic.” The company in October 2018 opened a second facility in Roxboro, North Carolina, to complement its existing manufacturing plant in Syracuse, Indiana.

Aurora Fire Table and MAD Chat Chairs from Seaside Casual Furniture.

The North Carolina plant now employs about 100 people, Pierson said, with plans to eventually employ about 500. When fully operational, the plant will mirror operations in Indiana by processing recycled high-density polyethylene (HDPE) material, extruding plastic lumber, and making furniture. Pierson said growth is trending upwards throughout the product line. Adirondack chairs and rockers remain Poly-Wood’s “bread and butter” products, she said, while deep-seating and dining products continue to gain strength. Dining has done particularly well during the last two seasons, she noted. Continual innovation in material colors and finishes keeps Poly-Wood’s product lines fresh, she said. “As we’ve grown over the years, designs have gotten a lot more sophisticated,” she said. “There are different looks that we could never do before. We’ll be releasing different finishes over the next few years.”

Edge Four-Piece Modular Deep Seating Set with Ottoman by Poly-Wood.

Seaside Casual Furniture The plastic lumber casual furniture category is exciting, says Seaside Casual CEO Kate Carret, because it is “still emerging.” New markets continue to open as regions of the United States warm up to the notion of plastic outdoor furniture. Most production has been located east of the Mississippi, and plastic furniture is just now gaining traction in some West Coast markets. “We continue to expand on the West Coast and internationally,” Carret said. Seaside Casual considers itself the design leader in the plastic lumber category. Recent design innovations include expanding into mixed media with the HIP Collection, which features aluminum frames, and plastic seating and table surfaces. Other collections include surfaces with woven resin or woven rope on plastic lumber frames in the MAD Collection. Designers and contract customers have started to embrace these mixed-media looks, she said. The future “looks very promising for us,” she noted. Seaside Casual uses plastic lumber extrusions manufactured by Tangent Technologies. Seaside created its own brand for the plastic material, calling it EnviroWood. The premium wood-grain product from Tangent “allows people to pick and choose and put their personality” into their Outdoor Room, Carret said. She sees lots of room for growth in the years ahead as the attributes of plastic lumber become more widely accepted. “It’s still a material people don’t know a lot about,” she said.

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| Manufacturing |

Mayhew Chat Chair and Square End Table by Berlin Gardens.

Counter-height Bar Stool from the Generation Line by C.R. Plastic Products.

The Newport Collection from Telescope.

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Berlin Gardens Competition in the plastic lumber category is growing because “there are a lot more players in the market than 10 years ago,” said Sam Yoder, president of Ohio-based Berlin Gardens. As a result, he said, “we have to stay sharp, stay focused, and come up with new ideas.” The classic Adirondack chair, a staple in the plastic category, cannot be counted on to increase in sales every year. The company is testing new designs in deep seating and exploring mixing aluminum with HDPE lumber made by Tangent Technologies. “We’ve got some new things we’re not ready to talk about right now,” Yoder teased. “We’re testing some alternative materials, rather than just plastic.” The company has stretched its design muscles in recent seasons with introductions such as Mayhew, a decided departure from Adirondack styles. The furniture has a transitional profile and numerous components for a variety of seating configurations. Mayhew primarily is a deep-seating line but also has a cushionless chat chair. Berlin Gardens sells through some 300 casual furniture retailers in the United States and Canada. C.R. Plastic Products Plastic lumber furniture’s “sustainability story” continues to generate interest and motivate shoppers, said Meghan Robinson, director of Sales and Marketing for C.R. Plastic Products. “People are increasingly aware of the environmental issues that we’re facing,” she said. That’s gratifying to a company originally known as Canadian Recycled Plastic Products. Like other manufacturers, C.R. Plastic Products has expanded its product offerings from Adirondack (Muskoka) styles to looks that are in high demand today. Deep seating, Robinson said, “is our highest growth category.” Indoor styling and outdoor functionality “has been a large part of the company’s growth,” she said. Dining furniture also drove growth in 2019. The Harvest dining table, with seating for up to eight, did particularly well. The company’s color palette currently is strongly driven by blue shades, Robinson said. New for 2020 is a Navy blue extrusion.


| Manufacturing |

Manhattan Forge Dining Table Set from the David Lewis Collection by Wildridge.

Going forward, C.R. Plastic Products will focus on developing the contract and hospitality markets. The company’s heavy, durable products are well suited to those applications and “the whole condo market,” she said. C.R. Plastic Products has 25 independent sales representatives covering the U.S. market and serves customers from a distribution center in North Carolina. Telescope Casual Furniture Telescope Casual Furniture introduced its first MGP (marine-grade polymer) products in 2009, using the same material used to create bulkheads, cabins, and other components of offshore cruisers and fishing boats. MGP products, with their distinctive smooth, hard surface, rapidly became an important part of Telescope’s catalog. More recently, Telescope introduced additional variety with an extruded material it calls Rustic Polymer, or Rustic Poly. Rustic Poly, unlike MGP, has surface texture and wood-like grain throughout. Rustic Poly is sourced from Tangent Technologies. The Tangent material has “wonderful color reproduction” along with “grain going all the way through the material,” said Telescope executive vice president Bill Vanderminden. Telescope does not make any products that mingle the two varieties of plastic. Aesthetically, “the look of them is a bit different” and not complementary, Vanderminden said. Rustic Poly appears as accents in a number of collections, such as Bazza and Belle Isle. Tables with aluminum frames may incorporate MGP or Rustic Poly, he said.

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The new Newport Collection, which is described as an updated Adirondack look, features Rustic Poly arms and seating surfaces on aluminum frames. MGP products have been embraced nationwide, Vanderminden said, and are an important part of Telescope’s commercial offerings. The widespread acceptance, he said, “shows the durability and strength of the material, that it can work in a lot of different areas.” The importance of MGP, and now Rustic Poly, to Telescope’s overall business cannot be overstated. Furniture incorporating plastic now accounts for “north of 30%” of Telescope’s revenues, Vanderminden said. Wildridge Wildridge, another Ohio-based furniture maker, introduced its first casual products in 2012 after more than a decade of building children’s playhouses and play structures.

The move to furniture “has been very good for us,” said president Dan Schlabach. “We feel like we’re on a good path.” The company’s five collections encompass casual motifs from Adirondack to transitional deep seating. Schlabach said specialty retailers can look forward to some exciting new products to debut at the Casual Market in September. Tangent Technologies is the sole supplier of plastic lumber for Wildridge. Hatteras Outdoors & Pawleys Island Outdoors The plastic lumber furniture branded Hatteras and Pawleys Island is heavy and built to withstand the hurricane winds that occasionally assault the coast of the Carolinas. Hatteras Outdoors and Pawleys Island Outdoors are products of The Hammock Source, parent of the Hatteras Hammocks, Pawleys Island Hammocks, and other brands. Adirondack chairs remain a staple of the brand’s business, but deep seating and dining products also are doing well, said Walter Perkins III, company president. The brands are built of an HDPE lumber that Perkins’ companies have branded Durawood. Tangent is not the source of the material, Perkins said. The material, he said, is heavier and thicker than most HDPE lumber. “Our chairs are actually four or five pounds heavier” than a similar design from a competitor, he said. “We don’t want it blowing around on the porch.”

Durawood Counter-Height Chairs from Hatteras Outdoors.


| Urban Outdoor Rooms |

Roof top design by Chicago Roof Deck & Garden.

Summer in the City The Outdoor Room trend can be found at a very high level. By Lisa Readie Mayer

F

or residents of suburbia, outdoor living is easy. Just open the back door and step into an outdoor space that might be outfitted with comfortable furnishings, a fireplace or fire pit, an outdoor kitchen, dining area, cocktail bar, television, pergola, landscape plantings, and any number of other amenities. For retailers and specifiers, designing and creating such an environment is relatively easy, too, with budget often the only impediment

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to delivering everything on a customer’s wish list. In the city, it’s complicated. Accessing nature of any sort is difficult; creating a personal oasis is a major challenge. But some argue it’s this scarcity that makes outdoor living spaces even more coveted and appreciated by city dwellers. Indeed, today, urbanites are investing in Outdoor Rooms on rooftops, terraces, balconies, and tiny backyard gardens in record numbers.

In addition to private urban residences, the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) reports the outdoorliving movement is gaining momentum in multifamily apartment buildings, office skyscrapers, hotels, restaurants, trendy bars, downtown convention centers, and other commercial spaces. It’s happening in cities big and small and coast to coast, from Manhattan to Miami, Los Angeles to Louisville, Vegas to Vancouver. Christopher Myers expects the trend to grow. Since 2005, the founder and creative director of Just Terraces, in New York City and St. Augustine, Florida, has created numerous residential and commercial Outdoor Room projects in New York, Paris, London, and other cities, and sees interest accelerating.


“We are becoming more of an urbanized country,” he says. “A lot of people want to move to cities where they can walk to restaurants and find more to do. They are leaving the suburbs, where outdoor living is a normal part of life, where they’re used to having a grill, a hot tub, and other features. They want those things in the city too.” Sal Finocchiaro of NYC Fireplaces & Outdoor Kitchens in Maspeth, New York, says his company has seen a 30% increase in Outdoor Room projects in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and other New York City boroughs over the last five years. During that same period, Jake Gazlay, Design director of Chicago Roof Deck & Garden, has noted “a massive trend in the development of rooftops into valuable square footage.” Beyond creating an enjoyable space for relaxing and entertaining, there is a pragmatic incentive behind the urban Outdoor Room movement. Real estate experts estimate a rooftop deck or other outdoor living space can add 6% to 8% to the valuation of a property, and cut time on the market by up to 50%. “Balcony and rooftop outdoor living spaces increase the usable square footage of a property, adding value in a highly competitive urban real estate market,” says Mitch Slater, owner of Danver Stainless Outdoor Kitchens, and Brown Jordan Outdoor Kitchens. Multifamily Outdoor Spaces This is particularly true of high-end multifamily rental properties, condos, and townhomes, where tenants increasingly expect luxury outdoor spaces. “Highimpact outdoor spaces give the property an edge, and can help developers attract residents and succeed,” according to Slater. Gazlay says demand for outdoor spaces has triggered an “amenity war” among developers. “It started with tricked-out lobbies and fitness centers, but now is focused on rooftops and outdoor living areas,” he says. “New-construction buildings have set the bar high and older buildings are retrofitting their rooftops into a valuable outdoor amenity. You’ll notice the featured sale image for most properties is typically a glamour shot of the outdoor space. It’s become a priority

for developers, and has even moved into the college housing space. “We have transformed rooftops into lush and leafy gardens, sport-court play spaces, and hospitality-level entertainment spaces with TVs, outdoor kitchens, kegerators, and Jacuzzis,” Gazlay says. Independent rep Peter Ross, president of Home and Hearth in Sacramento, California, has been involved in “a lot” of outdoor living projects in multifamily apartments and townhome developments in the last few years. “It’s a race to the top with amenities in the common areas,” he says. “They want

swimming pools, outdoor entertaining spaces, outdoor kitchens, fire pits, luxurious seating,” he says. “We’re seeing it in big cities like Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Denver, as well as mid-size cities throughout the West.” Gazlay says some cities have mandated or incentivized the creation of Green roofs on buildings to help meet energy goals, absorb storm water runoff, and reduce the urban heat-island effect, giving the trend another push. “Incorporating a beautiful and enjoyable rooftop amenity for residents also satisfies the Green-roof requirement, so it’s a win-win,” he says.

Roof top design by Chicago Roof Deck & Garden.

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| Urban Outdoor Rooms | Challenges and Complexities Outdoor Rooms in city settings may offer spectacular views, but they can present design and construction challenges that would never be an issue in a typical suburban backyard project. Often the first hurdle – particularly when retrofitting an older building – is getting approval from a building’s condo or co-op board. “There are different laws in every city and different bylaws in every building, governing what you can and

Some buildings require flood tests to ensure projects drain properly, and insist on sound abatement to mitigate noises and vibrations from hot tubs, water-feature pumps, and other elements. Space limitations can restrict the size, scope and selection of elements in urban projects. According to The New York Times, the average Manhattan balcony is 50 sq. ft., terrace, 650 sq. ft., roof deck, 748 sq. ft., and brownstone garden, 676 sq. ft.

careful consideration and orchestration from steps A to Z.” “Everything takes a lot more effort,” adds Myers. “It’s not like you can pull the truck into the driveway, unload it, and walk it around to the backyard. Everything needs to be brought up in an elevator or by crane.” And then there’s parking (or lack thereof). Finocchiaro estimates his store racked up $10,000 in New York City parking tickets last year alone. The line item, along with

Expectations and demands of richand-sometimes-famous clientele can be heightened – and quirkier – in cities, according to the experts. “One lady wouldn’t let us arrive to work on her rooftop space until 10am when the nanny got there,” recalls Finocchiaro. Delivery logistics – rarely given more than a cursory thought in suburban projects – present unique challenges in urban locales. “Creating an Outdoor Room in an urban environment requires well-thought-out job sequencing,” says John Algozzini, director of Design for K & D Landscape Management in Rockdale, Illinois. “The size of delivery trucks; how much material can be stored on site; rush-hour traffic – they all need

greater umbrella and liability insurance requirements, is part of the overhead cost of doing business in the city, he says. Urban projects also take longer to complete. “Timing is the number one bugaboo and biggest source of tension,” says Myers. “Most call in April and want the space ready for a Memorial Day party. Between engineering studies, board approvals, and wait times for custom pieces, it doesn’t happen fast in the city.” “The timetable from design and permitting, through project completion is usually much longer than customers expect,” agrees Gazlay. He says the process takes at least four to five months, but often eight or nine months, or even longer, depending on complexity and scope.

Kips Bay Showhouse in New York by Danver.

can’t do,” says Myers. “Some buildings are very cooperative; others don’t want anything on the roof because they’re afraid of the added weight or the potential for flooding from the irrigation system. There are sometimes issues between residents; one neighbor wants privacy fencing on their terrace, and another complains it blocks their view. “Companies like mine are go-to resources because, after 15 years, we are used to the process of board approvals and building permits, and we know how to make peace in the building,” says Myers. Engineering studies are often required to determine how much added weight the roof or terrace will support and whether structural reinforcements are needed.

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Outfitting the Space Just like suburbanites, city dwellers want a haven where they can relax and entertain outdoors. But the considerations that inform the selection of Outdoor Room elements are very different in urban projects. The view, of course, is often the focal point of the design and dictates the selection and placement of all elements in the space. But given a rooftop’s harsh microclimate, with strong winds between skyscrapers and unfiltered sun exposure, extending the use of the outdoor space is “typically priority one,” according to Gazlay. He says this might involve incorporating an overhead structure for shade and shelter from the elements, as well as a fire pit, fire table, fireplace, or heaters to add warmth during chilly conditions. Weight is another key factor. Elements must be heavy enough (or secured) so they won’t blow off onto the street below, but light enough to travel in an elevator and be supported by the roof or terrace. For these reasons, materials like faux-stone, veneers and porcelain, are popular in urban projects, as are lightweight modular cabinetry systems for outdoor kitchens. Gazlay says an outdoor kitchen is a “must have” in urban alfresco entertaining spaces. “It may be as simple as a freestanding or built-in grill, or as complex as installing every appliance and detail found in an indoor kitchen,” he says. According to Myers, a grill is the hub of an urban outdoor kitchen, and some clients even opt for a second specialty grill or smoker. However, he says one element is often intentionally omitted from city projects: an outdoor sink. “It’s very expensive to tie into the building’s sewer system and install thermally-treated lines,” he says. “So we try to discourage sinks.” Fire and housing codes, which vary from city to city, dictate the fuel source for grills and fire features. “Natural-gas hook-ups are allowed on rooftops, balconies, and terraces in New York City,” says Myers, “but propane is forbidden.” Many cities prohibit charcoal and other solid fuels, while electric grills and fireplaces, and gelfueled fireplaces and fire pits, are generally accepted. “At the risk of sounding like Captain Obvious, scale and utility are major drivers when selecting what goes into a small urban

Outdoor Room,” according to Algozzini. “I try to incorporate elements that are multipurpose and multifunctional. For example, if the client wants a fire pit, I’ll recommend something portable that can be moved out of the way for a party, and I’ll have a solid top made so it can function as a table when not in use.”

spaces must be ADA-compliant. Danver has responded with modular outdoor kitchens in wheelchair-accessible cabinet heights, and Lynx offers an ADAcompliant grill with a lower profile, sidemounted handle, extra insulation at the front, and greater toe-kick clearances on the cart base.

5th Ave New York rooftop from NYC Fireplaces & Outdoor Kitchens.

He notes that, unlike sprawling, inground suburban gardens, urban Outdoor Rooms rely on planter boxes and other vessels to hold flowers and greenery. “Containers for rotating annuals are my clients’ most-requested element,” Algozzini says. “Containers dictate plant selection, from the shape of shrubbery, to the height of flowers, right down to the size of the root ball,” adds Myers. “You can’t bring huge trees and plants into an urban environment.” The New York Times reports bottom-heavy plants such as evergreen trees, are more practical on roof decks and terraces than “lollipop-shaped” trees that might blow over, and drop leaves. And, according to Houzz, Green “living walls,” vine-covered lattice panels, and large potted plants are often incorporated as room dividers and privacy screens. In multifamily properties, all elements in common outdoor living

Because storage is not needed in communal outdoor kitchens, Danver recently introduced its Post & Panel System with stationary panels that look like premium cabinet fronts, but don’t open for storage. The panels weigh and cost less than traditional outdoor cabinetry, and are easily removed and replaced if damaged. Fire pits are desired in multifamily common spaces, but Finocchiaro says, “they are tough to include because codes require double-glass or other protective insulation. It’s easier to do a fireplace in a public space.” Design Aesthetic People everywhere want an Outdoor Room to look, feel, and function like an extension of the indoor living space. In the city, that often means incorporating luxury materials, high-end furnishings, and fine design. “Residents have spent a

www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020 | 63


| Urban Outdoor Rooms | great deal on their interior spaces, and they want the same level of detail outdoors,” says Myers. The website Houzz reports the majority of urban outdoor-living “ideabooks” share common design preferences: contemporary styles, sleek lines, space-saving elements, and gray, white, and black color palettes. Although Algozzini describes his urban backyard projects as having a “lessdefinable style,” with “sophisticated, transitional designs” and mixed materials, Gazlay says most of his urban clients are interested in a contemporaryindustrial aesthetic. “They are open to pushing the envelope in terms of new materials, finishes, and systems,” he says. “Outdoor products have dramatically changed from five years ago. Styles and aesthetics have become really

innovative and high end. We’re now seeing more outdoor-rated decorative items and accessories like you would find indoors.” That includes outdoor kitchens. According to Slater, modular cabinetry systems are increasingly preferred in urban spaces, because they closely resemble the sophisticated, contemporary cabinetry found in interior kitchens. Finocchiaro says his modular outdoor kitchen customers typically choose sleek, flat-panel doors, and powder-coat finishes. According to Myers, besides looking cool, a modern aesthetic serves a practical purpose in urban spaces. “Clean lines are easier to clean,” he says. “It’s amazing how much soot and dust collect in a city environment. Wicker furniture and rustic elements have nooks that are hard to keep clean.”

Roof top design by Just Terraces in New York City.

64 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Developing More Urban Outdoor Living Business Designing and building urban Outdoor Rooms from conception to the cocktailparty-finish, requires a specialized skill set that many retailers say is beyond their capability. But there is significant business potential in partnering with specifiers. “It’s imperative that retailers be ready to support urban designers with products tailored to these spaces,” says Myers. “Retailers don’t have to be able to handle the entire project – we are experts in that. But they need to be hyper-aware of the specific needs of urban Outdoor Rooms.” Finocchiaro says NYC Fireplaces & Outdoor Kitchens partners with landscape architects, designers, architects, and builders, supplying grills and outdoor living products on custom-built projects, as well as installing modular kitchens from Brown Jordan and Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet. “We have a reputation now, so they reach out to us,” says Finocchiaro. “And, we call on them, too. We do a lot of Instagram marketing targeted to (specifiers).” Gazlay says the designers at his firm stay abreast of outdoor living trends and products by monitoring social media, and attending trade shows and industry functions. “Many industry partners come in to our office and present education sessions for our staff, or we meet with furniture vendors in their design studios,” he adds. “Every season we add to our library of vendors.” Algozzini reads trade publications, and relies on retail and distributor partners as product resources. He finds continuingeducation classes and lunch-andlearns offered by industry associations, manufacturers, and distributors beneficial – particularly during his slower season from December through February. On a hot day last summer, New York City-based gel fireplace manufacturer Hearth Cabinet, invited architects, interior designers, developers, and contractors for a “lunch-and-learn” (and a glass of Frosé) on indoor- and outdoor-hearths approved by the city’s fire and building departments. Finocchiaro has developed an additional revenue stream by offering monthly maintenance services for common-use outdoor kitchens in


multifamily properties. The retailer deep cleans grills, inspects them for damage, and makes necessary repairs. He says replacement parts can bring in up to $3,000 per year per project. “These grills take tremendous abuse,” he explains. Wish Lists Urban outdoor living experts say the availability of products designed with the scale, functionality, and desired aesthetic for urban projects is growing, but some needs are still unmet. Here is their wish list: Finocchiaro would like to see more durable, commercial-quality grills that can stand up to the rigors of a multifamily installation. “The residents are paying a premium for the apartment, so they want a high-end grill, but we definitely need something more heavy-duty with easy-to-replace parts,” he says. He says more options for linear, modern outdoor fireplaces are needed, as well as fire pits with protective glass to satisfy safety codes in multifamily and commercial settings.

Gazlay says there is a need for outdoor products that can withstand extreme weather fluctuations in the Midwest. “So many customers come in with ideas from California and Arizona that we can’t do because it won’t survive,” he says. “In addition, multifamily developers don’t want to deal with cushions. They want durable, heavy-duty, comfortable sling furniture that looks good, stays clean, and won’t get blown around on a roof deck.” He says his team has also noticed a market for quality, non-combustible decking systems beyond porcelain tile and concrete pavers. Myers, too, wishes for advanced flooring options. “We need a simple, lightweight surface that could be placed atop an existing roof without damaging the membrane, and has a raised pedestal system to create a flat grade,” he says. “It would save so much time. There’s a lot of potential in flooring.” He says there is also untapped potential in high-end protective covers. “It’s a harsh environment 40 floors up,” Myers says. “It’s windy and abusive, and

these beautiful pieces of furniture and appliances are taking a beating. We get custom covers made for our clients, but they cost a fortune. People don’t want to be looking through the sliding glass wall of their luxurious living room at awful, baggy, zip-tied covers on the terrace for four months of winter. “There is a need for beautiful, modern covers in a neutral material, designed to be skin tight for a sculptural feel. Manufacturers should really consider creating covers that would be nicer to look at.” He suggests that retailers consider providing ongoing Outdoor Room maintenance services for urban dwellers. “Our clients tend to travel a great deal and might have multiple homes, so they aren’t there every day,” says Myers. “They need someone to check on the hot tub, re-program the outdoor lighting for daylight savings time, make sure the flowers look great, service the grill, oil the wood furniture, even take the pigeon nests out of the plants. It could be a huge business.”

LG900 | W O O D

PELLET GRILL

LGK24 | C H A R C O A L

GRILL

www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020 | 65


NEW

PRODUCTS

Poly-Wood

The Braxton 5-Piece Deep Seating Conversation Set with Fire Pit Table seats up to four people. The chairs have comfortable pillow backs and the Fire Table has an adjustable flame from a bed of glass gems. The fire table also has a wind guard for safety. Phone: (855) 935-5550 Website: www.polywood.com

Summerset Grills

From appetizers to desserts, the Outdoor Oven will bake a variety of dishes. Outdoor chefs can whip up pizzas, roasts and brownies, to name but a few items. The oven has a sturdy stainless-steel construction for longevity. Phone: (800) 966-8126 Website: www.summersetgrills.com

GloDea Twenty-six realistic flames simulate both wood- and gas-burning fires in the HoloFlame Trinity Electric Fireplace Mantle package. Included are crackling sounds and smart-phone control, as well as a built-in, back-lit touch screen and 4,600 Btu heater.

The modern and stylish premium wood ottoman/table is versatile and can be used indoors or outside. The table was designed by Ignacio Santos and comes in 24 dĂŠcor colors and is made of eco-friendly wood.

Phone: (954) 389-9550 Website: www.magikflame.com

Phone: (888) 400-4937 Website: www.glodea.com

MagikFlame

66 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com


Dimplex The Hammock Source/ Hatteras Hammocks The Double Bench Porch Swing is made of eco-friendly Durawood (densely compressed recycled plastic milk jugs and soda bottles). Features are stainless-steel hardware, galvanized chain for rust resistance, mortise-and-tenon joints and Fit n Finish smoothed surface.

Phone: (877) 601-9967 Website: www.hatterashammocks.com

Perfect for modern spaces, the Weathered Concrete Revillusion 30-inch Electric Firebox has lifelike flames. Homeowners can choose from Birch, Fresh Cut or Hardwood log sets. The heat maximum output is 8,800 Btus. Phone: (888) 346-7539 Website: www.dimplex.com

Kingsley Bate

Taking inspiration from antique Scandinavian farm tables, Oslo tables have tops with extra wide planks of teak. Trestle style bases have scrolled motifs and wedged mortise-and-tenon joinery. The tables are made from solid, distressed teak and come in 72- and 92-inch sizes. Phone: (703) 361-7000 Website: www.kingsleybate.com

European Home

Featuring modern style and a trimless finish, the E72 single-sided electric fireplace is six ft. long, with Evoflame technology and no need for venting. Plug-and-play capabilities offer endless possibilities for installation. The fireplace is an eye-catching centerpiece in any modern and eco-friendly living space. Phone: (781) 324-8383 Website: www.europeanhome.com

Evolution Fires

The Vegas 72 is made in America; it is 72 inches wide x 21½ inches high x 12½ inches deep. No assembly is required. No inset is required – wall mount. It has touchscreen controls, a three-sided viewing area, real stone side tiles, ambient side lighting, three flame-color options, and 10 media bed color options. Phone: (407) 851-1536 Website: www.evolutionfires.com

Click here for a mobile friendly reading experience www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020

| 67


| Business Climate |

DECEMBER SALES

In early January Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare December 2019 sales to December 2018. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 216 usable returns.

RETAILER SALES - U.S. AND CANADA December 2019 vs. December 2018

75% 43%

40%

64% 36%

32%

26%

28%

9%

16% 10% 21%

RETAILERS NO CHANGE

RETAILERS UP HEARTH

PATIO

RETAILERS DOWN

BARBECUE

SPAS

In December, 43% of Spa retailers were UP over the prior year, while 40% of Hearth retailers were UP, 26% of Barbecue retailers were UP, and only 9% of Patio retailers were UP.

13-MONTH YEAR-OVER-YEAR RETAIL SALES December 2019 vs. December 2018

PATIO

HEARTH 12% 5% 5%

4% 4%

1%

-2%

Dec Jan Feb 2018 2019

4%

Mar Apr

May June

2%

4% 5%

July Aug Sept

7%

3% 4%

Oct Nov

Dec 2019

2%

0% -3%

Dec Jan Feb 2018 2019

6%

3%

2%

Mar Apr

0%

May June

BARBECUE

2%

5%

July Aug Sept

7% 0% 0% 0% -4%

Dec Jan Feb 2018 2019

Mar Apr

1% -2%

May June

2% 2%

Dec 2019

5%

1%

-11%

-4% -1%

Oct Nov

12%

9% 4%

4%

July Aug Sept

Dec 2019

Dec Jan 2018 2019

Mar Apr

6%

4%

May June

-7%

3%

July Aug Sept

In December, both Hearth and Spa retailers were up 4%, Barbecue retailers were up 7%, and Patio retailers were the same as the prior year.

68 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

Oct Nov

SPAS 12%

2%

1% 0%

-4%

4% 4%

Oct Nov

Dec 2019


WEATHER REPORT RETAILER COMMENTS

For the following weather charts, the numbers for each state reflect the temperature ranking for the period since records began in 1895.

STATEWIDE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE RANKS DECEMBER 2019 99

103

NORTHEAST New Jersey: (Hearth, BBQ) “Having a good year.” New York: (Hearth) “Very busy. Booked

to end of January.”

95

96

“Really satisfied with year-end numbers. Mild weather is not deterring customers from moving forward with supplemental heating projects.” — Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania: (Hearth) “Really satisfied

with year-end numbers. Mild weather is not deterring customers from moving forward with supplemental heating projects.”

88

85

89 86

101

88

101

84 106

97 111 110 111 110 109 117 115 109 116 109 111 106 114 113

112

114 116

104

81

86

88 92 81 92

97 103 102

103

115

114

1 = COLDEST / 125 = WARMEST

NATIONAL CLIMATIC DATA CENTER/NESDIS/NOAA

Much Below Average

Record Coldest

Below Average

Near Average

Above Average

Much Above Average

Record Warmest

In December, the heat was in the South and Southeast, with nine states posting temperatures Much Above Average. Nationwide, it was the sixth warmest December in 125 years.

STATEWIDE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE RANKS OCTOBER – DECEMBER 2019 84

55 61

43

37 39

53

53 49

42 49

89

57

34

32

98

New York: (Hearth, BBQ) “2019 was

our last year for selling barbecue items in our store. After over 60 years, we are done with the Internet competition and Box store beat-ups. Looking forward to more free time this spring and summer!”

81

108

81

New York: (Hearth) “In the month of

December here in the Northeast, weather was rather mild. Our sales of both pellets and coal were down but to counter that, service was up. Our service schedule was full and often we would add extra days for service. It seems homeowners don’t want to or don’t know how to repair their pellet or coal units and would rather pay a professional to come in and do it. It all added up to a slightly better month in 2019 than 2018. We are looking forward to 2020.”

108

50

56

42 35

88

59

70 71

88 100 83 68 104 105 93 111 100 112 79 102

80

67 72 82 87

93 103 104

117

86

75

120

1 = COLDEST / 125 = WARMEST

Record Coldest

Much Below Average

NATIONAL CLIMATIC DATA CENTER/NESDIS/NOAA

Below Average

Near Average

Above Average

Much Above Average

Record Warmest

For the three-month period of October – December, Georgia and Florida posted Much Above Average temperatures.

Click here for a mobile friendly reading| FEBRUARY experience www.hearthandhome.com 2020

| 69


| Business Climate | Pennsylvania: (Hearth) “December

weather and labor shortage slowed down our completed installations, along with closing from December 23 to January 2. The past calendar year was our best ever! Even with a December slowdown. December is not a big month for us, we don’t sell gift items.” Pennsylvania: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ)

WEATHER REPORT

For the following weather charts, the numbers for each state reflect the temperature ranking for the period since records began in 1895.

STATEWIDE AVERAGE TEMPERATURE RANKS JANUARY – DECEMBER 2019 79

77 84

“Third best year in 41 years of hearth. We are booking four to five weeks out despite mild weather and low fuel prices.”

74 71

23

28 52 72

SOUTH 92

46

42

26 84

95

North Carolina: (Patio) “The high sale

37

12

68

109

percent increase is only indicative that it’s the slowest month of the year.”

69

110 114 123 124 118 125 119 124

116 123 122

81 95

84

53

90

94

114 123

80 92 107 108 109

125

115

109

124

North Carolina: (Patio, BBQ, Spas)

“We are fortunate to have a great and dedicated staff that knows how to focus on cultivating leads during this traditionally slower period of the year.” BBQ) “Customer confidence and new construction are driving the business. Service is solid. There is a big need for experienced technicians and installers.” North

Carolina: (Hearth,

Texas: (BBQ) “Ceramic’s Big Green Egg

and Primo have slowed way down. Pellet grills are still selling.”

Texas: (Hearth, BBQ) “Not much of a

winter in Houston for December 2019. Average daytime temps were 64°F. In December 2018, we were still in the post Harvey flood sales. Technically, our hearth product December 2019 sales were not down. We were just extremely elevated last year due to flood recovery sales.” Virginia: (Hearth, BBQ) “Very slow

December. It doesn’t help when it’s 60°F to 70°F on most days! We need cold!” Virginia: (Hearth) “Best December

we’ve had in several years, both in sales and annual service. Empire’s vent-free products really took off! Hope it will stay that way for the next couple of months. After that, new-home construction will start back up.”

70 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

1 = COLDEST / 125 = WARMEST

Record Coldest

Much Below Average

NATIONAL CLIMATIC DATA CENTER/NESDIS/NOAA

Below Average

Near Average

Above Average

Much Above Average

Record Warmest

For the 12-month period January – December, 2019, both Georgia and North Carolina hit Record Warmest temperatures, while 13 other Southern and Mid-Atlantic states posted Much Above Average temperatures. Overall, 30 states in the contiguous U.S. posted above average temperatures for the year. Six states were below average.

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE The Consumer Confidence Index decreased marginally in December, following a slight increase in November. The Index now stands at 126.5 (1985=100), down from 126.8 (an upward revision) in November. According to Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, “While consumers’ assessment of current conditions improved, their expectations declined, driven primarily by a softening in their short-term outlook regarding jobs and financial prospects. While the economy hasn’t shown signs of further weakening, there is little to suggest that growth, and in particular consumer spending, will gain momentum in early 2020.”

128.1 121.5

126.1 126.8 126.5

100 90

Year Ago

6 Mo. Ago

Oct 2019

Nov 2019

Dec 2019

1985 = 100 A reading above 90 indicates the economy is on solid footing; above 100 signals strong growth. The Index is based on a probability-design random sample conducted for The Conference Board by The Nielsen Company.


| Business Climate |

STOCK WATCH COMPANY – EXCHANGE

52 WEEK

SYMBOL

WEEK ENDING

% CHANGE

HIGH

LOW

29-Nov-19

27-Dec-19

4 WEEK

26 WEEK

52 WEEK

MARKET CAPITALIZATION ($000,000)

Standard & Poor’s 500 (a)

S&P

3,240.02

2,447.89

3,140.98

3,240.02

3.2%

10.1%

30.3%

HNI Corporation (b)

HNI

42.23

29.90

39.29

37.37

-4.9%

5.6%

6.2%

$1,600.00

Pool Corporation (c)

POOL

228.19

141.83

206.45

213.34

3.3%

11.7%

44.3%

$8,610.00

Restoration Hardware (b)

RH

243.67

84.11

205.59

214.87

4.5%

85.9%

80.6%

$4,030.00

Wayfair (b)

W

173.72

78.61

84.92

92.09

8.4%

-36.9%

1.5%

$8,340.00

NOTES: (a) = Standard & Poor’s 500 is based on the market capitalizations of 500 large companies having common stock listed on the NYSE or NASDAQ. It is considered one of the best representations of the U.S stock market, and a bellwether for the U.S economy. (b) = New York Stock Exchange. (c) = NASDAQ.

MARKET CAPITALIZATIONS

52-WEEK STOCK PRICE CHANGE

(US $000,000) $10,000

80.6% $8,000

44.3%

$6,000

30.3%

$4,000

6.2%

1.5%

S&P HNI POOL RH AS OF 27-DEC-2019

MIDWEST Illinois: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Good push at the end of Christmas!” Indiana: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas)

“December was our strongest month of the year. We sell all categories.” Missouri: (Hearth, BBQ) “This has been

an interesting year. Barbecue sales were down significantly in 2019. This was largely a result of a cold, wet spring. We never made up the lost sales during this period. However, December barbecue sales were strong. “On the hearth side, sales were good but not equal to last year’s record numbers. Construction seems to be softer than in 2018. Despite this we are selling a wide mix of all categories, wood, gas, electric, and pellet. The electric category for us has

72 | FEBRUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

W

$2,000

0

HNI

POOL 28-DEC-2018

narrowed to only built-ins and linear. The cabinet package unit sales are all but gone. Wood and gas fireplace sales are strong. Wood-stove sales are less than the previous year due to mild weather.” Missouri: (Hearth) “Third straight year

with strong growth for our company. Average ticket and unit sales have increased substantially. We’re primarily selling into commercial and mid- to high-end residential. Seems like the sky’s the limit for selling higher-priced fireplace units that include substantial features and benefits.” Ohio: (Hearth, BBQ) “While we set an

annual sales record for 2019, December’s numbers were a bit disappointing. We were excited to see our flagship hearth line numbers continue the upward trend

RH

W

27-DEC-2019

that started over five years ago. Looking forward to growing even more in 2020!” Wisconsin: (Hearth) “Very strong contrac-

tor/builder market. Consumer market not as strong as last year’s “phenomenal year.” Limited in sales volume by insufficient installation ability. Hiring and keeping good staff is a constant challenge.” Wisconsin: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas)

“Iffy year overall, good but not as good as 2018. 2018 was very good! Lots of rain delays, buildings going up slowly, and not getting finished when expected. Last year we had some very high-end jobs, this year more average overall. December was the busiest I have seen, hope to see 2020 explode with dry weather and warm summer. Patio and fire table sales could stand a boost.”


Wisconsin: (Hearth, BBQ) “This has

been a few interesting years. Some were hard and some wonderful. We have retired. We have been in the process for the previous two months, because sales have been transferring to the new owners for loosely three months. This is an amicable change. So our sales would decrease. It is a good industry to be in.”

“The economy on the prairies has flat-lined, due to a very bad and incomplete harvest and election.” — Saskatchewan

WEST California: (Hearth, BBQ, Spas) “Great

year, economy is good and people are spending money. Hope 2020 is the same.”

California: (Hearth) “Hoping 2020 will

be prosperous for all!”

Colorado: (BBQ) “Black Friday in

November sucked grill sales out of December.” Nevada: (Hearth, BBQ) “Happy New

Year.”

Oregon: (Hearth, BBQ) “Healthy

Christmas economy, plus we’re finishing off our first year with a full showroom display.”

British Columbia: (Hearth, BBQ)

“Hearth sales are consistent with chimney sales increasing. Chimneys are so important to make today’s wood-burners perform properly. Perhaps a beneficial earthquake could knock all the old brick and stone chimneys down.” Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, Spas) “Fireplace

sales were brisk and consumers attitudes were great.” Ontario: (Hearth, Patio) “Manufacturers,

much of a difference it makes when we have quality service techs who have a spirit of excellence. That’s not the explanation of our overall 2019 increase, however, it certainly contributed.”

distributors, and reps need to remember who is on your front line and start actually respecting and supporting the dealers that have made this an industry. Stop treating us as adversaries. Stop giving us lip service. Start listening and responding. When/ who was the last dealer/manufacturer/ distributor round table discussion?”

CANADA

Saskatchewan: (Hearth) “The economy

Wyoming: (Hearth) “It’s remarkable how

British Columbia: (Hearth) “No sales,

as I was closed for the month.”

on the prairies has flat-lined, due to a bad and incomplete harvest and election.”

www.hearthandhome.com | FEBRUARY 2020 | 73


MARKET PLACE

Keep up-to-date on the latest news, trends, data, and events with the leading industry source!

SUBSCRIBE ONLINE For Print and Digital Editions!

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CLASSIFIEDS 1 Column x 1 Inch Minimum Price per column inch = $175 Call the Sales Department at (800) 258-3772

Business for Sale

Business for Sale

Turnkey Fireplace Company FOR SALE on NJ Coast.

Western Wisconsin 32 year old business in 10,000 sq. ft. building. 90 plus displays, install and service vehicles, forklift and onsite parking. Owners to retire or work part time if desired. For more information inquire at 608-792-0425. Buyout or Cash with land contract.

15 Years in business with a great name and reputation. Profitable builder base, and tons of yearly service customers. Showroom with very low overhead. Great add-on to any hearth/HVAC company.

Contact - Vince@coastalfireplaces.com

Ad Index Advertiser

Apricity / Agio - USA Big Green Egg Blaze Outdoor Products Bull Outdoor Products Dansons Group / Louisiana Grills Eiklor Flames Empire Comfort Systems / Plaza Luxury Fireplaces Escalera Evolution Fires Hearth & Home Technologies Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association Lovinflame Maxitrol Company Memphis Wood Fire Grills Peak Season Phifer RH Peterson Co. RSF Woodburning Fireplaces / ICC Spartherm Telescope Treasure Garden Valor / Miles Industries Vectis / Weber Knapp Vesta Awards 2020 Warming Trends 74 | JANUARY 2020 | www.hearthandhome.com

This ad index is an additional service provided by Hearth & Home to its advertisers. Hearth & Home assumes no liability for any incorrect information.

Page

C3 71 26, 27 35 65 C2 23 74 6 33 1 17 73 41 42, 43 49 59 C4 31 8, 9 57 21 39 15 6

Phone

(888) 997-7623 (770) 938-9394 (866) 976-9510 (800) 521-2855 (877) 303-3134 (888) 295-LOGS (800) 851-3153 (800) 622-1359 (407) 851-1536 (800) 927-6841 (703) 522-0086 (909) 781-8462 (248) 356-1400 (888) 883-2260 (866) 606-6330 (800) 633-5955 (800) 332-3973 (450) 565-6336 +491522 26 44 162 (518) 642-1100 (626) 814-0168 (800) 468-2567 (800) 828-9254 (800) 258-3772 (303) 346-2224

Website

www.apricityoutdoor.com www.biggreenegg.com www.blazegrills.com www.bullbbq.com www.louisiana-grills.com www.eiklorflames.com www.plazafireplace.com www.escalera.com www.evolutionfires.com www.fireplaces.com www.hpbexpo.com www.lovinflame.com www.maxitrol.com www.memphisgrills.com www.peakseasoninc.net www.phifer.com www.rhpeterson.com www.icc-rsf.com www.spartherm-america.com www.telescopecasual.com www.treasuregarden.com www.valorfireplaces.com www.weberknapp.com/drumsmoker www.vestaawards.com www.warming-trends.com


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The Focus SBR and the

air control system

Once loaded, the Focus SBR crushes EPA 2020 requirements and heats up to 2,000 square feet. All without the homeowner leaving the couch. ▪ EPA 2020 certified at 1.4 g/hr ▪ Smart BurnRate system (non-catalytic)

▪ Heats upwards of 2,000 square feet ▪ Optional: 635cfm central heating blower

(450) 565-6336 www.icc-rsf.com

Profile for Hearth & Home

Hearth & Home Magazine - 2020 February Issue  

The voice of the Hearth, Barbecue, and Patio industries. Hearth & Home is a trade journal serving the hearth, barbecue and patio furnishings...

Hearth & Home Magazine - 2020 February Issue  

The voice of the Hearth, Barbecue, and Patio industries. Hearth & Home is a trade journal serving the hearth, barbecue and patio furnishings...