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THE VOICE OF THE HEARTH, BARBECUE AND PATIO INDUSTRIES

MARCH 2019 ®

2019

HPBExpo Special Issue


The family room is where you capture life’s important moments in a whole new light.


HOT SPOTS RESEARCH STUDY

How key home areas and attributes impact home buyers and their purchase decisions.

90%

Napoleon’s Hot Spots Research Study divulges how over 90% of the people surveyed strongly desire a fireplace in the family/living room.

Research shows that fireplaces enhance any space, which helps homeowners create a lifetime of memories. If you’d like to learn more about which rooms are the hottest and our proprietary research study, visit us at NapoleonFireplaces.com/Hotspots.


| CONTENTS | FEATURES Meet Joe Burns 10 The incoming chairman of the HPBA is president

of Bernard Dalsin Manufacturing, a family-owned business making chimney and venting products in Farmington, Minnesota.

Fireside Chats 18 Generally speaking, it was a good hearth year,

as six manufacturers are about to tell you in the following pages. But there are so many variables regularly impacting sales, it’s a wonder that’s the case.

58

Fahrenheit 1,500° 46 A new grill category takes inspiration from steakhouse restaurant kitchens, providing specialty retailers another terrific product to sell.

Shade and Need 52 As the climate warms, the need for shade products has increased – for both comfort and protection.

Heating With Wood 58 Woodburning is not dead, but regulators sure make it

difficult to keep it alive. Kudos to the 15 manufacturers highlighted on the following pages.

Young and Ambitious 70 Millennials and Generation Z are seeking

70

opportunities to learn, earn, grow, and belong.

A Major Commitment 82 As you read this, Vincent Boudreau and Nadia Gilbert

are watching products roll off the production line at Stûv America in Bromont, on the outskirts of Montreal.

Asset or Liability? 94 Online Reviews are important. Here’s how to

accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative.

1 00 2019 New Products A sampling of what you’ll see in Dallas, Texas, at the HPBExpo.

4 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

82


DEPARTMENTS

7

Perspective

120 Business Climate

46

124 126 126 128 129

Stock Watch Ad Index Classifieds Parting Shot Who Reads Hearth & Home?

ON THE WEB News 10 Trend Questions: An Update (Part 2)

52

Household Growth Will Be Slower, According to New Projections

Recipes Bull Outdoor Product’s Red Wine Marinated Porterhouse Evo’s Brown-Sugar Grilled Peaches

THE VOICE OF THE HEARTH, BARBECUE AND PATIO INDUSTRIES

MARCH 2019 ®

On the Cover

Town & Country TC36 Arch with Birchwood log burner.

2019

HPBExpo Special Issue

www.hearthandhome.com COVER PHOTO COURTESY: ©2019 TOWN & COUNTRY.WWW.TOWNANDCOUNTRYFIREPLACES.COM

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www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 5 friendly reading experience


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Publisher/Editor Richard Wright wright@villagewest.com Editorial only, send digital images to production@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, Dr. James Houck, Mark Brock, Kathi Caldwell-Hopper

Creative Services Erica Paquette, Art Director Kristin Gage, Sr. Graphic Designer April Brown, Jr. Graphic Designer Tobi Carter, Jr. Graphic Designer Susan MacLeod, Proofreader production@villagewest.com

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

Office Judy McMahon, Accountant mcmahon@villagewest.com

CopyrightŠ 2019 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.

Hearth & Home (USPS 575-210/ISSN 02735695), Vol. XL, No. 4, 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.

6 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com


| Perspective |

May 15, 2020

F

or most manufacturers of wood-burning products, the year 2018 was devoted to meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s New Source Performance Standard that will take effect on May 15, 2020. Some manufacturers moved quickly to develop technology to meet that goal – adding a catalytic converter was a HEATING WITH WOOD popular way – while others still have a ways to go. The goal is to reduce particulate emissions from 4.5 grams per hour down to 2.0 grams per hour if Y tested with crib wood, or 2.5 grams per hour if tested with cord wood. The cost to manufacturers in both time and money is enormous. One manufacturer pegged the cost of revamping a wood stove to meet the coming standard, including the cost of lab certification, at $250,000. To view the number of models of wood stoves that are being upgraded to the 2020 standard, go to https://www.epa.gov/compliance/list-epa-certifiedwood-stoves. Now consider the variety of ways that time, and those funds, could have been used; not least would be the creation of new, innovative products that could move the company, and perhaps the industry, forward. Now, we’re certainly in favor of clean air, and most industry members applauded (silently) when the 1988 NSPS was promulgated. There was no applause coming from the hundreds of manufacturers who closed their (garage) doors and went looking for the next fad. We’re already hearing that a few manufacturers will be leaving the industry prior to May 15, 2020. In this issue there are two articles that address that infamous May 15, 2020 deadline. The first is “Fireside Chats,” (page 18) | Wood-burning Products |

Woodburning is not dead, but regulators sure make it difficult to keep it alive.

Kudos to the 14 manufacturers highlighted on the following pages.

By Bill Sendelback

ou’ve heard it before: Upon seeing his premature obituary in a London newspaper in 1897, the late famed author and humorist Mark Twain said, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” The same could be said for woodburning in North America. Certainly woodburning sales numbers are nowhere near what they were 10 or 20 years ago, and gas hearth products continue to take more market share. But woodburning is alive and well in North America, and even growing while under pressure from environmentalists and the

58 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

demands of the EPA’s May 15, 2020, deadline to meet the tougher emissions restrictions of the NSPS. The total U.S. shipments of all wood-burning hearth products hit a high point in 2001 of 637,856 units. In 2012, total wood-burner U.S. shipments had dropped to a record low of 180,006 units. But by 2016, the last year of industry-reported figures, sales had rebounded 16% to 208,806. The most recent industry estimates, without industry shipment numbers, indicate that, in 2017, wood stove sales were

up 3% over 2016 totals, zero-clearance fireplaces were up 4% and clean-burning wood fireplace sales were up 2%. In comparison, sales of vented gas fireplaces were up 11%. Hearth & Home’s most recent Buyer’s Guide reports that the average specialty hearth product dealer realizes 28% of his or her sales from wood-burning hearth appliances, and 49% of his or her sales from gas models. In wood stoves, 83% of dealer sales are non-catalytic models, and 17% are catalytic units, a number that may shift significantly

PHOTO: ©2019 GETTYIMAGES.COM.

conversations with six hearth manufacturers on a wide range of topics that, together, paint a portrait of the past year, and serve as a guide to this year. The second is “Heating with Wood,” (page 58) in which Bill Sendelback interviews 15 manufacturers of wood stoves and/ or wood fireplaces. The discussions range from the status of wood-burning sales (quite good), to new products being introduced at the HPBExpo in Dallas. Speaking of wood heat, the folks at Stûv America are now producing product at their new factory in Bromont, Quebec. The parent company is in Belgium, and presently acts as a back-up producer in support of its Canadian entity. Stûv follows in the footsteps of both Jøtul and Valor (see “A Major Commitment,” page 82). Take a look at a new grill category; it’s called a Salamander, and it’s a top-down infrared burner used by many steak houses as a quick way of cooking a perfect steak. It was first introduced to the specialty retail market by Dante Cantal of Twin Eagles fame – that was 15 years ago (talk about being ahead of the curve!). We have one. It cooks a two-inch thick filet mignon in four minutes on each side. When done, it’s evenly pink throughout and blackened on both sides. Terrific! That word – terrific – also works for shade products. We’ve all noticed that the climate is warming, and that exposure to the sun is dangerous. These days, everyone needs a shade product, and there are a number of very good manufacturers filling that need. Consider it for your business.

as more EPA-certified 2020 models hit the market. Research also shows that 56% of wood stoves sold in the U.S. are of steel construction, while 38% are cast iron, and 6% are a stone and cast-iron combination. A major concern voiced by a ll manufacturers is the May 15, 2020, deadline for dealer sell-through of non-2020-certified wood and pellet burners. The EPA in late 2018 proposed a two-year extension of the dealer sell-through deadline for hydronic heaters and forced air furnaces. That proposal did not include other wood

and pellet appliances, but the EPA did take comments on whether a similar dealer sell-through extension was “appropriate” for wood and pellet appliances and, if so, for how long and why. Both sets of comments were to have been received by the EPA by Jan. 14, 2019, but the recent U.S. government shutdown has delayed any EPA reactions. “This dealer sell-through extension for hydronic heaters and forced air furnaces was only a proposal by EPA, not an action cast in concrete,” according to Ryan Carroll, the HPBA’s vice president of

Government Affairs. “For the exact same reasons this dealer sell-through extension would be appropriate for hydronic heaters and forced air furnaces, we feel it is just as appropriate for wood and pellet appliances.” The HPBA continues to push for extension of the dealer sell-through provisions of the NSPS as well as additional “broader changes” to the NSPS. Stay tuned. Congressional efforts to delay the NSPS implementation by three years failed in the U.S. Senate, effectively eliminating those efforts at this time.

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 59

See you in Dallas!

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| Viewpoint |

MEET JOE BURNS The incoming chairman of the HPBA is president of Bernard Dalsin Manufacturing, a family-owned business making chimney and venting products in Farmington, Minnesota. By Richard Wright

Joe Burns, president of Bernard Dalsin.

10 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com


M

any incoming chairmen of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) enter with a pet project in mind. It could be a goal of increasing membership in the association, as it was for the past two chairmen. Joe Burns is no different, but his project of choice is to set up a network of succession professionals to help retailers get their businesses ready for sale, and a network of brokers to help with the sale. Hearth & Home: How did you get into

this very nice industry called hearth?

Burns: “Yes. Basically BDM sells through

three channels. We sell direct to specialty hearth retailers; we sell to chimney sweeps through two-step distribution, and then what we classify as our OEM channel, which is selling venting and component parts to industry manufacturers.”

You have other channels as well, correct?

Burns: “Yes. BDM has been a member of

HPBA since 1980 or so, and has been to every Expo since the mid ’80s. In my 21 years here, we have exhibited every year.”

“In terms of HPBA membership and manufacturers, there are challenges with consolidation and other pressures for the industry, and we’re always looking for new ways to reach potential members and increase that pool.” — Joe Burns

Joe Burns: “When I first got out

of college I began my career in a company that marketed consumer insurance products via direct mail. That company partnered with some of the world’s largest insurance companies to underwrite their products and, in turn, they would partner with some of the world’s largest banks to market those products to their customer base. “I was in the business development role in that company, and early in my career I really had no interest in working for the family business; it wasn’t something that I was thinking about until, in 1997, a position opened up for a Sales and Marketing manager at BDM. At that time, I had realized that the insurance world wasn’t for me, so I decided to take a leap of faith and interviewed for the position. “Back then, BDM primarily sold chimney liners, top-sealing dampers, and chimney caps mainly to chimney sweeps and to a few hearth retailers; we were primarily selling regionally back then. The more I learned about venting and the hearth industry as a whole, I began to see a lot of opportunity to grow BDM’s line of venting products and expand the customer base. “Today, BDM has a customer base of over 400 specialty retailers and several hearth appliance manufacturers. We sell throughout the U.S. and Canada. We do sell some to chimney sweeps, but that is primarily through two-step distribution channels.”

Do you go to the show, the Expo, every year with your company?

So, your competition is all the rest of the chimney people? Burns: “Chimney and venting, yes.”

There’s a lot of competition out there. Burns: “There is, yes, it is a competitive

environment, but the industry is such that I think there is room for all of us to succeed.” Is the largest part of your business going through the specialty retail channel? Burns: “Yes. Generally speaking, about

60% of our sales are through specialty retailers, 30% are through the OEM channel, and 10% through two-step distribution.” That’s a nice break. In terms of your background, is there anything else we should know about you? Burns: “My role, beginning with BDM

and throughout my career with the company, has always been in Sales and Marketing. My role has evolved over time as BDM continued to grow and expand its product lines, and with that growth came increasing responsibilities, of course, including product management, new product development, leading a network of sales representatives, and general management of the company. As of April of last year, I was promoted to president of the company.”

The two prior chairpersons of the HPBA, Ingrid Schroeter and Amie Ryan, both wanted to increase the number of members in the association. Are you aware of whether those efforts were successful? Burns: “I believe it was. I think the

two of them promoted the benefits of membership, both from a manufacturing perspective and retailers, through the affiliates. I think there have been some successes along those lines. In terms of HPBA membership and manufacturers, there are challenges with consolidation and other pressures for the industry, and we’re always looking for new ways to reach potential members and increase that pool. “One thing that took place last year is that the HPBA made a new membership category for startups, making it more economical for new companies that don’t have a tremendous amount of revenue coming in because they are a startup; the new category makes it more viable for them to become a member of HPBA right from the beginning. “As far as affiliates are concerned, I was a chairperson of the Affiliate Leaders Committee for a while, and I know a tremendous amount of work and collaboration has taken place at the affiliate level to try to increase membership within the retailer segment.” Do you have any great ideas on how to increase membership of retailers? Click here for a mobile

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 11 friendly reading experience


| Viewpoint | Burns: “That is a challenge all affiliates

are facing – gaining new members as well as retaining the members that they have. I believe the key is promoting the benefits of membership and really driving home the message that supporting this industry is good for your business as a retailer. I think a lot of retailers and manufacturers who are not members are missing the main benefit of having an industry association that is working diligently to protect our industry and to promote our industry. The key to both new membership and retention of members is continually driving that message and specifically showing what this industry does to help their business.” Another chairman said he really wanted to do something to increase attendance at the Expo. So not just the membership, but also how do you get people to the show? I think attendance in Nashville was a little over 8,000, and the peak prior to the Lehman downturn was slightly better than 12,000. How do you get all those people back on board? Any thoughts?

“The education program this year is spectacular. The registrations for that are up significantly from this time last year. So getting the information out to retailers is key, that they can come to the show and see the innovative products and new products from manufacturers. They will have the chance to hear a keynote speaker, and it’s really nice to be able to get some business-building ideas.” What about any of the key issues? Do you want to weigh in on, say, California’s Net Zero, which is due to kick in 2020? Burns: “The 2020 residential energy code

in California will mandate that new homes achieve zero net energy for all electricity generation and usage – specifically, it will require the installation of photovoltaic cells. It will not include natural gas

almost without exception, it spreads into other states. So it’s something that we as an industry definitely need to watch. We have to work with jurisdictions that have authority for these regulations to make sure that natural gas remains a part of their plans going forward.” That’s a compelling reason why retailers who haven’t signed up ought to become members. They probably don’t know it, but their livelihood depends on how well the HPBA can do its job. Going a little north in California up to British Columbia, Vancouver seems to be a bit of a problem. They have even flatly stated they wanted to be entirely electric by 2050, but meanwhile there is a lot going on up there. I think it has been a victory for the HPBA in the city of Vancouver. Am I correct on that?

Burns: “I have been on the Expo

committee now for the past year and have seen firsthand all of the avenues that the Expo committee and Kelly (VanDermark) look into when trying to increase show attendance. I’ll start out by saying the trade show is stable. In fact, the registration for attendees is within about 15% when compared to registrations at this time last year, and it is up 41% from two years ago. Registrations are really starting to pick up now, so it’s looking like Dallas is going to be a great show. “The Expo committee has started bringing in keynote speakers. They started last year, and this year they are bringing in a celebrity speaker, Mike Holmes, who has his own show on HGTV. I think that is going to drive some more attendance. People always like to hear external ideas on how to help their business. “We’re really excited about trying Dallas as a trade show location. Just based on registrations, at this point it has proven that people have an interest in it and we’re hopeful that this is going to be a very successful show and can become part of our rotation. I hate to keep saying it, but it’s about promotion – promoting benefits and going to the show.

12 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Joe Burns in his office.

usage in that calculation, but it’s a strong possibility in future revisions to the energy code. If this happens, it would significantly increase the cost of adding a fireplace as it would necessitate the addition of more solar panels to offset the usage calculation.” But it looks like it’s going to work. The major builders figured out how to make it work about a few years ago. As usual, California is leading the way and I think a lot of other states will follow suit. Burns: “I agree. What California does is

looked at very closely by other states, and

Burns: “I wouldn’t go that far with it. I

think the situation is still very fluid with respect to the phase out of natural gas for new construction. I do know that HPBA and HPBA Canada have been working with a local public affairs group to bring public pressure to change the regulations, effectively making sure that the public in Vancouver understands what the net effect of that regulation would mean for their lifestyle.” Is there anything new with wood? Any other locales banning wood that I am not aware of?


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| Viewpoint | Burns: “To my recollection, there is nothing too terribly new on that front as far as specific locales. Of course, on top of everybody’s mind is the NSPS and the effective date of new requirements that are coming next year in 2020. With that, of course, there is a proposed rulemaking out there right now that was submitted

homes has become more and more expensive, and what used to be a standard option, may not be an option at all. Sometimes it wasn’t even an option, depending on the builder; it was just put in. So consumers are forced to make choices and trade-offs. “We need to make sure, as an industry, that we are promoting our products and the

“We need to make sure, as an industry, that we are promoting our products and the lifestyle of having a hearth product in the home.”

by the EPA allowing a sell-through on hydronic heaters and warm air furnaces. “But, unfortunately, that proposed rulemaking did not provide sellthrough for pellet- and wood-burning appliances, but they have opened up a comment period for the inclusion of those two products. The HPBA, as well as several manufacturers and retailers, has submitted comments on that promoting or advocating for a sell-through period of two years to be included in the rule. “It’s important to point out, as with any proposed change to regulations, nothing changes until the rulemaking is finalized – as of today, there is a hardand-fast prohibition on the sale of all Step 1 products on May 15, 2020.” The incidence of fireplaces in new construction of single-family homes is plummeting precipitously. For decades, it lingered at 60%, six out of every 10 new single-family homes had a fireplace. Then, about two years ago, it dropped down to 51%; today it is at 45%, and it probably won’t stop there. This will impact every person and company in the hearth industry. That is where all the large numbers are. A lot of it is tract housing, but a lot of it is custom homes as well. Is that a great concern to you, and how in heck do we stop this slide? Burns: “It is certainly a concern to us.

Obviously venting goes exactly along with the number of appliances that are sold, so it is something that concerns us greatly. The bottom line is that new construction of

14 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

— Joe Burns

lifestyle of having a hearth product in their home, and that it is more important than, perhaps, an expensive entertainment center or theater room or granite countertops. Once again it comes down to promoting our hearth products. “Our industry is full of manufacturers that have come up with very innovative products and designs. For example, linear gas fireplaces with extensive options were a great development. But one thing that I think could be done more is really promoting the lifestyle a hearth product provides. We’ve started to lose the emotional tie to fireplaces. Whereas Baby Boomers were definitely emotionally tied to hearth products; they grew up with a stove or fireplace in their home, and so they wanted it in theirs. “That followed suit with the Gen X group. But with the Millennial generation that emotional tie may not be there any longer because they may not have grown up with a hearth appliance in their home. Those are all things working against having a hearth product put in new construction. “Once again, promoting it, promoting the lifestyle, and promoting the entertainment features and factors of our products is key. If we can get that promotion through in the right ways, with the right messaging and, of course, doing it with multiple media – digital media, social media, print, we could be successful. I think HPBA can help with that, and I know they are starting to work with new promotions on the hearth side of things to try to increase the incidence rates of fireplaces going into new construction.”

Many of the past chairmen (and women) have had pet projects they wanted to work on during their year. Do you have any such projects? Burns: “Well, membership is definitely

important to me, and promoting our industry certainly is. But one issue close to my heart is succession planning for retailers. As we all know, the recession took out a lot of retailers and those retailers were not replaced. There are also many of our retailers who are reaching retirement age and beginning to think about getting out of the business and retiring. Some just close their doors; others sell their retail location. That is a problem for the industry. We don’t want to be losing the number of retailers we have. “What I would like to focus on is the HPBA coming up with a network of brokers that can help these retailers find buyers and sell their businesses. One step further is having a network of succession professionals who can come in and get these businesses ready for sale, or get these business owners ready to take the necessary steps to make sure that they are planning for a sale, and able to pass the business on to new generations or new people.” That’s an excellent area to concentrate on. We’ve done a few articles on succession planning, but we probably should do more. I will put that on my agenda and see if we can help out. If you come up with anything that you think would be apropos for a magazine like ours, give me a call and maybe we can run it for you. Burns: “I appreciate that, and I’ll

definitely do that once we start digging into it. Obviously some research is necessary, but I’m hopeful that we can start to come up with some programs that are beneficial.” What would you like to get out that we haven’t discussed? Burns: “We are looking forward to the

Dallas venue this year. I think the venue is going to work out very nicely, and the educational seminars are terrific with great speakers. My parting words are, if you are not registered for the Expo, get registered.”


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| Fireside Chats |

Fireside

CHATS Generally speaking, it was a good hearth year, as six manufacturers are about to tell you in the following pages. But there are so many variables regularly impacting sales, it’s a wonder that’s the case. By Richard Wright

F

irst, as always, there’s the weather. Around the Toronto area, there was little snow and cold weather, while the eastern portion of the U.S. was enveloped in very cold temperatures from the beginning of September right up to today (Feb. 1, 2019). Did you know that no snow falls in Vancouver but 75 miles away Whistler gets tons? We didn’t. Stop and consider the incredible variety of climate regions across both the U.S. and Canada. It’s staggering. Then there are variables created by the economy, by homebuilding, by interest rates, by currency differences, by tariffs, etc. Consider the comment of Martin Miles (Valor) that he had “historic growth” in eastern Canada. How many factors had to converge at just the right time in order for that to happen? Regency is celebrating its 40th year in 2019. Two years ago, Nibe, a publicly traded Swedish company, purchased 65%

18 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

of the company. Regency just posted its best year – ever. Glen Spinelli and Robert Little should take a bow. A year ago, Empire Comfort Systems (gas only) purchased Stove Builder International (SBI – wood only). This past year, Empire Comfort posted record sales, and 200 or so miles northeast, SBI also enjoyed record sales. Nick Bauer and Marc-Antoine Cantin should both take a bow. For manufacturers of wood products, the past year was hectic, creating and certifying products to meet the new NSPS standards in 2020. They also had to convince their dealers to make sure to sell all their non-2020 wood products before the deadline. Here’s the passionate pleadings of Alan Murphy of Blaze King to his dealers: “Be ready! Don’t wait! The time on the clock is gone and you’ve got to do it now!” H Series HW38DF from Montigo.


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|| Fireside Fireside Chats Chats ||

Glen Spinelli President & COO, Regency Fireplace Products (FPI Fireplace Products International) Delta, British Columbia, Canada

I

t’s Regency’s 40th anniversary this year, as it begins its third year since Nibe, a public, Swedish, international conglomerate purchased 65% of the company. In 2018, the company’s top-line sales were the highest they have ever been. Hearth & Home: Your company was

purchased, what, three years ago?

Glen Spinelli: “It has been two years.

Nibe purchased 65% of the company. Robert Little was the founder and is still a substantial shareholder, as am I and one other employee. We are shareholders in the existing company. So it’s not fully owned by our partner, Nibe, in Sweden. Nibe is a very large company that really focuses on home comfort, so they are in the HVAC business, the hearth business, and then the elements that heat water, and heat the seats in your cars. “They also own a bunch of companies that do that. They are also in the hearth business in Sweden, in the UK, in Poland, and in quite a few countries. We’re the only North American company they own. We spent a bit of time in the past two years just looking at the products they have, testing them to see if they would fit into North America, both from a compliance perspective and from a styling perspective. “This year we began introducing some European products to our line-up, and it is still too early to tell because, by the time we get them out in the market the season will be well upon us. They have been received well. Nibe has been a good partner. They leave us alone. We don’t have to do anything, so they are not really running the company at all. The company truly is business as usual. “That’s because it’s not venture capital. They are from this industry. They are not just buying and selling companies; they

20 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Chicago Corner 40LE gas fireplace.

are buying companies. They want to run companies. We work pretty well together with them. “Our engineers collaborated on one product this year. They made part of it, we made part of it, and just getting that sorted out for the first time of who is making what, when, and how was a bit challenging, but it worked out really well. “We actually took one of their very successful wood stoves in Sweden and turned it into a gas stove; they don’t do gas in Sweden. They just do wood. So taking a design that was a wood stove and turning it into a gas stove, using a lot of same components was a bit challenging, but it was kind of rewarding. Our engineers worked together, had video conferencing and face-to-face meetings. It was quite a unique experience.” Talk to me about your sales in 2018 in the U.S. and then in Canada. How well did you do? Spinelli: “First of all, I would like to

mention that this is our 40th year, and I know a couple of other companies are in the same position we are. I don’t know

what happened that year, but it seems like quite a few companies got into the fireplace and stove business that year. “We actually had record sales in 2018. The company’s top line sales were the highest it has ever been. Overall it was a really good year both in Canada and in the U.S. So probably some of that has to do with the high consumer confidence in the U.S, which did transfer somewhat into Canada. That drove us really well at the beginning of the season. “During the end of 2018 it was a bit warmer than normal, but that was pretty much offset by huge increases we had going into the season. So it was a good year. Our dealers did well. We did well. The average sale for us to our dealers, and from our dealers to the consumers, is up substantially because there is a huge consumer choice now in sizes of fireplaces. “Consumers are realizing that they only get one chance in their life to buy a fireplace, and they should do it right. So quality and features do matter in the segments that we are in. Our dealers are doing well with the average ticket way higher than it was in the past.”


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| Fireside Chats | Which of your products had the most demand? Spinelli: “Gas inserts are really strong for

us. We do well in gas and wood inserts. The insert business is now a key component to the foundation of our company. We do really well. The dealer network that we have really excels in wood and gas inserts. “The next would be fireplaces. The high-end fireplace business is developing. Those two categories really perform for us quite well and we pay attention to them. I was a bit surprised and happy that wood

regulations, time the regulations, meet the regulations. I hope they’re done with trying to regulate us for the next few years.” Are you basically talking about the EPA, or other regulatory bodies? Spinelli: “Well, not just the EPA. There is

the seven-day timer, the time of the pilot in some areas. California has a requirement that you have to label your products as to whether they can cause cancer or birth defects. Anybody shipping anything, even a cup of coffee, has to say, ‘Coffee can

“Chasing the Federal government and

complying with regional regulations has posed the biggest challenge for us, and I’m sure that’s true of all companies in this industry for the past several years.”

— Glen Spinelli

was a bit stronger than I thought it was going to be going into this year. We did all right. We didn’t have huge increases, but we still had an increase in wood, not major, but it was still strong.” It is my understanding that wood was very strong in 2017 as well. Spinelli: “Yes, it was.”

Where do you stand on getting certifications for all your wood products? Spinelli: “We’ve got all our products done

and certified. The only issue we have right now is the U.S. government shut-down and getting the certificates, but that is just a temporary thing. All of our products meet the 2020 requirements. “Chasing the Federal government and complying with regional regulations has posed the biggest challenge for us, and I’m sure that’s true of all companies in this industry for the past several years. We’ve spent so much time and money and mental effort just trying to understand the

22 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

cause cancer and birth defects.’ You have to figure out what that actually means. It was the labeling part of it that we had to get right. We have a branch in California. We ship into California so we have to be compliant. “Just meeting those rules takes large rooms of people thinking of inventory, communications, documentation, all have to be done correctly, and it takes up a huge amount of time and effort. It is something that no one sees or maybe no one appreciates, but when you watch it happen you notice how many people are involved in making some of these decisions just to be compliant for specific countries, states, provinces. It’s almost a full-time entity that lives in national hearth product companies. “We are also pretty large in Australia. All of our gas and wood products have to be retested for new certification in Australia. It just takes engineering time, lab time, documentation time, to get all of these things done in a very short, narrow window.” What percent of your business is in Canada versus the U.S.?

Spinelli: “About 60% of our business is in

Canada. We’re everywhere in all of North America, and all the markets are equally important to us. We are quite a strong brand in Canada, as we are in the U.S. Not in the southern states, in Florida and in Texas, areas like that. We make heating appliances. But we have just introduced electric fireplaces; that category is starting to grow all over North America. We expect to do more business in the southern states than we have done in the past.” Are you creating your own electric fireplaces or buying from another manufacturer? Spinelli: “One of our sister companies

in the UK has done quite well. They developed their own electric fireplace and we’re purchasing from them. That company is owned by the Nibe company; Stovax and Gazco in the UK are also owned by Nibe. We have access to all of their products and they have access to all of our products, and we continuously look at what we could introduce, what would sell here, and they were doing so well with electric over there that we decided to take it on here. We just introduced it last month.” How many dealers do you have in the U.S. and then in Canada? Spinelli: “I can tell you how many dealers

we have. I never really did the math on how many were in Canada and in the U.S. We’ve got approximately 1,400 to 1,500 dealers. Now that is in our whole network, and that includes Australia. “Australia is a very important part of our business because it is counter-seasonal. When it’s warm here, it’s cold there, so our plant is manufacturing product for our Australian branch while it’s summer here. We’re one of the major suppliers in Australia. We have our own branch down there, and our own people down there.” What percent of your total business does Australia represent? Spinelli: “It’s about 15%. When I gave

you the 60/40 that was only looking at North America. When you mix in Australia,


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| Fireside Chats | the U.S. percentage goes down and the Canadian and Australian percent is about 20% Canada, 15% Australia and the rest in North America. The first number I gave you was just North America so it is about a 60/40 split in North America, but then you mix in Australia.” Well, 15% is very significant, isn’t it? Spinelli: “It is significant. It’s a phenomenal

business because it’s counter-seasonal. That’s the part that really makes sense for a manufacturer because it keeps our plant running more efficiently in the summertime than it would if we didn’t have the Australian business.” How many reps do you have covering North America? Spinelli: “About 30. Our model is very

involved with the dealers, so we have people visiting dealers regularly. We’re working with them on marketing programs. We’re working home shows and fairs with them. We’re conducting these weekend events and marketing campaigns with our dealers. We are very hands on with what we consider our business partners. That is part of our success.” How financially healthy are your dealers? Spinelli: “This year none of our customers

are struggling, not one of them. We had a really good year, and they did too; I can tell based on our accounts receivable being up to date. No one owes us money. The concern I have is that some of our dealers are aging, and the succession planning for the entire industry is a concern because I don’t believe many of these people have a plan. Unless they have sons or daughters coming into the business, some of them are closing, and there are not a lot of new dealers getting into the hearth business.” What percent of your sales were contemporary, transitional, traditional? Spinelli: “It is about 60% traditional, about

40% contemporary, but contemporary is not just black and white, it’s contemporary/ traditional, or traditional/modern. To me,

24 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

modern is kind of a combination of the traditional and the contemporary rolled up. “It’s amazing to have watched that transformation. Contemporary products seem to have a higher retail price than traditional. So it is profitable; it gives a whole new style and design to the industry. “It has given the designers and architects a whole new way of looking at fireplaces, because now we are able to have cool touch walls so you can use any materials

“The only concern that I would ever have to a house not having a fireplace is when they don’t run natural gas into neighborhoods. That to me is a bigger threat to our business than anything else, and they have started to do that in California. “So from the new construction perspective it doesn’t bother me. If people don’t have fireplaces, that’s a great thing. But at some point they might want the heat, they might want to change the look of a room; they now

“A fireplace is something they can put in

later when they have a bit more money, which opens up the retrofit market for us.” — Glen Spinelli you would like. You can have art work, TVs are no longer an issue, clearance to combustibles is not an issue, we have now moved and changed how we handle heat, which is now a design element as much as a functional element. It has opened up new markets for us.”

have the money and the time to spend on buying a quality fireplace rather than the one the builder would put in, which is the cheapest one he could possibly get.”

The incidence of fireplaces in new construction – all single-family homes in the U.S. – is at an all-time low. The norm throughout the ’80s and ’90s was 60%, meaning six out of 10 new homes had a fireplace. Today that figure is 45%, a drop of 25%. The industry has a major problem.

Spinelli: “Yes. The majority of what

Spinelli: “I’m not sure how you stop it,

but I look at it a bit differently. Some of it could have to do with the rising costs of new homes, and to some extent the size of new homes. They have been getting a bit smaller. “Our dealers do spend quite a lot of time adding new fireplaces to homes that were built without them. So, in some respects it’s actually a good thing that they didn’t have a fireplace to begin with, because it gives us the retrofit market where people are willing to spend a bit more money. When they’re building a house, most people are strapped due to rising land costs, construction costs, appliances, and flooring.

Do you have any outdoor products at this point? we do outdoors is all built-in for people who want a permanent solution in their Outdoor Room or outdoor patio. We have a few options for outdoors, it’s not huge, but it is about 1% of our business. We’ve got a see-through outdoor fireplace. We’ve got two sizes of stainless-steel one-sided fireplaces, and we’ve got a bunch of burners that you can tag together and make a 6-ft. fire wall, if that’s what you want to do.” What is your forecast for 2019? Spinelli: “I’m pretty optimistic about

2019. I’ve been doing this so long I know how important January and February are. The cold weather throughout the country will set the stage for the summer and the beginning of next year. The only concern I really have for 2019 is what’s out there in the marketplace on dealers’ floors, and whether they can sell the old wood products. I’m not sure how that is going to affect the business.”


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Tony James

President Woodbridge Fireplace Mississauga, Ontario, Canada

W

oodbridge manufactures gas fireplaces and inserts for indoors; gas fireplaces and fire pits for outdoors. The company’s line is long, the quality superb, and big is better. Hearth & Home: Educate me a bit, because

when I went on your website this morning and looked around, I was not aware that you were buying product from all these other manufacturers. Tony

James: “Well, we are not

Woodbridge Dealer is our manufacturing website. If you went to Woodbridge FP, which we don’t advertise, that is our retail showroom website where we supply the Greater Toronto area locally. “Since we don’t make wood stoves, we carry Regency. Because we don’t make electric fireplaces, we carry Dimplex electrics, and since we don’t make barbecues we carry other peoples’ barbecues. In a retail environment, they are buying our product, but then we are also trying to satisfy them on other things they may need. “Everything that we are as far as advertising in Hearth & Home and the growth of the company is all about our manufactured product only, which is woodbridgedealer. com, and everything there is gas.” That sounds like a good way of doing business. In fact, quite a few manufacturers have created a retail presence for their products. James: “Well, we’ve got a 7,000 sq.

ft. local showroom. If you are here, you might as well flaunt it, and that helps with bringing people in from outside, because everything is displayed well.” What kind of penetration do you have with the retailers in the U.S. and Canada?

26 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Model DV36CV fireplace.

James: “We are building our U.S. retail

competitive. Also, we did not have a winter yet. It’s cold out there, but that is about it. There hasn’t been any snow on the ground. For some reason, over the last five years or so, the Northeast has been getting a belting, while we sit here by the Great Lakes and it misses us.”

In Canada, is everything dealer-direct?

It’s clear that you are gas only, but are you doing well with outdoor products?

base. We have substantial growth in that area right now, and we’ve got a couple of distributors set up in the U.S., but other than that we are dealer-direct across the U.S. and we are just gradually adding and making sure we take care of everybody.”

James: “In Canada we are largely in

the Ontario market. We handle the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) through our showroom, and we work with designers, architects, builders, etc., in the GTA market. Outside of there we are dealerdirect only.” How were your sales in 2018 compared to the prior year, in the U.S. and then in Canada? James: “We have seen an increase in the

Canadian sales, and a little bit of a decrease in some of the U.S. sales. We have seen a big hit in the manufacturing side, with cost increases on things like steel where Mr. Trump decided he was going to play with that 25% tariff. Literally, our steel price has doubled. How do you even start to pass that on? “So you don’t, and then everything else has crept up in price 10% or 15%. But we can’t increase our prices and be

James: “We’re all gas, indoor and

outdoor, and we sell lots of outdoor and lots of indoor. We just don’t touch stoves, even on the gas end of it, because I don’t see it as being a market that is growing in any way. I’ve been in that market forever, and it has faded. There is less attraction to stoves.” But is that a handicap for you when you are opening a new retailer, say in the U.S., and the only thing you’ve got are gas fireplaces and inserts? James: “No, definitely not, because we

have an extensive line of gas fireplaces and inserts, as well as outdoor products, everything from fireplaces to fire tables, and burners – many different products.” Are there any particular regions in the U.S. where you find your strength?


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| Fireside Chats | James: “Definitely the Southeast and

the West Coast, because of our extensive outdoor collection, those areas are less seasonal. Obviously Florida and California are strong markets for us.” What percent of your total business is in Canada versus the U.S.? James: “We are probably 60% U.S.

and 40% in Canada. There is 10 times the population in the U.S., so I would be happy with it being 80/20.” What about styling when it comes to your products? What’s selling best? James: “Traditional and contemporary

both, with some crossover such as contemporary having options of driftwood log type looks. Quality is the ultimate (selling point) with my products. I no longer work for a company that tells me that I need to make things as cheaply as possible, so I make things that are high quality; the gauges of materials that I use in the products are the equivalent of anything that is in the industry today, but far exceeding most of them. Workmanship: We weld everything instead of screwing it together, or tack welding it. Everything is all solid-welded.” If I were a retailer, and you’re trying to get me to carry your products, I would guess the quality pitch would be one of your strengths. James: “That is absolutely one of our

strengths. Whenever a retailer or installer handles our product, they know it’s quality. When it takes several guys to carry a product as opposed to one that weighs nothing, that tells you right away. When you do install them, and you have no issues for years, that tells you as well. “My background is 30 years doing this; I design things. So when retailers get their hands on our products they definitely see the quality, and the serviceability of it. I’ve been the champion of this now for 15 years, with my business partner, Bob. There are the two of us. We both have our strengths and we work well together.”

28 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

What is Bob’s strength? James: “Well, I’m more the development,

the marketing, and the industry knowledge guy, where he is more the production facility. He’s been responsible for making sure we make everything ourselves, short of logs, etc. We don’t farm out anything. Everything is made in-house.”

What are some of the trends that you’ve noticed now in the hearth industry? James: “Definitely, consumers have

more knowledge of our products. The products that are higher-end, that are more dramatic, seem to be more readily sought after by the average consumer. There’s a trend to more features on a

“Displaying product well is the key,

not just having it available in the showroom. The retailers who are showing it really well do very well.”

— Tony James

You mentioned outdoor products? Is that a substantial part of your business? James: “Oh, yeah. A large part of our

business now is centered around the Outdoor Room. Of our products, I would say 40% are for the outdoors. For example, I’ve got an indoor/outdoor 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-ft. stainless, beautiful, massive fireplace. I’ve got a 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-ft. single view, a 3-, 4-, 5- and 6-ft. see-through. I’ve got linear outdoor burners from 2 ft. to 8 ft. I’ve got a massive Algonquin fireplace, which is an outdoor stainless. I’ve got the Serpentine outdoor. I’ve got three different sizes of fire pits with enclosures where you buy the burner systems. We have quite a few.” Are your retailers actively promoting the concept and reality of the Outdoor Room trend? James: “Definitely. Displaying product

well is the key, not just having it available in the showroom. The retailers who are showing it really well do very well; they show it in a complete room environment or set.” Have you found that consumers are starting to buy more than one hearth product for the outdoors? James: “Yes. We get people who will buy

for an outdoor environment; they will buy a fire pit as well as a fireplace.”

fireplace, whether it’s electronic ignition, high/low features, LED lighting in a fireplace. Larger and bigger products is definitely a trend in the market. “We sell a lot of big, big fireplaces where they didn’t even exist a while ago. I did my first 6-ft. fireplace 10 years ago or so. There was nothing that big then. Now they’re all over the map.” What new products are you introducing in Dallas, if any? James: “In Dallas we will be introducing

the Montana, which is our 6-ft. directvent fireplace, and we’ve added LED lighting for our outdoor fireplaces.” Do you like LED lights in a fireplace?

James: “I’m not a fan of them,

especially the indoor. I think it’s a nice feature outdoors where it’s more of a party atmosphere. On the direct-vents, I don’t see the purpose. What the heck are colored lights doing in a gas fireplace? I don’t know. But in the outdoors I would, because they are stainless and the reflections are amazing on these outdoor products. If you’ve got a flame that is 10 inches tall reflected off all the stainless inside, it’s amazing, beautiful, especially in the evening.”


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|| Fireside Fireside Chats Chats ||

Jonathan Burke President & CEO Montigo Langley, British Columbia, Canada

W

hile sales in 2018 were basically flat for Montigo, Jonathan Burke was not fazed. The company was focused on marketing and product development, and is now ready for the new year. Hearth & Home: Tell me what happened

with your company in 2018.

Jonathan Burke: “On the marketing

side, we completely redid our website, revitalized a lot of our marketing materials, and dressed up peoples’ view of Montigo from a marketing perspective. We also hired a very senior person out of the plumbing, and kitchen and bath industries to lead our business development outreach to architects, builders, and designers to try to get our products, especially our custom commercial stuff, specified in high-end commercial applications, restaurants, hotels, etc. “She is Sharon Murray and she is highlighted in one of your monthly news postings. We also completed our Mahana outdoor line in 2018. It’s a sealed, vent-free, outdoor unit in 100% stainless steel. We introduced a 42-inch version and a 60-inch version. “In addition, we completed our entire Distinction line-up, which is our indoor linear residential unit. We now have the D36, D48, D53, and D72 in single-sided and see-through, all available with our Cool Wall kits. These are side or front heat management kits so you can put hardware and TVs above without any concerns for heat melting and whatnot. “At the end of 2018, we introduced what we think is a pretty revolutionary product called the DelRay. The DelRay is a low-cost, but still Montigo frame and build quality, but an entry level, very shallow construction linear unit for the low-cost builder market. It’s available in

30 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

In the R&D department.

both a stripped-down builder version as well as a fully-loaded option with lights, fans, and whatnot. It comes with a very compelling entry-level price point. “So it’s a very shallow construction and very easy to install, and we are delivering it to dealers with the entire kit, the termination, venting, everything all packaged together in the unit. “It has been very successful. We’ve sold our first two production runs about twice as fast as we expected, so we are producing the next ones. Actually that is pretty much it, marketing and product development was the focus, and we have been very successful.”

is paying off. We’re already seeing some sales growth this year, and certainly a lot of demand for some of the new products that we have come out with.”

How were your sales in 2018?

Burke: “The Northeast, and we recently

Burke: “Overall, we were flat this past

year. We didn’t see a lot of growth, but that was somewhat intentional. We saw quite a bit of competition on the custom commercial side, which we responded to in kind with our new Prodigy, which is a light commercial product. “But we are seeing fantastic performance and spectacular sales growth on some of our newer products. Some of our products were pretty long in the tooth, and this effort we put in over the last 24 months to introduce a whole slew of new products

Was it flat in both the U.S. and Canada? Burke: “Yes. In fact, we were down in

Canada. It was actually up in the U.S. and down in Canada. Canada was softer and that is why we’ve also introduced a new two-step distributor in eastern Canada.” Which regions of the U.S. and then Canada were the strongest for you? struck a deal with RMI, Ray Murray, Inc. in the Northeast. Before that we were shipping product all the way from Ferndale, Washington, so we weren’t terribly competitive, but with RMI we saw quite a bit of growth in the Northeast, which was fantastic. Also, in southwestern U.S. we did very well this past year, but where we saw the weakest sales was in eastern Canada. But definitely, it was the climate in Canada.” What about contemporary styling versus traditional or transitional?


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| Fireside Chats | Burke: “It depends on the region, but

we are seeing a gradual return to more traditional looks. In many cases, we do see the traditional to linear and contemporary to traditional kind of come and go in waves. What is the most interesting, and we see it among our competitors as well, is the demand for a contemporary traditional fireplace – a linear fireplace but with some kind of a brick or a stone lining on the inside. It is a little bit of both.” Now, how are your outdoor products selling? Burke: “We’re doing well, but we haven’t

made a concerted effort to reach the patio/hearth outdoor retailer market. Some hearth dealers are good at selling outdoor products. They’ve got outdoor displays, outdoor barbecues, fire pits and stuff like that. But a lot of hearth dealers are just getting going on that. Whereas if you go to a retailer that is selling patio furniture, hot tubs, pools and pool installations, and stuff like that, that is where consumers are going when they are thinking summer and outdoors.” In California, we have the Net Zero program. What do you think of that now and has it impacted you at all? Burke: “It hasn’t impacted us directly

yet, but we’re closely watching California because it’s an important market for us. We’ve had a lot of stuff on the shelf for some time around energy efficiency and whatnot, and once people are either regulated to do it, or prepared to pay, we can start introducing it to the market. We’re ready.” We’ve already discussed a few trends facing the industry, but are there any other trends that you recognize right now? Burke: “I think the one trend that I do

know, and we’ve had it for some time on the commercial side, and we’re working on the residential side, is the ability to eliminate the screen and keep the glass temperature safe. A trend is definitely the elimination of the screen entirely, and yet meeting all the requirements of the standards in terms

32 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

of keeping the glass temperature lower and safe, and yet still providing some warmth in the home.” Let’s talk about the incidence of fireplaces in new construction of single-family homes, be it tract homes or custom homes. During the

“On top of that we’ve got environmental regulations, some of which are asinine at a certain urban and state level, where environmentalists are successfully convincing people that having gas or propane is not good, but of course then you are limiting them to zero energy choices, and typically

“Whether it’s heating hot water or heating your home, providing a heating appliance like a fireplace is a much more cost effective way to produce heat than an electric unit.”

— Jonathan Burke

1980s and 1990s, the incidence of fireplaces was about 60%. Two years ago it was at 51%. Right now it’s 45%. That’s a 25% drop from 60%, and that is enough to get anybody’s attention, particularly if you’re a manufacturer of fireplaces. Do you have any idea why that’s happening? Burke: “In major urban areas in the United

States and Canada, cost per square foot is going up and up and up. What do you think is going to come off the table in terms of a list of things that take up an inordinate amount of square footage for strictly decorative purposes? A refrigerator is typically not an option. A stove typically is not an option. People want their closets. They want a bedroom that is a decent size. “If you’re paying a million dollars plus for something that is 1,200 or 1,400 sq. ft., and you’re being told by the builder, ‘Well, I need 40 sq. ft. for this fireplace and everything associated with it.’ What do you think your customer is going to say? Forget about it. “The other thing is that electric fireplaces are emerging as an alternative that takes up less space, and they are easier to install. Builders may be putting electric baseboard heaters in as opposed to a boiler in the building, which is a much more efficient way of heating the building. The builder is saying, ‘What is the cheapest product that I can throw up quickly and still meet the minimum criteria?’

limiting them to the most expensive energy choice, which in a lot of cases is electricity. Whether it’s heating hot water or heating your home, providing a heating appliance like a fireplace is a much more cost effective way to produce heat than an electric unit. “That being said, the other thing that I am concerned about, which seems to be emerging, is that a fireplace is less of an expectation with younger people. Some of them may not have grown up with a fireplace, and the industry has not done a good job of keeping a fireplace front and center, and stressing that a fireplace is a focal point, a gathering place.” If we segregated residential from hospitality, where do you stand in terms of percentage of your business? Burke: “We’re about 75% residential

compared to hospitality, restaurants, commercial, stuff like that. It’s a pretty good split.” What is your forecast for business in 2019?

Burke: “Right now we’re not being overly

aggressive because we do know that the housing market is definitely cooling a little bit in the majority of North America, but we’re not saying it’s going to be a down market. Right now I won’t commit to any specific number, but we think we are going to do pretty well in 2019, especially based on some of the commercial stuff we’re working on.”


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7


|| Fireside Fireside Chats Chats ||

Alan Murphy President Blaze King Walla Walla, Washington

A

lan Murphy is ready. He’s ready for 2020 with only one stove remaining to certify. But he certainly wants his dealers to be ready as well – all of them! Hearth & Home: What can you tell me

about your sales this year in the U.S., and then in Canada? How well did you do? Alan Murphy: “We started off fantastic,

and were showing significant sales increases in both the U.S. and Canada. Then we started to lose all that gain toward the end of the year, and the U.S. became flat. Sales in Canada remained higher. Overall, we were ahead.” That surprises me, because up here in the Northeast at the beginning of September, it got very, very cold and it hasn’t stopped. Did you feel any of that, or do you not have much penetration up here? Murphy: “We did, but our main markets

are on the West Coast. We started a process five years ago of developing markets on the East Coast, and we saw a good gain on the East Coast this year. But it’s a smaller percent of our business. “Actually, that’s what we’re looking for to increase our growth in the future. If we can increase our market share on the East Coast, we would be rockin’ and rollin’, and it would be phenomenal. We have a long way to go to get there.”

Alan Murphy standing beside the Ashford 30 in chestnut brown enamel.

things out. The third year, if they don’t see any complaints, they say, ‘Hey, this stuff is not bad.’ The fourth year they start selling them. We’re going into year five.” Do you go through distribution or dealer-direct? Murphy: “Dealer-direct in the U.S. We

have two distribution companies we use in Canada, one in Ontario, and one for the Maritimes. All else is dealer-direct. In 2018 we opened up a new warehouse in Tennessee. We are increasing production in order to have greater stock levels for the East Coast dealers. It’s part of our growth strategy.” What percent of your sales are for wood versus gas products? Murphy: “We’re probably 97% wood.

We’re a wood company.”

All I can say to that is people up here love their wood stoves.

But you do have gas if somebody wants it, correct?

Murphy: “Yes, they do. But as you know,

Murphy: “We started with the introduction

gaining market share is a very slow and deliberate process, the same as getting a new dealer. The first year out basically they do nothing. The second year out they send it to a couple of friends’ homes to check

34 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

of the new screen regulations. We got rid of all our old gas products; we stopped producing them. We went back to the drawing board for two reasons. We wanted to do more relevant designs. So we are

introducing unique product. Not so unique that somebody would describe it as ‘weird,’ but unique to the industry, and it’s all about reflections. “We have black glass everywhere, and mirrors everywhere within the firebox, which enhances the flame patterns; we’re keeping the technology as simple as we can so that it is reliable for the dealers. We’re trying to carve a little niche market for ourselves, and to slowly but surely build up our gas business.” Which of your products were most in demand this year? Murphy: “It varied by region. The West

Coast is much more traditional, so it’s our old tried and true Princess models and our King models. The East Coast is going more to what I would call North American mainstream, and that’s our cast-iron Ashford models and our traditional North American looking Sirocco models. A notable change this year is we introduced our Boxer, the BX24. It has a clean and minimalist modern style. We will see more Boxer models coming in the future.” I assume that, when it comes to the NSPS, you are very well positioned. Am I correct?


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| Fireside Chats | Murphy: “I think we are in the best position

of any manufacturer in the industry. We have one model left to finalize. In-house testing is already done on it, and that is our King, but we are pushing the envelope on it. Currently it runs on an 8-inch flue system, but we want to put it onto a 6-inch flue system. We will know in the next week if that is viable, and if so, then it’s ready for certification and we’re done.” I’ll bet you’re the type of guy that used to do his homework in college before it was due, right? Murphy: “Pretty much. We had a bit of

a coup recently when we tested the new version of our Princess, the model PE32, which is a freestanding wood stove. It came in at 0.4 grams with an 80% HHV (efficiency), that’s the harder one.” It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?

dealers that purchase a reasonable amount of product, we’re probably looking at 300 in the U.S. and 280 in Canada.” What about styling? It seems that you’re doing much more with contemporary. Murphy: “Yes. The introduction of the

Boxer had better results than I anticipated, so towards the end of 2019 we will have a new smaller firebox that we will be introducing. It will be like the Boxer, and the Boxer originally came as the Ashford 25, Sirocco 25 insert, which we then made

That’s what they want to hear, isn’t it? Murphy: “Yes. And the interesting thing

is that we didn’t change very much at all. When new product comes out there are always concerns about how it performs, well, we’ve been doing this for 35 years and it is the same basic technology we’ve been using for 35 years. It’s tried and tested and we’re ready.” What percent of your business is in Canada versus the U.S.? Murphy: “Traditionally it is a 60/40 split

with Canada being 40, and last year it was 55/45.” How many dealers do you have in the U.S. and then in Canada? Murphy: “We have over close to 600

dealers in the U.S. and roughly 500 in Canada, but when I say active dealers as in

36 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Now, I’ve been impressed with the way California has handled its Net Zero program. Most of the major builders have figured out how you can build a house that produces as much energy as it uses. It’s wrapping the building tightly in insulation, and using as many solar panels as the size of the house requires.

“We’re at full production. We’re coming

into summer and we’re not slowing down. We’re going to build like crazy. We’re going to be ready.” — Alan Murphy

Murphy: “There are units that have lower

emissions. Very few have higher efficiencies, but they are not a day-to-day user stove. This is probably the lowest emissions of any user size; it has a 2.9 cu. ft. firebox. It’s not a small stove, and I think that is a coup.”

“They are telling us here that we are not allowed to use our natural resources because we have to clean the planet, but we are going to sell them to the Asian markets and they can dirty the planet. I have a big issue with that. That’s totally illogical.”

into the Boxer 24 freestanding. It’s a way of using one firebox to get multiple designs. Towards the end of this year we will be introducing a smaller firebox called our 13, and there will be a Sirocco, Ashford, Boxer version on these as well. “Now that we’re done with the NSPS, we can refocus on design and pushing the envelope. Now it’s time to start pushing the envelope. In talking with my guys in the lab I basically took the gloves off and said, ‘Okay, guys. The only limitation is your imagination. Bring it on. Let’s see if we can do something special.’” You’re very familiar, I’m sure, with Net Zero down here and Zero Net up north. Let’s start with BC. I was just reading that they want to be 100% electric by 2050. Well 2050 is not very far away, is it? Murphy: “I have an issue with that. We

have a ready supply, a plentiful supply, of very clean natural gas here in BC. Our government is currently spending millions of dollars to help build a liquefied natural gas terminal in order to ship our beautiful reserves of natural gas to foreign markets, mainly Asia.

Already, there are builders throughout the country putting up Net Zero houses, from California to Maine, and every other state is looking carefully at this project. It’s an exciting project. Murphy: “Yes, it is. This is a time of change.

The Net Zero program really affects the gas side of our business, but on the wood side, we as an industry have done all the hard work getting to 2020. We are now more efficient, we are now cleaner, regardless of your technology type, whether it is secondary combustion or hybrids or catalytic stoves. Regardless of the technology, the test criteria provide a level playing field and the results are coming in. We have proven that we can do it. “We’re at full production. We’re coming into summer and we’re not slowing down. We’re going to build like crazy. We’re going to be ready.” Is there anything you would like to say that we haven’t mentioned? Murphy: “No. My biggest message to our

customers is just secure your business, be ready, be right. Don’t wait. The time on the clock is gone and you’ve got to do it now.”


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|| Fireside Fireside Chats Chats ||

Martin Miles

CEO Valor/Miles Industries North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

I

t’s been 15 years since the Miles brothers took over manufacturing of the Valor brand in North America. Since that time, every year has been a growth year.

Hearth & Home: How did the year go for

Valor, in the U.S., and in Canada?

Martin Miles: “We had a good year

both in the U.S. and Canada. Our overall U.S. sales showed some strong growth, and it was pretty balanced across the country. Our Canadian sales continued strong, and in our eastern Canadian market we had a particularly strong fall period, and actually historic growth, particularly in October and November. “Over the last 15 years since we started manufacturing here, we’ve seen steady growth every year. That’s what we like – Steady Eddys. We like to fill orders as we receive them, and our dealers rely on us. They are scheduling out their installs, and they rely on us to deliver to their schedule.”

Martin Miles sitting beside the LX2 Multi-Sided gas fireplace.

Well, it has always been your inserts, hasn’t it? I seldom, if ever, hear that from other manufacturers. I wonder if you are unique in that fashion. Miles: “I think it’s what we are known

for; we’re the go-to product line for a lot of dealers. It’s also where we started in the gas products; it was really with the fireplace retrofit business. So it’s kind of core to us.”

How many employees do you presently have?

About a week ago I had occasion to talk to Vincent Boudreau at Stûv. You probably know him.

Miles: “Counting our direct agents,

Miles: “Yes, I know Stûv. I don’t know

around 100 employees, but we have a lot of indirect employees through our supply chain.” Which of your products were in the most demand this past year? Miles: “It is fairly well distributed. We’re

known for our retrofit insert products, and they did very well in the fall, and they probably accounted for a strong fall showing. But we saw a good response to the new stove design that we launched last year at the HPBExpo, and our fireplace products have done well. I would say that it was our inserts.”

38 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Vincent though.”

He’s a very nice guy, and he and his wife Nadia run it. They just put up a factory and, after two years of work, they have product coming off the line as we speak. Am I correct, that is exactly how you started? You created a North American presence for Valor. Miles: “That is accurate. We started

in 1982 in western Canada importing and introducing Valor products, and we grew from there. We grew the brand into the market and worked with them to expand the product line beyond the

more traditional UK products. When the ownership of Valor changed hands, they decided to exit the American hearth market. We took over, originally as a licensee, and soon assumed the ownership of the brand rights of the Valor name for North America. We made that change to the design and manufacturing of Valor in 2002.” Just before the big boom! That was a good time to make the change, wasn’t it? Miles: “Yes, and speaking of the Stûv

people, you get more satisfaction from doing something where you feel that you’re more the master of your own fate and in control, and you feel any success you get has been earned.” Another one that seemed to have taken the same route was Jøtul, right? They were bringing product in from Norway, and then eventually put up their own manufacturing facility. Miles: “Right. I’m sure Bret (Watson)

argued that if the business was going to grow beyond its initial Norwegian roots, it was going to have to have more ability to innovate on the ground here in North America, and that is precisely what we found.”


| Fireside Chats | So many of the other companies coming in from Europe have made, I believe, major errors where they think they just have to attend the Expo and they will leave with scores of dealers. They don’t do their homework. Miles: “Yes. They are all good products, but

to have relevance in the market you’ve got to cater to the needs of the market. Watch the way we do things, the way we build our homes, or heat our homes, our preferences for styling. We have our own hearth culture.” Absolutely. Speaking of our hearth culture and styling, is it contemporary that’s moving best for you, transitional, or traditional? Miles: “It depends on the region of the

market. We have quite a mix in our product line, and we have designed our products to be versatile. When we design a new product – the core engine we call it, firebox, burner, etc. – then we generally have offerings that are more traditional, or more contemporary, or as you say, transitional. In certain markets we have done really well with traditional. “We have a strong niche in, say, the Northeast with some of our retrofit products, with inserts, with cast-iron fronts, etc. But if you go to other areas, the clean minimalist look in our linear models, or some of our fireplace models, prevail. It’s really a mixed bag. Trends come and go. I have a feeling that some of the more traditional, or transitional, looks will gain strength again in the marketplace.” Is working with architects, designers, and builders a major part of your business? Miles: “It isn’t directly. All of our products

are sold through a dealer network. We don’t have a separate contract channel, so we rely on our dealers. We do our best to try to promote to architects and contractors at shows, the HVAC show and other trade shows, to get our name out there. We have an online architect training program that we have been offering and there have been over 1,000 U.S. architects that have taken us up on it and have gone through our website for familiarization on Valor products. “We do have a lot of specialty architects that specify our products on an ongoing

40 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

basis. Maybe they are building a low energy home for specialty customers and clients. That is where we fit into the new construction market, it’s through custom builders.” Are you watching the Net Zero for North America program in California? Miles: “We’re watching it. What’s important

is the industry helping to create a dialogue with policy makers. In Vancouver we had to put some behind the scenes pressure on in order to get a voice, but once we did, the

It is much more exciting, isn’t it, when you start thinking about what you can do outside, just to have a roaring fire, whether it is in a fire pit or a fireplace, and to have a grill built into an island where you’ve got an outdoor kitchen. It is an exciting room. Miles: “You don’t even need the big new

home to enjoy that. A lot of people with small homes are realizing that an improvement they can make is to create a nice outdoor area. It expands their living space; it enhances the value of their home; it can be part of the garden,

“We have an opportunity to grab the initiative and take it, and if we don’t, we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves.”

— Martin Miles phase-in of the regulation toward lower emission homes has not hurt the ability to put gas fireplaces in. “As an industry, we need to be very aware that we will have to face the future. Regulators want to reduce emissions, and we can do that through lower consumption products, or products that don’t consume gas when they are not in use, or if someone is not using a fireplace in a room the fireplace senses it and dials it down or off. Those are the types of innovations that can keep the industry relevant. We have an opportunity to grab the initiative and take it, and if we don’t, we’ll have nobody to blame but ourselves.” Are you having good luck with your Outdoor Room products? Miles: “Certain versions of our products

can be used more in a covered outdoor application. We’re not really set up for garden installation, but for covered porch or veranda installations, which in many places is part of an Outdoor Room setup. But we are promoting it and we are making some sales. From a website interest standpoint it is very high. One of the highest inquiries relates to outdoor use or Outdoor Rooms.”

which a lot of people like to do. It also extends the comfort. You can make it pleasant to sit outside. Fire and outdoors have gone together for hundreds of thousands of years.” What are some of the trends that you see in the hearth industry right now? Miles: “Obviously, the large format, the

linear products, the multi-sided products. I think our focus is going to be on improving our products, refining them, things such as control systems, smarter controls, better fires, creating really good fires with less gas, controlling the size of the flame to match the heat output to the room. Those are all things we are investing in, with more R&D staff and more time to look at improving. That is where we feel we need to be in order to be relevant going forward.” What new products will you be introducing in Dallas, if any? Miles: “We will have new products. I mean

it is always a combination of refinements and additions to existing products. We will have a new fireplace model. We will have another new multi-sided model. We will have a new booth as well, and it will look like we’ve kicked it up another notch.”


|| Fireside Fireside Chats Chats ||

Nick Bauer President The Empire Group Belleville, Illinois

J

anuary 2018: the Empire Group purchased Stove Builder International (SBI). At the end of that year, both Empire Comfort Systems and SBI had posted record years.

Hearth & Home: First, let me clear the

deck here. Are you still manufacturing the Broilmaster grill, and if so, how is that going? Nick Bauer: “Yes, we are still doing

Broilmaster. This is the first year that we launched a stainless-steel version of the Broilmaster; we have had the Broilmaster out since 1966. It is world famous for its cast-aluminum head. The joke with Broilmaster is it lasts for 50 years, but it looks like it’s 50 years old. It is not your fancy shiny thing that your wife wants next to the pool. “We love the features of Broilmaster. We love the story. We love everything about it, so we decided to take the Broilmaster features and incorporate them into a stainless built-in grill. Now you can have the Broilmaster features in a stainless-steel grill for your outdoor kitchen.” All right, back to Empire Comfort. How were your sales in the U.S. and then, if you can tell me, in Canada. Bauer: “I’m happy to report that Empire

had another record year, not only for our hearth sales, but also our sales overall. This is, I think, four out of five years, or five out of six years, we have had record sales. From an Empire Comfort standpoint, we are still really U.S. based sales. Less than 5% of our sales are in Canada. “From the Stove Builder International (SBI) standpoint, it also had a record year, so I’m pretty pleased. The first year of us acquiring SBI, and the first year of us working together, and it is really nice to see an 18-month vision come together. After

42 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Nick Bauer and his buddy Arlo sitting beside the DVCT40 Direct-Vent Fireplace with TruFlame Technology.

the first 13 months, we can say that we have had record years. However, there is very little that Empire can take credit for. SBI is a really well-run business and their success is their success only. “The stuff we are working on together will take two, three, four years until we really start seeing the synergies of the two companies coming together. The future is very bright at the Empire Group level.” What kind of “stuff” are you talking about? Bauer: “Basically it’s how do we sell their

products to our customers, and how do we sell our products to their customers, and how do we provide a seamless buying experience for their customers and our customers who want to buy from both brands. Whether that involves combining some sales territories so our reps now sell their products, or eventually their reps are going to sell some of our products. “We are going to license our gas technology and they are going to build our products in Quebec to sell to their market, as opposed to me trying to build product in the U.S. and ship it to Canada with the exchange rates and tariffs and things like that. Now they are just going to make products and they are going to sell it to their customers under their brand. Something like that just takes time.”

Have you been able, in this short amount of time, to place SBI products in Empire dealers and vice-versa? Has that worked out? Bauer: “Oh, absolutely. We had some

opportunities where SBI had U.S. based reps who actually were told by other manufacturers that they could no longer sell for SBI. So we moved our reps in, and what is the first thing our reps are going to do? They are going to try selling more product to our customers. “What I didn’t realize was the opportunities that Empire would have in the U.S. with SBI customers. I have been pleasantly surprised by the SBI customers who now want to buy some Empire products. This (merger) is going to be really, really cool in about four to five years; it just takes time, and I’ll have to be patient.” What percent of SBI’s business is through what we would call mass merchants? Bauer: “Years ago they were almost fully

in mass merchants. I think it is less than half now. They have done a really good job selling to their wholesalers and dealerdirect brands.” Which of your products had the most demand this past year?


| Fireside Chats | Bauer: “Our biggest driver was our heat

producing products, so gas logs and vent-free and direct-vent inserts. Those categories just exploded this year. We couldn’t even build stock this year because all of the growth we had ate up the six or eight weeks of stock that we wanted to have.” Which regions of the U.S. were your strongest? Bauer: “We are still really strong in our

backyard, so it’s the Midwest. Historically, Empire has been strongest east of the Mississippi – so the Midwest, Southeast, Northeast. Now we are growing out West, the Texas market, the Northwest and California.” What percent of your sales were contemporary in style versus transitional or traditional? Bauer: “We are predominantly traditional,

so 80%, 85%. Very few of our contemporary products are only contemporary. Most of them will offer a log set, or a brick liner; we call that a rustic contemporary. Even our linears started taking logs 30% to 40% of the time.”

What about new construction? Do you work that end of it, architects, designers? Bauer: “We work with some of the

architects. We do not sell to national homebuilders. We sell to a couple of one-step installers for homebuilders, but that is not our main focus. We like the guy who is buying from the local dealer, builders building 10 or 20 homes a year.” The incidence of fireplaces in new construction has fallen to 45%. In the U.S., only 45% of new single-family homes have a fireplace. Through the ’80s and ’90s, it held pretty much at 60%. That’s an enormous drop. Any ideas why that has happened? Bauer: “Well, you have a couple of

competitors chasing the national homebuilders, and fighting over who can cut the best deal on a $250 fireplace, with no features. For the vast majority of Americans, their first example of having a fireplace in their home is, literally, the worst fireplace that we produce as an

44 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

industry. Then we complain, ‘How come people don’t want fireplaces anymore?’ Well, we’re selling them the worst product in the industry, and the only way that is going to get fixed is for these companies to begin selling on more than just price. They’ve got to sell up. Unfortunately, I don’t see that changing any time soon.” You have some very lovely outdoor products. How well are they selling? Bauer: “That’s why we were willing to

spend about two years to create the Phoenix Broilmaster line. It’s because our outdoor traditional linear fireplaces and fire pits are doing very well. They are probably my

“The industry may not be growing as much as we would like, but it’s a heck of a lot better than 10 years ago when the industry was shrinking 30% or 40% a year, people were closing plants and laying people off. Now we are launching stuff and hiring people. At this point I think we are probably getting close to the top of the cycle and we need to enjoy it while we’re here.” What new products will you be introducing in Dallas? Bauer: “We’re introducing a 50-inch

TruFlame direct-vent fireplace; it’s our biggest fireplace and I’m pretty sure the most expensive fireplace we have ever

“I like competition and I like people that come up with really good and cool ideas. That keeps me going. That’s why I’m excited driving to work each day.”

— Nick Bauer

favorite things to sell because wherever an outdoor fireplace is going in, it’s going to be a cool room, be it a pool or a hot tub or a grill. It is going to be great for entertaining friends. It’s a category that 10 years ago was very small; it’s still probably not over 10% of total fireplace sales. But it came from probably 1% or so 10 years ago.”

made. The price point is about $8,000, which I thought I would never do, but there is a market for them. We also have a bunch of other ones, such as a 36-inch linear, and more vented logs. We do roughly four to six new products a year.”

What are some of the trends that you see in the hearth industry?

Bauer: “I think we have all the positive

Bauer: “Consolidation, for sure. Whether

it be at the manufacturing level, the wholesale level, the dealer level. Consolidation and succession. A lot of folks are retiring. Three of my top 15 employees are retiring this year. We have been planning on their successions for two years. “From a product standpoint, we have a lot of really good manufacturers doing really good stuff, so that for me is exciting because I like competition and I like people that come up with really good and cool ideas. That keeps me going. That’s why I’m excited driving to work each day.

What is your forecast for 2019? factors pointing to a great 2019, whether it be weather, or politics, or the economy, or the stock market, or housing starts. We still sell a lot of heat for a living, and it is probably one of the coldest years in four or five. This season is the one we are going to be talking about for the next five to 10 years.” What have I not asked that you would like to get out? Bauer: “Here’s what I normally say as

Empire enters its 87th year of business. We’re just so blessed to be able to continue to do this, year after year, generation after generation.”


| Infrared Steak Grillers |

Beefer One Pro.

46 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com


FAHRENHEIT

1,500°

A new grill category takes inspiration from steakhouse restaurant kitchens, providing specialty retailers another terrific product to sell. By Lisa Readie Mayer

W

hile having dinner at the famous Peter Luger Steakhouse in Brooklyn, New York, Frank Hecker, a passionate home cook and director of television cooking shows in Germany, had an epiphany. As he savored the perfectly seared crust and flavorful, juicy meat, he realized it was THE BEST steak he had ever eaten in his life. The meal set in motion a quest to replicate that sensational steak at home. When his repeated attempts on a conventional grill

Otto’s O.F.B. (Over-Fired Broiler) Grill.

came up short, Hecker consulted his chef contacts and learned the secret to steak success: cooking it at 1,500 degrees F. under a top-down-fired, infrared burner. This type of appliance – known as a Salamander – is common in commercial kitchens, but not in residential backyards. So Hecker decided to develop a steakhouse-style infrared grill suitable for a home cook. As it happened, one of his old high-school buddies, Marc Kirwald, worked for a company that made infrared burners. As the two worked on perfecting their ceramic

burner prototypes, they enlisted the help of another high-school friend, Frantz Konzen, who ran a metalworking business, to design a functional and attractive appliance to house the burner. Their two-year collaborative effort resulted in The Beefer, a compact, tabletop, stainless-steel cooker with a top-downfired, infrared, ceramic burner, and a height-adjustable grilling grate. The gas-fired cookers reach the critical 1,500 degree temperatures required for searing steaks, but by positioning the grilling grid further from the burner, they can also be used to cook poultry, fish, vegetables, pizza, and even bacon, at lower temperatures. Because of the intense infrared heat, foods cook in a fraction of the time it takes on a traditional grill – for example, a 11/2-inch ribeye steak reaches medium-rare in five to seven minutes. Another benefit: Because the burner is above the food, meat drippings do not flare up, but rather, drippings are caught in a drip tray, or can season potatoes or vegetables simultaneously cooking in a tray below the meat. Made in Germany, the propane-fired cooker (a natural gas model is in the works) is available in three models priced between $899 and $2,399: The Beefer, a 25-lb. portable unit; a double-wide Beefer XL; and the Beefer XL Chef with two separately controlled heat zones and restaurant-kitchen certification. The removable components in all models are dishwasher safe, and accessory options include a pizza stone and a burger grilling rack. The Beefer was launched in Germany in 2013 and became an almost instant hit. After a popular German newspaper featured The Beefer in an article, the company sold 500 units in the following days. Click here for a mobile

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 47 friendly reading experience


| Infrared Steak Grillers | “PayPal actually thought we were hacked, and we had to prove the sales were real,” recalls head of Beefer USA and chief Marketing officer Matthias Heidemanns. The company has built a strong fan base and enjoyed growing sales throughout Europe thanks to a large following on Instagram, YouTube, and other social media. It has earned praise from some of Europe’s top chefs, and is used in several Michelin-starred restaurants. Heidemanns says Beefer was approached by Porsche Design Company to collaborate on a custom Porsche Beefer model sold exclusively at the automaker’s headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. The grills also are used in the fine-dining restaurant at the Porsche headquarters. “It was a big honor for us to be linked with a brand known for high-end luxury,” he says. In the works is another deal with the Steak Cookoff Association. “It is a perfect tie-in because steaks always turn out on-point, tasty and juicy,” says Heidemanns. The Category Heats Up Beefer’s success in Europe has already inspired several competitors, including Otto Wilde Grillers, and Inferno by NorthFire. Last year, all three brands introduced their products and this new category to the American barbecue marketplace at HPBExpo in Nashville. Only the category really isn’t new in the U.S. – more like flying under the radar.

Inferno by NorthFire.

48 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Twin Eagles actually introduced the first outdoor-rated, residential Salamangrill nearly 15 years ago. “It was one of the first products in our Twin Eagles lineup,” says Brian Eskew, who works in Sales, Marketing, and Brand Development for the company. “It came out of (company owner and founder) Dante Cantal’s early experience designing commercial restaurant appliances. He understood the performance, convenience, and benefits of a high-heat salamander broiler. “The overhead positioning of the broiler means the food is not subject to flare-ups, and it heats up and cooks in minutes. This type of broiler is used at the best steakhouses because the intense heat is great for searing steaks, but it’s great for chicken and fish, and melting cheese on top of a dish.” Eskew also notes that the Salamangrill, which retails for $1,599 MSP, including a cover and 13-inch pizza stone, “works fantastically as a pizza oven” and is an ideal solution for consumers who would like a pizza oven as part of their outdoor kitchen, but don’t want the hassle or heat-up times of a traditional, wood-fired, masonry oven. “The Salamangrill can be finished with a masonry surround, so it looks like a beautiful old-world oven, but has the ease and convenience of gas,” he says. “When dealers present it like this, it sells really well.”

Eskew believes the growing field of competitors will draw fresh attention to the category, and, in turn, increase sales for all manufacturers. Each is trying to carve out its niche.

The Salamangrill from Twin Eagles.

Otto Wilde Grillers started in 2015 when German engineer Otto Wilde set out to create a residential steakhouse-style grill with more user-friendly features. He built the first prototype in his garage, and then began producing the cookers and selling them online. Initially, according to daughter-in-law and company co-founder Julia Wilde, Otto and other family members – self-described as “food maniacs” – sold the grills as “a fun side project to our regular jobs.” But, when sales began to grow and the product was honored with the prestigious German Design Award, the group quit their day jobs and devoted their full attention to Otto Wilde Grillers. The company currently offers one model, Otto’s O.F.B. (for Over-Fired Broiler), made in Germany from heavy-duty stainless steel. It fits two porterhouse steaks at a time, according to Wilde, and retails for $1,200, which includes a pizza stone. “From what we’ve seen in Germany,” says Wilde, “the target market includes people who really like food and grilling. They are into the culinary scene and appreciate good quality. Many of our customers have


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| Infrared Steak Grillers |

50 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

your Monday-to-Friday grill to cook a couple of great, restaurant-quality steaks that are ready to eat in five minutes. This is an extremely high-temperature grill that cooks fast. Beyond grilling enthusiasts, Pepper says the company is targeting a wide variety of other audiences, including outdoor-folks who are into camping, hunting, and fishing; tailgaters; and body builders, keto and paleo dieters who emphasize meat on their menus. Pepper says infrared steak grillers also are popular used in tandem with trendy

for a family or entertaining,” he says. “But this type of appliance is convenient to quickly cook-up a couple of steaks or pieces of fish for two people, and the results are amazing. “Versatility comes with having multiple appliances. This product adds another layer of flexibility and fun, and it’s a good way for retailers to sell multiple products. Consumers get wildly excited when they see all they can do in an outdoor kitchen.” All manufacturers agree the secret to retail success for this type of product is demo-ing. “This category is new to consumers, so

The 8 Primal Cuts of Beef

ILLUSTRATION COURTESY OF BROBBQ.

several grills in their outdoor kitchens. Also, guys really like it because they like the latest gadgets. By comparison, under-fired grills cook with convection heat and the hot air can cause meat to dry out. Once you taste the difference (with an over-fired grill), you don’t want steaks cooked any other way.” To help spread this message, the company has teamed with renowned, third-generation American butcher and meat purveyor Pat LaFrieda. “He fell in love with our product and believes it’s the best way to cook meat,” says Wilde. “He’s working with us to create a series of consumer-education videos, make media appearances and press meetings, and develop other content. It’s been a great partnership between our two family businesses.” In addition, LaFrieda has collaborated with Otto Wilde Grillers on a signature Pat LaFrieda Series grill, promoted on his website. The Inferno, from Canadian-based NorthFire, is engineered in Germany, but produced in China, allowing the company to offer “the most competitively-priced infrared steak grillers on the market,” according to Sales manager Gary Pepper. “Our entry-level price point is $499.” Inferno is designed with four solid interior walls, making them easy to clean, and the entire racking system pulls out and can go in the dishwasher. Based on customer feedback, this year the company will expand its lineup with a host of new models, including a double-wide Inferno2 ($699), and an upgraded Inferno2G ($899). Also in the works is the Inferno Go ($379), a lightweight unit with a smaller footprint, making it well suited for tailgating. In addition to propane-fueled models, NorthFire will introduce natural gas and electric-fueled versions, as well. “NorthFire’s strategy is to be market leader with the widest selection at every price point,” says Pepper. “Our sales are increasing,” he adds. “We grew all throughout the fourth quarter during holiday gift season, but we’ve also seen consistent growth through the first quarter, too.” He says infrared steak grillers are not a replacement for a traditional grill, but are better positioned as an add-on specialty grill. “If you’re having a big party, this may not be the best solution,” he says. But it’s

Check out this chart as an interactive diagram with great information on cuts of beef and how best to cook them at https://brobbq.com/beef-cuts-chart/. This educational content is available to readers who would like to offer the link on their social media platforms.

sous vide cooking to provide a sear after food is cooked in a sous vide water bath. To connect with these disparate audiences, NorthFire has created YouTube videos, is forming partnerships with outdoor enthusiasts as spokespeople, and has promoted at events such as the NASCAR semifinals. Why Should Retailers Carry Infrared Steak Grillers? Eskew says an over-fired broiler should have a place in a well-appointed outdoor kitchen, alongside a traditional gas grill and other specialty appliances such as a pellet grill, charcoal grill, kamado, or smoker. “A large gas grill is great when you’re cooking

education is required,” says Wilde. “That makes it a great opportunity for specialty retailers, because they are best able to demonstrate the product and teach customers that a great steak requires high temperatures.” Pepper says NorthFire’s independent dealers are doing very well with the category – noting that one specialty retailer sold 50 units last year. “This is definitely a product you have to show in action – whether by YouTube videos or in-person demos. When you do, customers are motivated to buy.” Because the category is trending so well, Pepper believes it will “populate” with even more competitors in the coming year. Specialty retailers should have over-fired infrared grillers on their radar.


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| Shade |

Yin and Yang Sweet and Salty Sun and Shade

SHADE AND NEED As the climate warms, the need for shade products has increased – for both comfort and protection. By Tom Lassiter

T

he universe is full of complementary opposites, and thank goodness for that. Balance is what it’s all about, right? As one element evolves, the symbiotic components that contribute to that element’s viability also must evolve or, as Darwin postulated, they surely will diminish and perhaps go away.

52 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Stay with me! There’s a point to be made, and here it is: What’s true in the animal and plant kingdoms also applies to the continuing evolution of the Outdoor Room. Today’s example: Big shade. Big shade – in the form of umbrellas with extra-large canopies, awnings, sun sails, and other shade structures – has evolved because the lifestyle furniture

footprint has expanded in the Outdoor Room and in outdoor kitchens. A market umbrella is perfect for a five-piece set, but not so useful for a 108-inch dining table, or a deep-seating group with room for six or more. Shade products simply had to evolve and innovate to remain relevant for today’s Outdoor Room. Manufacturers say sales of umbrellas with large canopies have been trending upwards, especially in the last couple of seasons. Most models of these huge umbrellas have the canopy affixed to a Greenwich aluminum market umbrella from Frankford.


vertical post that sits outside the canopy’s perimeter. This style of umbrella is called cantilever, offset, or side post. This configuration allows for canopies large enough to shade a small car. Some canopies are larger than the bedroom of a 20th century tract house. Top-of-the-line models allow the canopy to swivel and tilt, enabling the humans underneath to keep UV-blocking fabric between them and the direct rays of the sun without moving the furniture. Cantilever umbrellas may be permanently mounted or attached to a weighted base. But unless that base is designed with wheels, moving such an umbrella can be a challenge. A cantilever umbrella with a wheeled base becomes a near perfect defender against Old Sol’s rays. Some manufacturers also make extra-large umbrellas in the center-post style. Cantilever umbrellas have been part of the landscape for a decade or so. An early innovator was TUUCI, whose artfully engineered, massive umbrellas pioneered a niche category in the shade industry. That niche became more expansive (and affordable) as other manufacturers

Tilt cantilever umbrella from TUUCI.

developed their own side-post models. Terra Outdoor, an eight-store group (and soon to be nine) in California, carries umbrellas by Treasure Garden and TUUCI. Both lines sell well, said Jim Singer, a purchasing manager. “We’re just seeing a huge increase” in sales, he said. Umbrellas “are like gold to us. The more I stock, the more I seem to sell. We sold a ton of TUUCI last season.” Resorts and the upscale hospitality industry were early adopters of big umbrellas at poolside, and to provide shade for guests lounging with beverages. As those consumers sought to recreate that vacation experience in their own backyards, big umbrellas began to become more commonplace in home settings. That isn’t surprising. Resort furnishings also are credited with helping Americans become acclimated to furnishings with contemporary flair. But what, exactly, has led to the recent bump in popularity of big umbrellas? Just look at the size of the furniture they shade, said Candy Chase, National Sales manager for Treasure Garden. Market umbrellas are not up to the

task of shading sprawling deep-seating groups and sectionals long enough to land small aircraft. That’s a job for a cantilever umbrella or a dual-post shade structure. “People want to sit outside and relax, and they want to have shade,” she says. “But they want an unobstructed view. They don’t want a big pole in front of them.” Treasure Garden’s AKZ line is being supplanted by AKZ PLUS, she said, which offers additional tilting features. An AKZ PLUS model with a 13-ft. circular canopy provides 129 sq. ft. of shade. Frankford Umbrellas, a longtime supplier to the contract market, entered the specialty retailer channel in 2016. Sales through all channels in 2018 were up over the previous year, said Laura Dudley, National Sales manager. “Large umbrella sales are certainly up,” she said. Frankford now makes large, center-post umbrellas as well as side-post umbrellas. The center-post line – called G-Series, for giant – is new for 2019. Customers may choose a round, square, or rectangular canopy. Side-post models may have a square, round, or octagonal canopy.

13-ft. Starlux AKZ Plus cantilever umbrella from Treasure Garden.

Click here for a mobile

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 53 friendly reading experience


| Shade | Woodline, a well-established South African firm that has manufactured umbrellas for many well-known brands, entered the U.S. market under its own name two years ago. The company produces wooden as well as metal-post umbrellas, including cantilever models. Woodline also makes two models of dual-post shade structures, says Kathleen Ferry, National Sales manager. The designs are well suited to shading a long dining table or linear seating. The large umbrellas and shade structures give Woodline competitive products across the board, she says, though its most popular items are wooden market umbrellas that have been in production for nearly 30 years. Barlow Tyrie, being true to its British roots, prefers to refer to its shade products as parasols. “Umbrellas protect you from the rain,” said Charles Hessler, executive vice president. “Parasols protect you from the sun.” Barlow Tyrie makes parasols with poles of eucalyptus (the Napoli range) or anodized aluminum (the Sail range). The Napoli range claims the majority of sales, Hessler said. The Sail range also includes a dual-post shade structure, called Sunshade. Side

SkY from Woodline.

curtains are optional. Sunshade is available in 13- and 16-ft. lengths. Sales of Barlow Tyrie’s cantilever parasols jumped in the past couple of seasons, Hessler said. It’s not uncommon to sell two cantilever parasols to a homeowner to complete an Outdoor Room, he said.

Big shade is simply “part of a growing, upscale trend,” he explained. “People with money are spending it on larger groups, larger tables, and entertaining more. “If you’ve just spent $20,000 on a set of outdoor furniture,” Hessler said, “you don’t want a bunch of cheap shade products hanging around it.”

Protecting Your Health Shade is good for your health. Melanoma rates in the United States have been rising for the past 30 years, according to the American Cancer Society. More than 95,000 new melanomas will be diagnosed in 2019, according to Cancer Society estimates. More than 7,000 people are expected to die of melanoma this year. Exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is considered a major risk factor for melanoma. So the more one can stay out of direct sun, over time, the better. Umbrellas allow people to enjoy being outdoors while protecting them from UV radiation. “People are more conscious about sun damage than they were back in my

54 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

generation,” said Dan Gould, owner of Outdoor Kitchen & Patio in Omaha, Nebraska. He’s c onvinced that greater awareness about the danger of overexposure to UV rays is helping boost sales of large umbrellas. “The umbrella business has always been good to us,” he said. “The last couple of years, it’s been even better. I’ve definitely seen an increase in the cantilever business in particular.” Outdoor Kitchen & Patio annually has sold 20 to 30 13-ft. cantilever umbrellas in recent years. That changed in 2018, when Gould sold 60 cantilever umbrellas. There are always six cantilever umbrellas displayed on the sales floor.

Leading makers of fabric for umbrella canopies for years have touted the ability of their products to block UV rays. Sunbrella-brand fabrics are recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation as an aid in preventing sun-induced damage to skin. Sunbrella products have been proven to block up to 98% of UV rays. Similarly, the Outdura brand’s “Sun Protection Fabrics” have been tested to block upwards of 97.5% of UV radiation. Greater awareness of the hazards of sun exposure on the part of the public has been good for his shade sales, Gould said. “I think it’s helped (umbrella sales) quite a bit,” he said.


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| Shade |

Solair Update Powered retractable awnings seemed a natural fit for casual furniture retailers already selling umbrellas for the Outdoor Room. That was the strategy about seven years ago when Trivantage began marketing its Solair-brand awnings to the specialty retail channel. But specialty furniture stores didn’t warm up to the idea of selling and installing retractable awnings as much as Trivantage hoped. Going forward, Trivantage will not pursue the specialty furniture store channel “as aggressively as it has in the past,” said Steve Ellington, Trivantage president. Trivantage, a subsidiary of Glen Raven, markets and distributes specialty fabric and hardware. “We have had success with specialty retailers, and we will continue to support them,” Ellington said. Trivantage will welcome new specialty retailers who wish to offer Solair products, but the company will focus its marketing attention on awning fabricators. Solair awnings have been sold through awning fabricators for nearly 40 years, he said. Ellington said that installation of the motorized awnings proved to be an obstacle for some outdoor furniture dealers. Retailers who “embraced the install did well,” he said. For others, the sales and installation process, which typically includes at least two site visits and some electrical and mechanical skills, proved to be “more of a challenge.” Retractable powered awnings are “a natural for the Outdoor Room,” Ellington said. “Our plan is to support the specialty retailers who liked and embraced the product.”

Retractable awning from Solair.

56 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Canopy Innovation

Infinity Canopy, a relative newcomer to the shade business, has quickly earned accolades from trade associations as well as design-conscious customers. The patented modular shade system suspends fabric panels from overhead cables. The system can cover a space of any length or width that can be spanned with cables. “Each piece of fabric is individual, but the system looks as if it’s one piece,” says Dr. Alan Shargani, Infinity Canopy’s founder and CEO. The California chiropractor developed Infinity Canopy after becoming dissatisfied with the commercial shade solutions available for his Outdoor Room.

The customized 50 x 80-ft. Infinity Canopy in Costa Mesa, California.

“I basically was not happy with the price or the features,” he said. “When I came up with the idea of a modular system, I realized I had something I could sell to other people.” Shargani brought his product to market four years ago. The product won the 2015 Attendees Choice Award for “Outdoor Living Product Marketability” at the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo. Infinity Canopy also won the ShowStoppers Award for best new product in the shade category at the 2015 IFAI EXPO, the awning industry’s main trade show. Infinity Canopy is protected by nine U.S. patents. The modular design allows individual panels to be replaced. Should damage occur, or if a property owner wishes to change the canopy’s look at some point, the fabric panels may be replaced without the expense of replacing the cable system. “You can get a new canopy at half the price,” Shargani says. A 10x10 canopy can be installed by two people in three to four hours, he said. The retail price would be between $1,000 and $1,500, depending on fabric. Shargani says Infinity Canopy is the first major innovation in canopies since the time of ancient Rome. “This is a very untapped market,” he says.


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| Wood-burning Products |

HEATING WITH WOOD Woodburning is not dead, but regulators sure make it difficult to keep it alive. Kudos to the 15 manufacturers highlighted on the following pages.

By Bill Sendelback

Y

ou’ve heard it before: Upon seeing his premature obituary in a London newspaper in 1897, the late famed author and humorist Mark Twain said, “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” The same could be said for woodburning in North America. Certainly woodburning sales numbers are nowhere near what they were 10 or 20 years ago, and gas hearth products continue to take more market share. But woodburning is alive and well in North America, and even growing while under pressure from environmentalists and the

58 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

demands of the EPA’s May 15, 2020, deadline to meet the tougher emissions restrictions of the NSPS. The total U.S. shipments of all wood-burning hearth products hit a high point in 2001 of 637,856 units. In 2012, total wood-burner U.S. shipments had dropped to a record low of 180,006 units. But by 2016, the last year of industry-reported figures, sales had rebounded 16% to 208,806. The most recent industry estimates, without industry shipment numbers, indicate that, in 2017, wood stove sales were

up 3% over 2016 totals, zero-clearance fireplaces were up 4% and clean-burning wood fireplace sales were up 2%. In comparison, sales of vented gas fireplaces were up 11%. Hearth & Home’s most recent Buyer’s Guide reports that the average specialty hearth product dealer realizes 28% of his or her sales from wood-burning hearth appliances, and 49% of his or her sales from gas models. In wood stoves, 83% of dealer sales are non-catalytic models, and 17% are catalytic units, a number that may shift significantly

PHOTO: ©2019 GETTYIMAGES.COM.


as more EPA-certified 2020 models hit the market. Research also shows that 56% of wood stoves sold in the U.S. are of steel construction, while 38% are cast iron, and 6% are a stone and cast-iron combination. A major concern voiced by a ll manufacturers is the May 15, 2020, deadline for dealer sell-through of non-2020-certified wood and pellet burners. The EPA in late 2018 proposed a two-year extension of the dealer sell-through deadline for hydronic heaters and forced air furnaces. That proposal did not include other wood

and pellet appliances, but the EPA did take comments on whether a similar dealer sell-through extension was “appropriate” for wood and pellet appliances and, if so, for how long and why. Both sets of comments were to have been received by the EPA by Jan. 14, 2019, but the recent U.S. government shutdown has delayed any EPA reactions. “This dealer sell-through extension for hydronic heaters and forced air furnaces was only a proposal by EPA, not an action cast in concrete,” according to Ryan Carroll, the HPBA’s vice president of

Government Affairs. “For the exact same reasons this dealer sell-through extension would be appropriate for hydronic heaters and forced air furnaces, we feel it is just as appropriate for wood and pellet appliances.” The HPBA continues to push for extension of the dealer sell-through provisions of the NSPS as well as additional “broader changes” to the NSPS. Stay tuned. Congressional efforts to delay the NSPS implementation by three years failed in the U.S. Senate, effectively eliminating those efforts at this time. Click here for a mobile

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 59 friendly reading experience


| Wood-burning Products | Blaze King Following 2017 sales of wood-burners that were Blaze King’s best sales year ever in the U.S., the company’s 2018 U.S. sales were “flat,” while its Canadian sales were “very strong”, says Alan Murphy, president. “It seems like the entire market for wood-burning products was down last year in the U.S. But we expect a sales increase overall this year, with continued sales growth, particularly in the East.” Offering wood-burning catalytic stoves and fireplace inserts, Murphy admits Blaze King models are “not the cheapest” on the market. He sees many Blaze King models being used as a primary heat source, mostly in rural areas, because of the company’s larger fireboxes and longer burn times. So the company is promoting its new models with reported heat producing burn times as long as 16 hours. Like most manufacturers of woodburners, Murphy is concerned about the lack of additional time for dealers and distributors to sell off Step 1, non-2020 EPA models, by the May 15, 2020, deadline. “As dealers sell off non-2020-certified Step 1 units, there will be a downturn in dealer purchases from manufacturers, but not a downturn in consumer sales. Smart dealers already are prepared and have fewer Step 1 models to sell off. “But dealers will have to replace them

with new Step 2, 2020 models. However, dealers are nervous about new, untried products being rushed to market before the 2020 deadline. We at Blaze King don’t care about the deadline for us as a manufacturer. We spent $2.1 million preparing for 2020, and we’re completely ready.” Blaze King has 13 models now 2020-certified with several new models in the works, according to Murphy. “Our 2020 Princess model produces only 0.44 GPH with a 2.9 cu. ft. firebox.” Empire Comfort Systems Empire Comfort Systems, a long time manufacturer of only gas appliances, is joining the wood stove wars courtesy of its November 2017, purchase of Stove Builder International. Three sizes of non-catalytic wood stoves, and two sizes of fireplace inserts, all 2020-certified, are being added to Empire Comfort’s hearth products offering. “And we will keep adding to this line,” says Nick Bauer, president. “Our customers want these items, and we want to sell more products to our customers. Dealers need to sell more than just gas models.”

Gateway 2300 wood stove from Empire Comfort Systems.

Hearth & Home Technologies For Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT), its Vermont Castings (VC) line of wood-burners had a “solid sales year,” Princess (PE) 32 from Blaze King.

Intrepid FlexBurn from Hearth & Home Technologies (HHT).

60 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

says Joe Kuefler, VC Brand Marketing director. “In both wood stoves and fireplace inserts we saw strong sales in the East and less growth in the West. Higher-end wood stoves showed the most sales growth.” HHT’s Quadra-Fire brand also had “good sales growth” last year with wood stoves selling a “little stronger than inserts,” according to Ken Gross, Quadra-Fire and Eco-Choice Brands Marketing director. While in the Quadra-Fire brand, it’s taller, vertical, European-transitionalstyled Discovery Series saw “extreme sales growth,” Gross sees “no evidence” that more modern, contemporary styled products sold well in the industry. The Vermont Castings line has added more modern, cleaner doors without


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| Wood-burning Products | VC’s traditional cast “webbing” design. “And we are exploring adding more transitional-styled models to the line,” says Kuefler, “but our dealers are not asking for this.” VC’s FlexBurn technology, allowing the stove or insert to burn under 2 GPH with or without an optional, extra cost catalytic combustor, already is available in VC’s Intrepid, Encore, and Defiant wood-burners. The combustor pack is available if the consumer wants higher efficiency. HHT supports the NSPS and is “focused” on certifying its wood-burners to the 2020 standard, says both Kuefler and Gross. “We expect the majority of our wood-burners to be 2020 compliant this year,” says Kuefler. “We are concerned, however, about the dealer sell-through of non-2020 models,” adds Gross. “Dealers need to be smart about what they purchase, and leverage our dealer programs, and rely on our ability to produce products when they need them.” John Shimek, HHT’s senior vice president of Brands and New Product Development, also sees sell-through as a challenge to dealers. He warns, “As a total hearth industry, only 15 to 20% of the wood-burners are now 2020 compliant.”

president. “But it was a large wood stove year for us. For example, sales of our Castleton model were up 44%. We’ve had two cold winters, lots of snow, and have a decent economy, so we think we’ll have a good 2019. But a lot depends on the sell-through for our dealers and whether their sell-through deadline is extended.” HearthStone is ready for 2020, says Kuhfahl, with the company showing only 2020 models at the Dallas HPBExpo. Included will be the company’s new Green Mountain line of three sizes of wood stoves and three sizes of fireplace inserts, all simple, clean, cast-iron models, 2020-certified with efficiencies of as much as 81%. These new models will retail for less than $3,000, according to Kuhfahl. The company’s new 2020 models feature HearthStone’s new Tru-Hybrid technology, allowing a clean burn while in the by-pass mode, and “uber clean and efficient” with the catalytic combustor engaged, says Kuhfahl.

Green Mountain 60 from HearthStone.

styling has always been strong in wood stoves, and we expect it to remain that way.” Jøtul is doing “very well” certifying its models for 2020, and it expects to release its new 2020 models later this year. Included will be a series of large wood stoves and inserts to be sold as “whole house heaters” by featuring Jøtul’s new, patent-pending “unique fusion of technology,” says Merkel. Jøtul has not yet released details of this technology.

HearthStone HearthStone did well in 2018 with its wood-burner sales even after a strong 2017, although the company believes it was a smaller wood stove year for the entire industry, according to Dave Kuhfahl,

Jøtul North America Jøtul North America saw its wood-burners sell “very well” last year, equaling in sales the company’s gas models, says Jim Merkel, National Sales manager. “The gas market is growing slightly better than the wood market, but woodburning is still going to be here.” Smaller and larger wood stoves are selling particularly well for Jøtul. “And we’re seeing a nice resurgence in the sales of wood-burning inserts, especially the larger sizes,” Merkel adds. “Traditional

Model GI 545 from Jøtul North America.

Montecito Estate from Innovative Hearth Products (IHP).

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Innovative Hearth Products Sales of wood-burners were a “mixed bag” for Innovative Hearth Products (IHP), with sales of its EPA fireplaces “up substantially.” But sales of open hearth, or Builder Box, models were down, according to Tom Krebs, executive vice president of Sales and Marketing. “With


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| Wood-burning Products | some state energy codes changing, like in Texas, upper limits are being put on the air leakage or air exchange rate in new homes, so homebuilders are switching to gas direct-vent models if they even offer fireplaces.” Custom homebuilders still prefer open-hearth models, says Krebs. And he says that IHP’s wood stove sales were up for the first time in “a few years.” Larger and more expensive wood-burners are selling well for IHP, particularly in wood stoves. IHP early on took the NSPS action “seriously” and now the company feels it’s in “good shape” to meet the 2020 deadline. Half of IHP’s EPA fireplaces are now 2020 compliant, and 75% of its wood stoves are ready for 2020, all using secondary air, non-catalytic technology. “As we tested for 2020, we also made continuous improvements in each model,” says Krebs.

High Country NZ5000 from Napoleon Fireplaces.

Kuma Stoves For the third year in a row, wood-burner sales at Kuma Stoves were up 20%, and a high percentage of the company’s 2018 sales were fireplace inserts, according to Mark Freeman, president. “We’ve set a high goal for 2019, which is our 39th year in the industry. Part of our expected growth this year will come from our entry into new geographic territories.” To prepare for the NSPS’s 2020 deadline, Kuma switched its emissions testing from cribwood to cordwood. “This

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Cambridge from Kuma Stoves.

is like real world usage, the real wood people use every day,” says Freeman, “so there should be no surprises when these stoves are put into use by the consumer.” Kuma now has four models certified for 2020 and four more awaiting certification paperwork. The company’s new 2020-certified line will include a taller, vertical style with wood storage under the firebox. Kuma is using hybrid technologies, a combination of catalytic and secondary air technologies. “When testing with cordwood, testing begins when you light the match on a cold start. After that, secondary air burn handles 95% of the emissions. Yet this technology is still very affordable.” Napoleon Products Wood-burner sales have been “fairly flat” for the last few years for Napoleon Fireplaces, according to John Czerwonka, vice president of Hearth Sales, with 2018 sales up only 1%. “We anticipate 2019 sales of wood-burners to be flat or down slightly because of the uneasiness and uncertainty in the market as a result of the roll out of 2020-certified models. Some dealers are waiting for the new 2020 products.” This concerns Czerwonka, as most manufacturers and dealers attempt to sell off non-2020 inventory before the May 15, 2020 deadline. “It is a balancing act at all levels,” he says. “Dealers tend to be more conservative with purchases, and some will dial-back purchases and focus only on 2020 models.”

Czerwonka and Napoleon still feel very strong about woodburning over the long term. “Wood-burners are a big and important part of Napoleon’s product portfolio,” he says. “We love wood.” Napoleon is also updating and re-engineering many of its current wood-burning models to meet the 2020 standards. “A lot of these have already been tested, and we are awaiting certification paperwork,” he says. Included now are three wood stoves in small, medium, and large sizes, and two fireplace inserts. One of the new wood stoves will be catalytic and the rest will use non-cat technology. All will feature contemporary/transitional styling. “We will have more 2020 models by the end of the year, including two new High Country brand, 2020-qualified fireplaces.” Pacific Energy Fireplace Products Pacific Energy Fireplace Products saw a modest 2018 sales increase in its wood-burners for a “very, very solid sales year right across the board,” according to Cory Iversen, North American Sales manager. The company did see a “good” sales increase in its budget-priced, entry-level True North brand.

Cory Iversen, Pacific Energy Fireplace Products.


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| Wood-burning Products | Although Pacific Energy will be introducing more modern-styled models, Iversen thinks the shift to contemporary styling in wood-burners has “leveled off” as the demand for traditional styling is holding steady. “We’re in a good position with our 2020 ‘catalytic free’ models now being sold, and we’ve been very careful with our non-2020 inventory. But there is a lot of uncertainty in the field about non-2020 existing inventories at dealers and distributors, so we don’t think dealers will be making any big bulk buys on non-2020 models.” A “significant number” of Pacific Energy’s core wood-burners are now 2020-certified, and the remainder will be 2020 ready in the first half of 2019.

I2500 from Regency Fireplace Products.

Model A-3RL-80h from Spartherm.

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“All of our models will be ‘catalytic free’ with efficiencies just as good or better than catalytic models,” Iversen adds. Regency Fireplace Products Wood-burner sales for Regency Fireplace Products were “up a little” after a very strong 2017, says Glen Spinelli, president. Like other manufacturers, fireplace insert sales were “really good while stove sales were flat. We thought wood-burner sales would be off more last year, but with cold weather, our fiscal year sales picked up. We expect more of the same for 2019. Wood-burners are a major part of our business. Sales are usually stable – not way up or way down. But we could see sales skyrocket temporarily as dealers purchase new 2020 models for showroom displays.” Regency is now shipping only 2020-certified wood-burners. A new model from Regency is a large, EPA-exempt, wood-burning fireplace with a guillotine glass door. This new model can be used with gas logs. “We’re seeing an average of four hours longer burn time with our new 2020 models,” says Spinelli. “We believe there is a strong market for wood-burners, so we are investing heavily in wood. But we hope the EPA will now leave our industry alone.” Spartherm Spartherm had a “steady” 2018 sales year for its wood-burning fireplaces, according to Markus Aumann, Export Sales manager for Africa, Asia, and North America. “We have concentrated on the Canadian market since 2016,” he says. “This year, 2019, is the year that we will start efforts to officially sell in the U.S.” Spartherm has had its most success in North America with its “angled” or corner fireplaces. “We think this is because this design is a new concept in wood-burning fireplaces. We have found that there is a demand for new designs in fireplaces from architects and designers.” Spartherm is testing some of its models to meet the NSPS’s 2020 deadline and to increase its offerings in North America. “The investment to have new products 2020-certified is very high,” says Aumann. Rather than displaying at the Dallas HPBExpo, the company will wait until its new products are completed and “then have a proper launch.”

Osburn Matrix 2700 from Stove Builder International (SBI).

Stove Builder International (SBI) Sales of wood-burners in 2018 were up by more than 15% at SBI, according to Marc-Antoine Cantin, president. “It was a combination of a very cold winter, a good economy, lower inventories in the field, and the improvement in new home construction.” Cantin sees a big demand for 2020 models. “These are the only models dealers want to buy. They are already scared about their sell-through of their non-2020 models. This dealer sell-through thing is serious for us as an industry.” SBI already has 14 2020-certified models and plans to roll out 16 more new 2020 models this year for a total of 30. “There is a lot of pressure on all of us to properly roll out these new 2020 models through production. It can take as long as eight months from certification to production. And with the U.S. government shutdown, it could take up to 90 days just to get a new model on the EPA list. We don’t want problems in the field with these new products in our rush to get them to market,” says Cantin. For SBI, modern styling in wood-burners continues to grow, but traditional styling is still the bulk of the company’s business. With the cold winter of 2018-2019, SBI


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| Wood-burning Products | cladding,” an innovation developed for the European market more than 20 years ago, Gilbert says. Available in single- or double-sided models with a choice of steel shells and colors, this freestanding model includes a built-in wood storage area. The new Stûv 16-Combo is a zero-clearance fireplace available in three sizes, featuring a wood storage area and a mantel.

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has had problems filling a big surge of orders for wood-burning fireplace inserts. “More consumers want to turn their fireplaces into an efficient unit for heat,” says Cantin. SBI also is seeing a trend toward larger and more expensive wood-burners. “We thought consumers didn’t know about or care about 2020 models, but increasingly they are afraid to purchase non-2020 models for fear that non-2020 models might be required to be removed like in Montreal.” Stûv Stûv America’s sales of its wood-burning and gas stoves and fireplaces grew 35% in 2018, according to Nadia Gilbert, Marketing and Customer Service director. “It was an amazing year for us, and we are very confident about the future. Since we are putting a lot of effort into expanding our dealer network, while increasing the confidence in us from our existing dealers, we are forecasting 2019 as another very strong year for Stûv America.” Stûv is seeing a trend toward smaller, contemporary wood stoves. And the company feels it is “well positioned” for the 2020 NSPS deadline with new, 2020-certified products. “We began back in 2015 preparing for this 2020 deadline,” says Gilbert, “so the majority of our products is already certified or will be before the May 15, 2020, deadline.” New from Stûv is its Stûv 21-Clad, a contemporary stove featuring “steel

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Supreme Supreme, too, believes consumers are more aware of emissions in wood-burners. So all of the company’s new models are 2020 compliant, says Anastasia Marcakis, Sales manager. Included in the company’s new 2020 offerings is a full line of EPA-certified, zero-clearance fireplaces. “They feature cast-iron firebox lining rather than refractory. The cast iron looks like refractory, but it is more durable and has better heat transfer and heat retention,” says Marcakis. Supreme also is introducing a new 2020 wood stove line in three sizes and with contemporary styling. Travis Industries Travis Industries saw “really good” sales of its wood-burners in 2018 with a “resurgence in wood,” according to Perry Ranes, VP of Sales. “Fireplace inserts saw our largest percentage of sales growth in wood-burners, but fireplaces and stoves were pretty close behind.” Ranes says 2019 will be a “screwy” year for wood-burner sales with the confusion of the NSPS and the issues with dealer sell-through. “But our dealers are still buying our non-2020 models knowing that we will be well ahead of the 2020 deadline with our new models. We hear that at least one manufacturer is getting out of the wood-burning business.” The “vast majority” of Travis’ woodburners are now 2020-certified, and the remainder should be certified by August, well before the season begins, says Ranes. All of Travis’ 2020 models are tested to the NSPS’s cordwood standard. “Some with larger fireboxes are using hybrid technology, and others are certified with non-cat, secondary air technology,” says Ranes. “Frankly, I am amazed at what we have accomplished toward getting our 2020 products to market.”

Stûv 16 from Stûv America.

Astra 24 from Supreme.

Lopi Rockport from Travis Industries.


| Specialty Retailing |

Young and AMBITIOUS Millennials and Generation Z are seeking opportunities to learn, earn, grow, and belong. By Mark Brock

S

pecialty retail is trending toward fundamental transformations as younger professionals are joining seasoned pros at patio and hearth shops, and assuming increasingly responsible positions. These new workers, ranging in age from early 20s to late 30s, grew up with the Internet and are the most digitally savvy cohort ever to join the workforce. Younger workers are not only seeking competitive pay and benefits, but they also crave opportunities that will allow them to learn and grow in their careers while belonging to a tight-knit organization that encourages a fulfilling life outside of work. All the while, competition for the best and the brightest of younger workers is formidable. “A tight labor market, rising wages, and a more informed and discerning workforce is putting enormous pressure on employers to up their game,” said Warren Wright, author of “Second-Wave Millennials: Tapping the Potential of America’s Youth.”

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“Employees, in particular Millennials, want a job on their terms. The answer for employers lies in a simple idea – good management. Young talent is far more discerning about the quality of their workplace, and they’re looking for careers that complement their lifestyles. This is a shift from previous generations that put work at the center of life.” Specialty retailers are recruiting young professionals not only to advance current operations, but also to assure the continuance of the companies they’ve built. The average age of family business owners today is 60, which makes business succession a strategic issue for a large segment of specialty retailers. Many family-owned businesses look first within the family for new ownership as part of retirement plans, but the statistics are not encouraging. Only about 30% of all family-owned businesses survive into the second generation, a mere 12% make it to a third generation, and a paltry 3% go to a fourth generation and beyond.


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www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 71 friendly reading experience


| Specialty Retailing | “When children see the benefits of owning and growing a business, as well as the excitement of new opportunities and personal freedom, they can become very interested in being a part of the family business,” said Dr. Michael Klein, an organizational psychologist who specializes in professional development for businesses and individuals. “Working in a family business can be intensely rewarding, but if your name is on the front door you have obligations to the business and to the community that you might not have working as an employee in another business. Many people don’t want that in a career.” If a younger family member is not interested in continuing the business, the second best option is recruiting younger professionals who work their way up through the ranks and are well positioned to take over the business and provide the owners a viable exit strategy. The need for sales motivation, fresh marketing perspectives, and digital experience today, along with retirement strategies tomorrow, is leading specialty retailers to welcome younger professionals into the fold. Younger Workers Create ‘Fun’ at Specialty Retail David Treto-Levlon’s work life has centered on retail, ranging from health clubs and restaurants to clothing. When he landed a job as manager of a women’s shoe boutique in Albuquerque, Treto-Levlon, 28, discovered an opportunity to exercise his creative retail instincts fully. “My goal was to have fun with our customers, to roll out the red carpet and make retail shopping more fun than they could imagine,” he said. “I created the idea of a ‘shoe party.’ I would show a customer the shoes she was looking for, but then I’d show her other similar and different styles, and she’d leave the store with four or five pairs. We made buying shoes an experience, and we all had fun.” It was Treto-Levlon’s engaging personality and natural gift for sales that attracted the attention of Karen Galindo, owner of Outside in Style, which has locations in Austin and San Antonio. When she met Treto-Levlon he had transitioned to real estate where he was representing high-end properties and affluent consumers around the world. Galindo recruited

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world, he is focused on helping consumers understand the difference in product quality and customer service between Internet merchants and specialty retailers. “Outside in Style is a great place to work – very family oriented,” he said. “I have always been attracted to smaller companies where your co-workers are like family members, and where you connect with your customers,” he said. “As younger professionals, we want to contribute to the success of our companies because we’re all in this together.” David Treto-Levlon, Outside in Style.

him to join her Austin store in 2013 where he has transformed his shoe party concept into a patio party. He plays a central role in sales training, online marketing, social media, technology, and merchandising. “We always make it a point to have the best time possible with every customer, every day,” he said. “No two patios are the same, and we treat it like a patio party. Our goal is to make our stores a destination where customers can have a fun and vibrant experience. It’s not just about their handing over a credit card and making a purchase, but forming a relationship with us where they come back often to see what’s new and where they refer their friends.” One of Treto-Levlon’s greatest challenges has been to harness the power of the Internet, which he describes as a love-hate relationship. Having grown up in a digital

James Waite, Today’s Patio.

Not All Retail Opportunities Are the Same One of the challenges for specialty retailers in recruiting younger workers is conveying the fact that not all retail jobs are the same. Working for a Big Box store is a far cry from joining the staff of a specialty retailer that is typically either a familyowned business or an entrepreneurial enterprise with opportunities to learn, earn, and grow. At specialty retail, the products are investment grade and technical, typically sold to discriminating consumers with large and expensive homes. Specialty retailers employ experts in outdoor design and technical product installation, along with sales, marketing, and customer service. James Waite, 30, certainly understands how career opportunities can vary from one retailer to another. He began working at retail as a teenager, eventually landing a management position with a national men’s clothier, managing two locations in Arizona. It was Today’s Patio, with locations in California and Arizona, that captured his attention and commitment in 2017. “I was looking for a change from my previous atmosphere and position,” he said. “I knew I wanted to stay in retail, but wasn’t exactly sure in what capacity. I wanted to continue up the ladder in terms of price point and luxury/specialty. It certainly helped when Today’s Patio was able to offer me better hours and a location much closer to home. I also liked the family-owned atmosphere that I could sense even from my first interview. Chad Scheinerman (CEO of Today’s Patio) and the entire upper management team really sold me on the opportunity.”


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| Specialty Retailing | Waite currently serves as a location manager in Arizona where he is responsible for every aspect of the store. “The success or failure of the store falls primarily on my shoulders,” he said. “I’m responsible for selling, training, scheduling, directing/managing, ordering, mentoring, coaching, praising, and disciplining. My overall goal is to make sure the customer is served at a very high level 100% of the time. It’s my job to make sure the sales floor is neat, organized, well stocked, and merchandised, so the customer is able to satisfy any need easily and comfortably.” While the great variety of responsibilities attracted Waite to join Today’s Patio, it’s the drive for sales success that’s essential for anyone joining specialty retail, particularly younger professionals who earn their stripes, and commissions, through sales success.

“In addition to working with people – customers and staff – one of my favorite moments is closing a large sale,” he said. “The thrill associated with working with someone for hours, days, and sometimes weeks and months and finally getting that payoff in the form of a sale is very rewarding. I enjoy getting new products for my customers to try, and selecting items to feature in the showroom. I have had the chance to travel a bit with the company, and I always enjoy that as well.” Waite agrees that the perception of retail careers among younger professionals is a mixed bag with a range of attitudes. “Overall, I think retail jobs are respected by my peers as a great starting point that can lead to many other avenues,” he said. “Sales, customer service, and general retail skills are very transferable into other industries. At the same time, I think that people my age may see a retail career choice as a declining one,

Recruiting Recommendations from a Millennial Expert Warren Wright, founder and CEO of Second Wave Learning, specializes in coaching Millennials to succeed, and helping businesses attract and retain these workers. He recently released a new book, “Second-Wave Millennials: Tapping the Potential of America’s Youth,” exploring the career aspirations of older Millennials. Here are his top three recommendations for recruiting young workers: • Establish an overwhelming digital presence. Young people spend an average of seven hours a day in front of a screen, so you need to meet them where they are. Instagram and YouTube are particularly good for specialty retailers because they are great places to display visually appealing products. Get a YouTube channel and post daily, telling a story about your products, your store, and yourself. Be authentic – open the doors digitally and let them know who you are. • Create a culture of positivity and achievement. Young workers are community-minded and want to feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. Increase opportunities to recognize achievements when they happen and celebrate wins. You don’t have to give them a trophy, but a $5 gift card to Starbucks now and then goes a long way. • More coaching, less managing. Younger workers want to develop their skills. They want a mentor who is providing hands-on guidance and direction. This is different from older generations, who just wanted their boss to leave them alone. Do daily five-minute check-ins and ask three questions: 1) What did you accomplish yesterday? 2) What is your plan for today? 3) How can I help you? This is simple and effective. It keeps younger employees on track and shows that you care.

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Lisandro Salazar, Outdoor Elegance.

where something in technology would be considered on the rise in terms of pay and advancement opportunities. I think the two most important things for people of my age range in their job is compensation and schedule flexibility.” For retailers to compete for the best talent, Waite suggests that companies retain the feeling of a smaller organization where a person can make a difference. “Obviously, staying very competitive with pay and benefits is a huge attractor of talented people,” he said. “Alongside that, I think that staying small and giving employees input, making them feel part of the family and that their voice matters, is another thing that ownership can do to attract the newer generation. Making sure the company is updated with new technology and ‘Millennial friendly’ is also essential. Ownership needs to stay current and realize that the younger generation might have a new and different way of doing things, but in the end, we are the future.” Younger Staff Members Add to Diversity Another of the advantages that younger professionals bring to the workforce is diversity, not only in age but also in cultural and language backgrounds. This attribute is certainly the case for Lisandro Salazar, who joined Doug Sanicola’s Outdoor Elegance in southern California in 2017. Salazar, 26, grew up in El Salvador, Central America, until the age of eight when his family moved to the outskirts of Los Angeles. His first job with Outdoor Elegance was in warehousing and delivery, and he recently transitioned into sales.


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| Specialty Retailing | “The Hispanic population is growing, and it’s an important market for specialty retailers,” Salazar said. “When they come into the store, they are comfortable working with me because I come from the same background, and I can speak Spanish if they prefer to use that language. The Hispanic market is an important market for us and with my background I can help us reach out to different people.” Salazar is energized by the sales environment, the variety of activities, the challenges of learning a broad range of products, and meeting his customers’ needs. “Specialty retail is a great business to be in because you meet all sorts of different people, and our products are beautiful, well-made, and appreciated by our customers,” he said. “Once you get into the business, you begin to realize what a great opportunity it offers for helping people enjoy their lives outdoors.” Specialty retailers who recruit younger professionals secure employees with a deeper appreciation for the power of digital marketing, he said. The best prospects are those recruits who also possess customer service DNA and who appreciate the exceptional work environments at specialty retail. “I was attracted to Outdoor Elegance primarily because of the beautiful and positive work setting,” he said. “The key to having a successful business starts from inside the company. First and foremost, the most important element is the place where people work every day in serving their customers. We have that at Outdoor Elegance, and I think the opportunities here are endless with quality products and great customer service.” Recruitment Focus Shifting from Millennial to Generation Z When most people consider younger professionals, they are referring to the Millennial Generation, which is broadly defined as those born in the early 1980s to early 2000s. Right behind the Millennials is Generation Z, broadly defined as those born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. Generation Z is beginning to attract attention from business owners and managers as a fresh group of new employees.

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that Generation Z may be more challenging for recruitment than Millennials have been. “Gen Z is far more interested than prior generations in working to live rather than living to work,” he said. “They’re choosing to get fulfillment from experiences outside of the workforce rather than fancy titles or offices.” Steven Rothberg, president and founder of College Recruiter.

“Millennials have been the largest generation in U.S. history, and is the largest segment of the workforce, surpassing Baby Boomers,” said Steven Rothberg, president and founder of College Recruiter, a leading job search site for students and recent graduates, assisting as many as 3 million each year. “The oldest Millennials are now in their late 30s and have homes, mortgages, kids, and dogs,” Rothberg continued. “They are not stereotypical college students or recent graduates, which means that employers who think of them that way won’t be able to recruit or retain them. It’s members of Generation Z who are now in college, and employers are likely to be talking with members of Gen Z, who are at the beginning of their careers, and Millennials, who are at early to mid-career.” According to Rothberg, the single greatest issue in recruiting entry-level Generation Z employees is compensation. The days when $8 or $9 an hour was sufficient have passed, with $15 per hour as the new expectation for an entry-level job. He adds

Breanna Angle, Maschino’s.

Small Business Environment Attracts Younger Professionals Business surveys over the past several decades have documented the importance of small businesses (50 employees or fewer) to the American economy. In fact, small businesses, including specialty retailers, employ just over half of all U.S. workers. Another interesting finding from various surveys is that younger workers are attracted to smaller companies, such as Breanna Angle, 25, who joined Maschino’s in Springfield, Missouri, during 2018. “Once I finished my interviews (at Maschino’s, with assistant manager Joan Nutting and others), I found that a small, locally-owned business was very appealing to me,” Angle said. “I met some of the people I would be working closely with and they all made a great impression. It was also very intriguing to get into a field that I didn’t know anything about (fireplaces) as well as learning more about the furniture in the store, some of which is locally handmade.” While Angle’s title is receptionist, her duties are far more expansive than answering the phone and greeting customers. It’s the variety that she finds most enjoyable about working with a smaller company. “I do anything I can to help the sales and service teams stay organized and functioning smoothly day-to-day,” she said. “My job ranges from making tags for new products, to ordering inventory and converting hand-drawn plans to digital versions for our designers. “There’s such variety between days, and that ensures I never really have a boring day. On Monday I might be answering phone calls and scheduling appointments all day, and Tuesday I’m setting up the store for a book signing or an art showcase. These extremes play well with the skills that I enjoy using.”


| Specialty Retailing | Before joining Maschino’s, Angle was a personal assistant to a family in Springfield, while she earned college degrees in graphic design and business marketing. “I always saw retail jobs as something you hopped around in – work a few years in food service and realize you don’t enjoy that, move to Home Goods and get promoted to manager, move to another retail job that pays better and continue that slow cycle of moving up until you find a job you enjoy,” she said. “Now that I’ve started working at Maschino’s I definitely see room for growth here within the company. It

might be different at chain stores, but working for a local, small business there is definitely a sense of family, and your co-workers are friends who help you succeed. The people I work with have been here for anywhere from 10 to 40 years, and that wasn’t something I saw for myself until getting into this retail position.” Career expectations vary greatly among younger professionals, but Maschino’s checks all of Angle’s boxes. The business is more sophisticated and complex than she had initially expected, with a broad cross-section of co-workers encompassing installation technicians and

designers who create patio configurations and outdoor kitchens. “Career needs definitely vary depending on each person’s situations. For me, I was looking for job security and something I wouldn’t get bored doing as a career,” she said. “Having insurance benefits and a fun work environment, including my co-workers, was a major perk that ultimately helped me decide to take this particular job. I think a lot of us young professionals are looking for growth opportunities, both personal and monetarily, and an environment that satisfies our needs. Career opportunities in specialty retail are surprisingly broad.”

What Younger Professionals Want Specialty retailers looking to recruit and retain younger professionals will want to consider the following as eight essential elements:

recruits feel part of a team, especially given the long-term professionals typical of most specialty retail businesses.

• Compensation and benefits – There is no getting around the need for competitive compensation and benefits when it comes to recruiting and retaining Millennials and Generation Z. With sales positions often dependent on commissions, it’s important that younger professionals are able to see the longer term potential.

• Technology – Speaking of technology, younger professionals expect their employers to embrace technology for marketing and to make work easier and more efficient. Smart retailers will tap into the digital knowledge of younger workers to keep operations up-to-date.

• Flexible schedules – While World War II and Baby Boomer generations lived to work, younger professionals place a premium on work-life balance. Offering schedule flexibility is important to Millennials and Generation Z members, but also a challenge for retailers whose busiest times are weekends and summer seasons. • Opportunity to learn – Younger professionals are typically eager to learn, which makes mentoring and scheduled training sessions essential. Good training, including product briefing from manufacturers’ reps, can also help younger professionals with compensation growth through increased sales and exceptional performance in other roles. • Sense of belonging – The typical image of a younger professional is someone glued to a smartphone and addicted to social media. Specialty retailers, however, shouldn’t discount the need to make new

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• Growth opportunities and recognition – Turnover is perhaps the greatest challenge in bringing younger workers on board. Surveys show that Millennials are not averse to moving around, so the challenge is to create an environment that’s engaging, with continual growth opportunities and solid two-way communications. • Work environment – Work environment is one area where patio and hearth retailers may have an inside track. With beautiful merchandising, specialty retail locations can become a pleasant place to work each day. • Listen up – One of the primary reasons for recruiting younger professionals is to bring in fresh, new ideas. With decades of doing business in a certain way, it can be a challenge for specialty retail owners and managers to change, but that is what owners and managers must do if they want to realize the full potential of younger associates.


| Specialty Retailing | Recruiting Younger Workers from Within the Family While succession from one generation to another can be challenging for familyowned businesses, it remains a central theme for specialty retailers, including Stephanie and Nate Stegman. They were married in 2006, have worked with Nate’s parents, Tom and Debbie Stegman, owners of Elegant Outdoor Living, for several years and have taken on key leadership roles for the company, which has locations in Bonita Springs, Naples, and Sarasota, Florida. During summers while in college, Nate, 37, worked in the family patio and hearth business, helping manage the warehouse and learning the ins and outs of how to operate a patio furniture business successfully. He also secured an internship with Brown Jordan in Florida, which furthered his education and contacts within the casual industry. Nate also served as a member of the team that opened the exclusive May River Golf Club at the 20,000-acre Palmetto Bluff resort and residential community near Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Stephanie, 38, gained invaluable consumer marketing experience in positions with Victoria Secret’s catalog and call center. Additionally, Stephanie worked with Frontgate Luxury brands where she helped develop the holiday category and subsequently was named head buyer for the pool category. Her career has also included a position at Palmetto Bluff as assistant buyer for the golf shop and boutique. By pursuing challenging positions with other companies, Nate and Stephanie were following a career path recommended by management experts who advise that family members work for other companies before joining the family business. These experiences outside of the family business provide invaluable insights into business best practices and demonstrate that these family members have what it takes to succeed in careers beyond the security of a family-owned company. After their varied work experiences in fields as diverse as golf course management, marketing, and product development, Nate and Stephanie moved back to Ohio to join the family business, which

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relocated to Florida in 2010 with Nate as general manager and Stephanie as merchandising manager and buyer. “Running our family business means we’re wearing several different hats every day,” Stephanie said. “Whether it’s accounting, delivering, buying, cleaning the showroom, or driving out to our customer’s home to show them how to work their newly purchased fire pit – there isn’t any job that we don’t do.” Nate manages the Elegant Outdoor Living staff and coordinates product shipments and customer deliveries. He travels to the stores to connect with the

Stephanie and Nate Stegman, Elegant Outdoor Living.

sales team, arranges rep training, and ensures that all new employees are set up for success with the proper training. “One of the favorite parts of my job is selling on the floor,” Nate said. “I love to be on the floor with customers and building rapport with them. I think when it’s your business you always share in the thrill of a sale. It’s part of the success and future of your company.” Stephanie’s primary role is buying for the retail stores, ranging from furniture to accessories, along with store merchandising. She works closely with Debbie

during Chicago and Atlanta markets, selecting each collection, fabric, and accessory for the next season. “Merchandising is my favorite part of the job,” she said. “I love to come up with fresh layouts for the floor, and Debbie and I can get carried away when it comes to freshening up the floors. It gives a new energy to the stores and inspires our sales consultants. “I am also responsible for our print advertising, website, and social media as well,” Stephanie continued. “Nate and I have expanded our marketing program into digital advertising, and I work closely with each publication in providing them the best content to go into our ads.” Nate and Stephanie, Tom and Debbie, are an ideal intergenerational team. Tom and Debbie bring many years of specialty retail experience, while Nate and Stephanie have led the business into an increased emphasis on digital marketing and a focus on younger associates and younger customers. Everyone is engaged with a staff that ranges from sales professionals with many years of experience, which is Tom and Debbie’s perspective, to Millennials, which is where Nate and Stephanie have the insiders’ view. Recruitment of younger professionals is an ongoing priority for Elegant Outdoor Living, as it is with all specialty retailers. Opportunities at Elegant Outdoor Living offer competitive compensation for individuals who have a gift for selling. The Stegman’s company offers young professionals the tools, training, incentives, and flexible schedules they need to excel in careers at specialty retail, along with opportunities to provide input into merchandising, marketing, and product selection. While Elegant Outdoor Living invests in its younger associates, their success requires their commitment to learn the business and recognize that ultimate success does not come during the first day on the job. “Opportunities for younger professionals in specialty retail are abundant,” Nate said. “Some people are intimidated by the challenges of selling, but if you are good at understanding customers and know your products, you can build trust and show customers the elegant outdoor lifestyles your products can create.”


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| Manufacturing |

A

MAJOR

COMMITMENT

As you read this, Vincent Boudreau and Nadia Gilbert are watching products roll off the production line at Stûv America in Bromont, on the outskirts of Montreal.

By Richard Wright

T

hrough the years, many in the hearth industry watched as numerous overseas manufacturers attempted to crack the North American market (after all, it is the Holy Grail of Sales!). The majority have been from Europe, with others from Australia, Israel, and even Siberia. There have been some notable successes, with Jøtul (Norway) being a prime one, and a real pioneer in the industry. It now has a manufacturing plant a bit north of Portland, Maine, but decades had to pass before it made that leap. Valor (UK) is a major success

story; Ortal (Israel) has also been successful, and years ago the Kent Tile Fire from New Zealand made a splash with its removable tiles. It lasted quite a number of years in the early days of the hearth industry, then pulled out abruptly. More than a few companies, particularly from Europe, simply didn’t do their market research, and misunderstood the size, and complexity, of the North American market. Some would last two or three years, pull out, then try again five years later, when they would make the same mistake once again.

It takes a real commitment for a hearth manufacturer to establish a foothold here, and it requires many marketing dollars to make it happen. It also helps if you have people such as Vincent Boudreau and Nadia Gilbert on the ground well before the main effort is made. In 2006, the couple noticed the Stûv line in a French magazine, made a call, visited the Stûv factory in Belgium, and returned to Canada as North American importers of the Stûv line. Back then, the Stûv line was only wood-burning appliances; today, it is both wood and gas.

The Stûv on-site showroom.

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PHOTOS: ©2019 MCM PHOTO. WWW.MCMPHOTO.CA.


L to R: Vincent Boudreau and Nadia Gilbert with the Stรปv 1668 Cube.

Click here for a mobile

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 83 friendly reading experience


| Manufacturing | It was Boudreau’s task to call on retailers and convince them to carry the line – a difficult job given the number of strong manufacturers and brands in North America. Gilbert’s job was to work the showroom, and handle the office. By 2013, the pair had opened upwards of 40 dealers, mainly throughout Canada. The parent company was impressed, and sent over their main Sales and Marketing executive, Francois Thiry, to provide guidance, and help to formulate a plan for growth. The plan included setting up a factory on the outskirts of Montreal and manufacturing the Stûv product line there. There can be no better way for an overseas company to show its long-term commitment to this market than to produce product here. According to Boudreau, it will also lower the cost of the product once the North American plant is operating as efficiently as the plant in Belgium. The first products rolled off the production line on Nov. 29, 2018. “That’s a date that Nadia and I will never forget,” said Boudreau, “and I would not have been able to achieve this success alone. Stûv has been wonderful to work with.” The hydraulic positioner table for welding.

A precision table.

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Hearth & Home: We understand that

creating your factory took a bit longer than you thought. Vincent Boudreau: “Yes, initially it was to be in operation by November 2017. Things took more time than planned. We are a little bit delayed, but not that much. “We have installed a state-of-the-art, but not fully automatic, production line. It is a manual production line to start with. We like to do things progressively – not slowly, but progressively. We have a few welding stations with hydraulic tables for the comfort of the employees. “We are giving all the laser cutting and folding to local companies. Some other components are going to come from Europe. We will do all the assembly, welding, painting, final assembly, packaging, quality control, and all that. I was a professional welder. I’m very quick in finding solutions, and the recipe for success


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| Manufacturing | with this venture is the technological transfer from Stûv in Belgium to here. “To me, it is like a recipe. We are doing a copy/paste on the production line in Europe. It is not something hard to put in place. They have 38 years of knowledge over there, so even the small things that they would like to improve, we will do it right away here. We start from scratch, but with 38 years of experience and history.” Even though you have been working on this major project, you must have also been getting a lot of product out to dealers, correct? Boudreau: “Correct. Yes, and that is

the beauty of the venture with Stûv. We have a huge facility in Belgium that is able to produce everything we need here. So we are not in a hurry. We need to make a successful technology transfer. That is the key to efficiency. So even if we are wasting a few months now, the production facility in Belgium is able to guarantee the delivery of product to our network, which is the base of our success for now.” You have to keep the cash flow going, right?   Boudreau: “Yes, and we have been able to grow our success based on product quality and availability, so we have to be careful

The paint shop.

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Prepping prior to painting.

to maintain that. It is part of our success; people call and we have the product. “When I first imported the product in 2007, retailers were almost laughing at me thinking there’s no market for contemporary wood products. It’s funny because, now, we have big players copying our concepts; that is close to being flattering.” Many times, competition is a good thing. As an example, when Pacific Energy came out

Warehouse area.

with the Town & Country, it gave birth to a new line of products – clean-faced. In a brief period of time, other manufacturers created clean-faced products, and that helped the category really take off. So when you see people come in, such as Spartherm, or now we have a new one, Energy Distribution, bringing the Invicta in from France – both are wood-burning products. That will help the entire wood-burning industry.


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| Manufacturing | Boudreau: “That’s for sure. The more

you see; the more you want; the more you compare.” How well have you done in getting the right people to run the factory?

Boudreau: “We’ve been lucky, the branding we’re building is appealing to our employees. We have a young staff.

Stûv 30.

The youngest is our designer and he is 22 (I think). The engineer is 27. Our Business Development guy is 26, and our Operations manager is 49. So it’s a pretty young staff. “We’re looking for talented people so we are paying higher wages than the average for a similar position, but we want to get the right person. We are only 13 people, so it is not big yet. As

soon as we finish the production line, then I’m expecting to build the team to 18 to 22 people. “You don’t need that much skill to assemble the product. You need people who have the ability to think, mainly, and pay attention to details. That is everything. It is all about paying attention to details with our product line because it has to be perfectly assembled. That’s part of our success as well. The products are reliable and very well made.” How many different models will you be producing here in North America?   Boudreau: “We have right now four complete ranges of products. We have the Stûv 16, the Stûv 21, the Stûv 30, and the Stûv gas. The Stûv 16 is the cube stove. Then the Stûv 21 has the guillotine glass door. The Stûv 30 is the round stove with the three doors that rotate around the combustion chamber, and the Stûv gas is self-explanatory. “To begin with, we are almost doing two series at the same time, which is the Stûv 16 and the Stûv gas. The gas will become a big part of our business. It is not yet a big part, because the wood-burning units have a very good percentage, but it is where we see the most growth right now. Within the next two years, I think we will be as big in gas as in wood. “So the Stûv 16 and the Stûv gas are the first products that we will be producing here and, progressively, we will then do the Stûv 21 and the Stûv 30 – all this within a target of two years. “The most important thing was to become a local player, and this is part of the strategy. Our costs should go down as soon as we manage the local production efficiently; the control of the product will be much faster and closer, and we will be able to manage things very quickly. My goal is to install a lean production system. With that, we will be able to make a product to order within two days.” How were your sales this past year?

Stûv B-60 gas.

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Boudreau: “Very good. The last three years we have been in a curve of growth, where the high season becomes the low season in the following year. The business is


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| Manufacturing | completely different now than it was a few years ago. Everything goes faster right now. The phone rings all the time. We now have to manage the customer service department because we have so many inquiries, and we have one of our guys who is out West and in New England right now. It is so different than when I was opening up the market, because now you get into hearth shops and people know about Stûv. If you say, I’m with Stûv. I’m here to talk with you. ‘Oh yes, please have a seat.’ “Five years ago, when I would drop by a hearth shop, they were most of the time too busy to sit down with me at that moment. Things have changed dramatically for the best.”

more products coming with log storage underneath. That is not an innovation though. It’s a design. The guillotine glass door is an innovation. The Stûv 30 with the three doors is an innovation. Stûv does not follow trends. Stûv creates trends.”

That’s because you did a good job out in the field. Boudreau: “It has been hard, but, to be honest, I take nothing for granted. We are still a small player, but I believe we are putting everything in place to become a major player in North America. “The main strength of Stûv is the innovation. It is being able to develop a product that doesn’t exist, and that creates future returns. Now there are more and

to stay that way. Almost all dealers tell us they prefer dealing directly with us.”

How many dealers do you have in Canada, and in the U.S.? Boudreau: “In Canada we have about

60 dealers. In the U.S. it’s about 35 dealers. These are active dealers who buy every year.” Are you still going dealer-direct? Boudreau: “Absolutely, and it is going

Do you have reps, agents, calling on your dealers? Boudreau: “Yes. We have two inside reps

on our payroll. Maxine is covering Quebec and the Maritimes, and Corey Anthony, our business development guy, is responsible for the West Coast, and New England. Isabel is our in-house customer service agent.”

How were your sales in 2018 compared with the prior year? Boudreau: “It was a very big year for

Stûv. We had an increase of almost 40%.” Which model was your best seller in 2018? Boudreau: “The best model, the best

unique SKU that we saw, is the Stûv 30 compact, the round stove with the three doors. That has been our best seller. But we have four series of products, the 16, 21, 30 and the gas. The most successful series has been the Stûv 16. With the new zero-clearance fireplace it has been a home run.” Now, Stûv doesn’t come out with new products every year as they do in the States. Am I correct? Boudreau: “You’re right, it’s not every

year. There are additions to the range of products every year, like accessories, new cladding, new facing, or something else that improves on a product. Stûv has more new products in Europe than here because, here, we have to certify the products. Already they have the

Stûv 21 125.

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PHOTO COURTESY: ©2019 EMA PETER PHOTOGRAPHER.


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| Manufacturing |

The Stûv Studio.

Stûv 22 in Europe, and the P10 pellet stove. These products will come here in the near future. “We are already doing some testing for EPA emissions on the P10. We took a production unit that we haven’t fine-tuned and put it on the bench at Polytech Services. We got results that were amazing. It was 0.3 grams per hour. That places the P10 at the third row in the list of all pellet stoves in the U.S. market.” Have we covered all of the bases at this point? Boudreau: “We are promoting the Stûv

Studio concept to our dealers, because we see a direct consequence of success for dealers who jump into the Studio

Stûv B-95 3-sided.

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concept compared to other dealers. First, working with the dealer, we identify a space in the store where the Studio will be located. Then we – Stûv – will create the design; each design is custom-made to fit a particular store. We ask that a minimum of seven units – both wood and gas – be allocated to the space. “We have dealers who are selling 100plus units a year, and it’s because they believe in Stûv. They see the fire, the flames, the reliability of the product. It’s fun to use. It’s fun to show people. It has a Wow factor. “We’re looking for dealers who have ‘butterflies in the belly’ when they are selling Stûv. Those are the dealers that we want, and we want to help them by creating a Stûv Studio.”

Stûv 30-Compact.


The Stรปv team: Vincent Boudreau is third from left; Nadia Gilbert is third from right.

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www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 93


| Online Reviews |

3% of Internet users do not trust online reviews. Percentage of sales increase when a business displays at least five reviews.

Percentage of customers who read reviews while in-store.

270

45%

91%

88% of Internet searchers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation.

of consumers say they regularly or occasionally read online reviews.

93%

92%

82% of smartphone users use their phones to research products.

Percentage of 18-34 year olds and 35-54 year olds who always or sometimes rely on online reviews.

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74% Percentage of consumers who say positive reviews improve their trust in local brick-and-mortar stores.


ASSET OR LIABILITY? Online Reviews are important. Here’s how to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative. By Lisa Readie Mayer

Y

ou may believe word-of-mouth recommendations are your best source of new business, if so, you are right – and wrong. Traditional, friend-to-friend referrals, delivered during chance meetings in the grocery store or at the gym, are still an important way to gain new customers. But thanks to social media, word-of-mouth recommendations now occur on a much larger scale. What someone shares about your business through an online review can go far beyond a one-on-one conversation, but instead, has the potential to reach and influence thousands of potential customers. According to a study by Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center, “Online reviews have a significant and quantifiable impact on purchase decisions.” The study, “How Online Reviews Influence Sales,” reveals that when a product or business website displays at least five reviews, sales can increase by 270%. Displaying reviews is particularly important for expensive, or “riskier,” items; reviews increase their purchase likelihood by 380%. Shannon Good, partner at Good Marketing Group in Trappe, Pennsylvania, points out that, “Online reviews are an important part of the consumer purchase decision today and a critical part of the marketing mix for retailers,” she says. According to a report in Inc., 91% of consumers say they regularly or occasionally read online reviews. Findings from a 2017 survey by “eMarketer Retail” are similar. It reveals 89% of all U.S. Internet users always or sometimes use online reviews to inform purchase decisions. Younger generations consult reviews the most; 92% of 35- to 54-year-olds, and 93% of 18- to 34-yearolds, always or sometimes rely on them. People have confidence in reviews. Good says 88% of Internet searchers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation from someone they know. “And,” she adds, “people are definitely more willing to take advice from a stranger’s

review than from a salesperson’s.” A study by “eMarketer Retail” shows consumers’ comfort with online reviews is growing. In 2015, 20% of U.S. Internet users did not trust online reviews; by 2017, that figure dropped to 3%. According to Good, studies show 85% of consumers read up to 10 reviews while researching prior to a purchase decision, particularly when it is a big-ticket item. Consumers are not just researching prior to pricy purchases (for example, a kamado grill), but for small ones, too (such as which is the best natural lump charcoal to use). Online research is not just for online purchases. According to Forbes, 74% of consumers say positive reviews improve their trust in a local, brick-and-mortar business. The report indicates that for every dollar spent on the Internet after researching and reading reviews online, nearly $5 is spent in brick-and-mortar stores. It also says, 82% of smartphone users use their phones to research, and 45% use them while in-store to read reviews before making a purchase. How to Get Good Reviews Given that in-store buying decisions increasingly start with online research and reading reviews, retailers need to create a system for encouraging, monitoring, and leveraging online reviews. According to Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center, it’s important to implement a “post-purchase plan to collect reviews from verified buyers.” Reviews from verified buyers – those who can be authenticated as actually having bought the product or done business with your store – are viewed as more credible and trustworthy. Good says asking satisfied customers to post reviews about their positive experience with your store is the best way to increase the number of authentic reviews about your business, and helps to ensure that your positive reviews outnumber any negative ones. Click here for a mobile

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 95 friendly reading experience


| Online Reviews |

Eighty percent of reviews come from follow-up emails from businesses.

The Spiegel Research Center study reveals 80% of reviews originate from a business sending follow-up emails asking shoppers to review their purchase experience. To facilitate this, retailers should request customers’ email addresses during check out and when scheduling service appointments, and then send the customer an email after a purchase, installation, or service call to ask, “How did we do?” Ask them to rate their experience with your company on a scale of one to five, and to write a few thoughts explaining what warranted the rating. If they’ve written a positive review, you can email back asking them for permission to post it to your website, Facebook, and/ or other platforms. When re-posting, use only the customer’s first name and last initial, or first name and hometown to protect their privacy. If your follow-up survey reveals a dissatisfied customer, forgo the request to post the review. Rather, use the information as a teaching tool to improve your operation and educate your staff. (Read on for tips on how to respond to a negative review.) If a customer compliments you or one of your employees verbally in the store, ask if they would be willing to post that compliment online in a review. Have pre-printed cards available to hand those customers, with URL addresses listed for posting reviews to your website, or, if you prefer, to your Facebook page, Yelp, Houzz, Angie’s List, or other sites you maintain. Or, like retailer Nash Shivji, owner of The BBQ Shop in Port Coquitlam, B.C., Canada, consider taking the initiative. “At the end of a transaction with a customer, we humbly ask, ‘How was your

96 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

interaction with us?’ If they respond positively, we ask, ‘Would you mind putting in a review?’” The strategy has helped Shivji’s business increase its pool of reviews, particularly positive ones. “Previously, before we started asking, we might only get a review if someone had a problem, and then it ended up being a negative review,” he says. “Now, our large volume of good reviews is burying any negative reviews.” Get more mileage out of positive reviews by sharing them, or passages from them, on your social media accounts. This thirdparty endorsement is more convincing than any paid advertisement, and turns customers into brand ambassadors who promote your business.

consumers also use social media to proactively ask their extended circle of friends and contacts for reviews and recommendations. Facebook offers the “Looking for Recommendations” status, where posters can ask for suggestions while searching for anything from a new dentist to a great sushi restaurant to a retailer that services grills. Likewise, Instagram users can ask followers for referrals using the new “Instagram Stories” feature. Accordingly, it’s important to establish social media accounts for your business and keep them current with updated photos and information, so when people make recommendations, they can tag your business and let searchers link directly to your accounts. Another imperative: You should respond to every review – good or bad – in a timely fashion. Responding to positive

Shoppers understand nothing is perfect, and believe seeing an occasional negative review among the positive ones conveys authenticity. Good says, when reposting, it’s better not to rewrite or paraphrase the review, fix the grammar, or substitute proper industry terminology. “Posters tend to use the same layman’s terms that others will use when searching a product or business,” she says. “These laymen’s terms can help with your SEO (search engine optimization).” Add a “Testimonials” or “What People are Saying About Us” tab on your website to make it easy for searchers to read these positive reviews while perusing your site to learn about your company. Print out and frame some of your positive reviews and position them by your checkout and in displays throughout the store. There is persuasive power in testimonials about an above-and-beyond service call, a knowledgeable salesperson, a gorgeous fireplace installation, or the enjoyment of entertaining in their new outdoor kitchen. In addition to reading reviews that have already been posted online, researching

reviews is easy; simply acknowledge the customer’s post with a reply that thanks them for taking the time to share their experience, and that you appreciate their business. Your comment need not be long, but should be authentic and customized to each poster – no boilerplate, cut-and-paste replies allowed. When Bad Reviews Happen to Good People Though logic would suggest otherwise, bad reviews are not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, according to Northwestern University’s Spiegel Research Center, 82% of shoppers say they purposely read negative reviews as part of their research process. The report indicates consumers are skeptical when they see only five-star reviews for a product or business. Shoppers understand nothing is perfect, and believe seeing an occasional negative review among the positive ones conveys authenticity. The study also shows that average ratings in the 4.2- to 4.7-star


| Online Reviews | range (out of 5 stars), are more likely to lead to purchases than those in the 4.7 to 5.0 range. Of course, on the flip side, an extensive number of bad reviews can hurt business. Forbes reports businesses can lose up to 70% of sales if online researchers find four or more negative articles or reviews on the first page of Google search results. So, what do you do if someone posts a bad review? In the event of a negative review, it’s important to address it quickly to mitigate any potential damage to your reputation. Your reply is important because it shows you are responsive and care about your customers and their satisfaction. It also

care. Properly handled, a negative review can do as much as a positive review to gain a prospective customer’s trust – and business. “Simply saying ‘thank you for taking the time to make us aware of the situation,’ goes a long way when responding to a negative review,” says Good. If the situation that generated the poor review can be satisfactorily resolved, ask the customer if they would consider updating their review. If not, at least you can use it as a teaching tool with your staff to see how your company might communicate better, adjust procedures, or improve customer interactions to avoid repeating the problem in the future.

Ratings in the 4.2 to 4.7 range are more likely to lead to purchases.

allows third-party researchers to see both sides of the issue and judge for themselves. When replying, Good suggests first acknowledging to the customer that you are sorry he or she is unhappy, that you appreciate the input, and will investigate further. If appropriate, explain why the situation happened and what you will do to rectify it. However, if the customer is irate and the review is confrontational or heated, refrain from getting into a blowby-blow rehash for the world to see online. It’s better to calmly reply that you would like to discuss the situation with the reviewer personally by phone or private email. When possible, Good says it can also be a smart idea to have a neutral party read your reply before posting, to ensure it is accurate and on-message, rather than reactionary and defensive. Many times the problem that leads to a bad review is a result of miscommunication. According to Good, “Your response allows online searchers to read between the lines and judge for themselves.” How you respond when things go wrong can generate good will and show future customers you

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You or a staff member should take ownership of this responsibility and tend to it regularly and consistently. If you are unaware of current reviews that may exist about your company, search the business name on Google and see what comes up. Good suggests setting up monitoring alerts so, in the future, when someone posts a review about your business or uses your company name in a blog, you will receive notification. Free alert services include Google Alerts, TweetDeck, Hootsuite, and FreeReviewMonitoring.com. If no one on your team has time to devote to this effort, you may want to consider hiring a reputation management company. These experts can help you increase the number of positive reviews to improve your online exposure, protect your business against negative attacks online, or restore your company’s reputation in the wake of multiple negative reviews. Good says, just as consumers will be reading reviews before doing business with you, you should read reviews before hiring any reputation management expert. Of course, whether your business’ online reputation is managed internally or externally by the savviest strategist,

The bottom line, according to Forbes: “We live in a world where your online reputation can be your strongest asset or your biggest liability.” How to Know What People Are Saying About You Experts say it is vital to vigilantly protect your online brand by monitoring all platforms where customers might leave a review. Besides your website and social media profiles, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, you’ll want to keep tabs on what customers may have posted about your business on search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo), directories (Google Places, Yahoo Local, Superpages.com), review sites (Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, Houzz, Yelp), local blogs, or any other website or platform on which your business has a profile.

the best way to ensure good reviews is to provide good customer experiences and positive customer interactions. Therefore, before you start asking for reviews or sharing them, you might want to take an honest, unbiased look at your operation to assess any pain points and clean them up, first. You need to be sure you have satisfied customers who are willing to share their positive opinions and go on record recommending your business to others, otherwise the public may hear things you wish they hadn’t. The bottom line, according to Forbes: “We live in a world where your online reputation can be your strongest asset or your biggest liability.”


NEXT

NOW!

outdoor & casual

APRIL

6-10

Fermob

Padma’s Plantation

Pelican Reef

#DesignOnHPMkt

Kingsley Bate

IMCHighPointMarket.com

The heart of the High Point Market


| 2019 New Products |

PLANIKA USA

2019

New Products at the HPBExpo

With multiple custom options, the 42-inch Bay Direct-Vent fireplace is offered in a choice of two designs: A traditional burner or a modern fire line of any length. The fireplace also has zero-clearance technology. Phone: (201) 933-7787 Website: www.planikausa.com Booth: 3235 Outdoor Booth: 4113

Twin Eagles With solid performance and convenience, the Wood Fired Pellet Grill & Smoker has accurate and versatile temperatures ranging from 140 to 725 degrees. The grill and smoker can bake, sear, smoke, and cook rotisserie style at the push of a button. Phone: (800) 789-2206 Website: www.twineaglesgrills.com Booth: 1223

Green Mountain Grills The Daniel Boone Prime 12V grill has solid temperature control, pellet fuel economy, and fast start ups. The grill features micro-adjustability in the variable-speed fan and auger motor for consistent grill temperatures. Grill and pellet windows allow the chef to keep an eye on the food and fuel supply. Phone: (800) 603-3398 Website: www.greenmountaingrills.com Outdoor Booth: 4023

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Pacific Energy The Birchwood log burner has smooth, round logs in pale beige that are finely detailed with the tree’s signature subtle red and gray markings. Phone: (888) 223-0088 Website: www.townandcountryfireplaces.com Booth: 1404


Valor/Miles Industries Combining a grand presence with a slim design, the H3 has a radiant fire that invites guests to gather. Features include three fuel beds, seven liners, and four fronts. The fireplace is part of the Horizon family. Phone: (800) 984-2567 Website: www.valorfireplaces.com Booth: 2441

Big Green Egg The EGGspander easily configures for multi-tier and multi-zone, direct and indirect cooking, saving time and space for the barbecue chef who is cooking several different foods at once or preparing meals for a crowd. The rack also flips over for direct “Cowboy Style” steaks. Phone: (770) 938-9394 Website: www.biggreenegg.com Booth: 1035

Kuma Stoves Combining hybrid technology with classic features, Cambridge is a low emission wood stove with clean lines. The stove’s smoke-free coating draws attention to the fire and wood storage below. Phone: (888) 714-5294 Website: www.kumastoves.com Booth: 3053

Adrenaline Barbecue Company For true two-zone cooking, the Slow ‘N Sear Deluxe Kamado Grill has enhanced kamado performance and comes as an all-inclusive premium package for the barbecue chef.

SBI - Stove Builder International

With a look reminiscent of cast-iron appliances, the Harmony 2.3 has emissions as low as 1.54 g/h. The wood stove is non-catalytic with a 2.4 cu. ft. firebox and an output of 75,000 Btus. Phone: (877) 356-6663 Website: www.sbi-international.com/en/ Booth: 1913

Phone: (704) 425-1023 Website: www.abcbarbecue.com Booth: 512

Empire Comfort Systems Taking center stage in the home, the 50-inch Direct-Vent Fireplace has TruFlame Technology with realistic flames. Phone: (618) 233-7420 Website: www.empirecomfort.com Booth: 2611

Click here for a mobile

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 101 friendly reading experience


| 2019 New Products |

Stรปv America The Stรปv 21-Clad is a family of turnkey fireplaces featuring open and closed fire, efficient heat, and a clean and edgy design. The fireplaces do not need to be built into a wall; with steel casing they are easy to install as a stove and have a convection system and integrated wood storage. Choose from a variety of sizes and colors. Phone: (866) 487-7888 Website: www.stuvamerica.com Booth: 2845

Telescope Casual Furniture The Larssen Cushion Collection has a modern design, superior comfort, and matches the 36 x 54-inch MGP Top Chat Height Fire Table. Frames are made of tubular aluminum; the collection includes a sofa, loveseat, swivel rocker, and arm chair. Phone: (800) 642-4645 Website: www.telescopecasual.com Booth: 1815

Coyote Outdoor Living The portable gas grill is compact and good for boaters, tailgaters, road trip enthusiasts, and those with small outdoor spaces. The 20,000 Btu grill is made of stainless steel, and can be used with a 20 lb. propane or small disposable tank.

Modern Home Products

Phone: (855) 520-1559 Website: www.coyoteoutdoor.com Booth: 625

Bull Outdoor Products

The Dragon Fire Grill is built to withstand outdoor conditions and is made of commercial grade 304 stainless steel on the interior and exterior. The durable grill has a comprehensive lifetime warranty.

Grill head covers come in two sizes to fit most 30- and 38-in. grill heads. Made of durable 300D black polyester with UV protection, covers have a dual handle design and elastic control panel Fit Zone and will withstand the elements.

Phone: (888) 647-4745 Website: www.mhpgrills.com Booth: 1259

Phone: (800) 521-2855 Website: www.bullbbq.com Booth: 1115

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OUTDOOR. ELEVATED.

C A R ME L C o l l e c t i o n

Designed and crafted exclusively for specialty retailers, Agio’s new Apricity brand delivers the highest quality and most trendsetting looks in the industry. Are you prepared to take your product to the next level?

www.apricityoutdoor.com


| 2019 New Products |

Amantii Electric Fireplaces The SYM-60-XT is extra tall at a height of 18 inches and a depth of 12 inches. Ambient canopy lighting comes in a choice of 13 colors. The Fire & Ice flame has a real-fire flame pattern. The fireplace also is available in seven standard widths from 34 to 100 inches. Allowing for 2 x 4 wall installations, the series also comes in 6-inch depths. Phone: (877) 850-9458 Website: www.amantii.com Booth: 2834

Caframo Limited The next generation of Ecofans (models 8201 and 8202) have a contemporary design and superior airflow. Fans do not need household energy or batteries and are whisper quiet. Phone: (800) 567-3556 Website: www.ecofan.com Booth: 1511

SĂ“LAS Classic, yet offering contemporary elements, the Thirty8 built-in, direct-vent gas fireplace has a variety of burner, media and liner panel options for homeowners desiring a current, yet traditionalstyle fireplace. Phone: (603) 298-5169 Website: www.solasfires.com Booth: 3117

Acadia Hearth Grill Guardian Ceramic Coatings protects the grill with a nano ceramic coating that will last up to two years. The rich, deep look resists dirt and fingerprints and has additional scratch-proof protection. Phone: (714) 348-2796 Website: www.grillguardian.com Booth: 441

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The AH6113LFP linear fireplace has modern and traditional options and comes in two sizes. Choose from wood logs or a contemporary look with glass or rocks. Options can be customized to match the homeowner’s preference and style. Phone: (833) 222-3421 Website: www.acadiahearth.com Booth: 2311


PELLET G N I K O S CO ENUINE JIM BEAM BOURBON G M O BAR E FR REL M AD S

BRING HOME OUTSIDE. HPBExpo Booth #1545

THE OUTDOOR GREATROOM COMPANY

Stocked Product, No Minimum Orders • • New Discount Program • • Design-Forward, Fire-Focused MN Manufacturer • • Free catalog: outdoorrooms.com/hearth-home • www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 105


| 2019 New Products |

Blaze King The Princess Pl29 wood fireplace insert has a tapered flue and 2.54 cu. ft. firebox. The average heating time is up to 16 hours. The burner system allows for a savings of up to 33% on wood usage due to controlled even heat output. Phone: (800) 456-8818 Website: www.blazeking.com Booth: 3045

EcoSmart Fire Peak Season The Lancaster Swivel Chair is wide for comfortable deep seating with a plush seat, back and arm cushions that attach to the chair, and a ball bearing swivel design. Cushions are constructed with Sunbrella fabric, and wick excess moisture to keep them dry and clean.

The Flex 32 needs no chimney, venting, or external vent cap and operates during a power outage. The zero-clearance fireplace requires no hole in the envelope of the building, eliminating the potential for future water leaks. Phone: (888) 611-7573 Website: www.ecosmartfire.com Booth: 1351

Phone: (866) 563-1732 Website: www.peakseasoninc.com Booth: 935

Renaissance Fireplaces by ICC-RSF With a clean design and moderate size, the Uptown fireplace has a hidden guillotine door system and a built-in retractable screen for easy loading and operation. Phone: (450) 565-6336 Website: www.icc-rsf.com Booth: 1705 Outdoor Booth: 4238

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Breckwell The SWC21R is a powerhouse of a wood stove in a stunning form. This gorgeous unit packs a 1.5 cu. ft. firebox and a blower for even heat distribution. Porcelain finishes are available in a variety of different colors. Phone: (833) 222-3421 Website: www.breckwell.com Booth: 2311


www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 107


| 2019 New Products |

Barry’s Restore It All The BBQ Grill Rescue Kit permanently removes blemishes, abrasions, stains, scratches, hearth scorch marks, and rust from non-coated brushed and satin stainless steel. Barbecue chefs can clean the grill’s interior to get rid of burnt-on carbon grease and film, leaving a bright stainless finish. Phone: (888) 889-9876 Website: www.barrysrestoreitall.com Booth: 958

Mendota Hearth Products The direct-vent FullView 42 firebox creates a simple, uninterrupted view of the fire. Features include customization in a choice of fronts, doors, andirons, and interior linings, as well as ample viewing areas and output of up to 44,000 Btus.

RSF Woodburning Fireplaces by ICC-RSF The Keystone’s interchangeable keystone facing is offered as a semi-clean look or full faceplate. The fireplace has modern sophistication and design choices to fit any mid-sized space. Phone: (450) 565-6336 Website: www.icc-rsf.com Booth: 1705 Outdoor Booth: 4238

Phone: (800) 553-5422 Website: www.mendotahearth.com Booth: 2334

The Outdoor Plus Featuring a distinct shape and materials, the Big Sur fire pit has an ultra-realistic, durable GFRC wood finish that resists a variety of outdoor elements. The undulating shape is sure to catch the eye of guests. Phone: (909) 460-5579 Website: www.theoutdoorplus.com Booth: 1149

Vision/ICON Grills The Flavor Ring Caddy is made of stainless steel and can be used with wood chips, wood chunks, sauces, marinades, and water/beer/ onion soup seasoning to add extra moisture and flavor to food. The ring attaches to the fire bowl with handles. Phone: (877) 917-4273 Website: www.visiongrills.com Booth: 1343

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2019

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 109


| 2019 New Products |

Glen Dimplex Americas

Ol’ Hick Cooking Pellets by Energex Partnering with a well-known bourbon, Jim Beam Bourbon Barrel Cooking Pellets have a smooth, smoky flavor. The pellets are made from genuine Jim Beam Bourbon Barrels. Phone: (717) 436-2400 Website: www.olhick.com Outdoor Booth: 4223

Available in gas and electric versions, Faber’s Matrix and eMatrix fireplaces have seamless designs in a range of configurations. Homeowners can choose from one-, two-, or three-sided views.

SMOBOT by IOT Controls Attaching to the top vent of most Kamado-style smokers, SMOBOT is a Wi-Fi enabled robotic damper system. The product monitors the smoker and adjusts the airflow required to maintain the chosen temperature.

Phone: (800) 346-7539 Website: www.glendimplexamericas.com Booth: 1234

Phone: (727) 314-3204 Website: www.smobot.com Booth: 759

Louisiana Grills by Dansons Fueled by all-natural hardwood pellets, the LG860C has 860 sq. inches of cooking space. The digital control center cooks food evenly. The grill has a large, hidden hopper, extensive storage space, and a prominent power cycle. Phone: (877) 303-3134 Website: www.louisiana-grills.com Booth: 304

Napoleon Products The NEFB50H-3SV and NEFB60H-3SV Trivista Series three-sided electric fireplaces come in 50- and 60-inch lengths. Both include a log set or acrylic crystals, with end panels to allow the three-sided fireplace to be installed as two-sided or one-sided, depending on installation location. Multiple color settings for the flames, ember bed, and top lights offer ultimate variability. Phone: (866) 820-8686 Website: www.napoleon.com Booth: 2718

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Visit us at HPBExpo Booth 3118

Home, sweet home, just got sweeter. Together Acadia Hearth and Breckwell make it easy to add elegance and white–hot style to any home.

Acadia AH6113LFP

Old Hickory log, 5� charcoal sage front, black wave liner

Breckwell SP2047 Traverse

Supplying the hearth and patio industry with high quality custom outdoor dividers, indoor and outdoor recessed fireplace screens, replacement firescreens, Airculator heat exchangers, and adjustable firescreen hangers for over 30 years. 800.999.2645 971.224.2188 www.cascade-homedecor.com

Non-electric, gravity fed pellet stove

Dealers and Distributors wanted. Visit us at HPBA Booth #2311.

acadiahearth.com sales@acadiahearth.com

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 111


| New Exhibitors at the HPBExpo |

POWER YOUR GRILL WITH SLOW ‘N SEAR® Slow ‘N Sear turns a “basic” charcoal kettle into a more versatile grill and smoker. By creating a simple and efficient two-zone cooking environment, any backyard cook can master a wide range of cooking styles from low ‘n slow barbecue to restaurant-quality searing with ease.

Or harness the power of Slow ‘N Sear to deliver two-zone cooking in our new premium ceramic kamado. Thought you knew all that a kamado could do? Think again and visit us to learn more!

Adrenaline Barbecue Company info@abcbarbecue.com (704) 425-1023 www.abcbarbecue.com VISIT OUR BOOTH #512

Slow ‘N Sear.

112 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

Slow ‘N Sear Deluxe Kamado.


Stainless GOT scratches? Scratch B Gone to the rescue! Recommended by leading manufacturers Scratch B Gone, is the only tried and true stainless-steel scratch removal product available today. Barry’s Restore It All removes abrasions, scuffs, scratches, rust, chemical stains, discoloration from non-coated stainlesssteel surfaces including barbecue grills, ranges, dishwashers, kitchen sinks, refrigerators, range hoods, and more.

Barry’s barbecue grill rescue product not only removes scratches from your stainless steel but it also cleans your grill’s interior of that Ugly Burnt-on Carbon Grease leaving bright stainless behind. Barry’s offers rescue kits for copper, bronze, ceramic glass cooktops, maintenance products for stainless steel, copper, bronze, granite grill and grate degreaser and hard water scale rescue.

Barry’s Restore It All jack@barrysrestoreitall (502) 209-9278 www.barrysrestoreitall.com VISIT OUR BOOTH #958

Grill BEFORE Scratch B Gone.

Grill AFTER Scratch B Gone.

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 113


| New Exhibitors at the HPBExpo |

Introducing the ALL NEW Cajun Preaux Built-in Grill & Cart The Cajun Preaux Built-in Grill ($1,799 MAP) was designed with the professional BBQ’er in mind: ALL 16 GA 304 stainless steel featuring dual 12 GA coal trays and almost 750 inches of cooking area. Dual exhaust and combustion air vents, up front coal tray controls, and electropolished SS cooking grids round out this beautiful grill. Function precedes beauty in the Cajun Preaux Cart ($1,199 MAP) with dual drawers, dual folding shelves, commercial casters, and air cooled designed cart. The Cajun Grill gregg@cajungrill.com (337) 233-6808 www.cajungrill.com VISIT OUR BOOTH #327

114 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com


Quality Poly Lumber Patio Furniture at an Affordable Price! ECCB Outdoor is a manufacturer of affordable poly lumber Adirondack Chairs and other outdoor patio furniture. Located in Western Pennsylvania, all of our poly lumber furniture is built by Amish craftsmen using state-of-the-art equipment and poly that is made from 95% recycled materials.

In addition to Adirondack furniture, we also manufacture a large variety of poly lumber patio dining sets, rockers, gliders, and benches. We stock a large inventory and ship to all 48 lower states in the US, so we are set up to work with e-commerce brands and brick-and-mortar retailers of all sizes.

ECCB Outdoor web@eccboutdoor.com (800) 687-5086 www.eccboutdoor.com VISIT OUR BOOTH #959

Outer Banks Deluxe Adirondack Chair

19 Stock Colors Retail Price Starting at

$189.99

Creek Side

Adirondack Chair

13 Stock Colors Retail Price Starting at

$169.99

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 115


| New Exhibitors at the HPBExpo |

The revolutionary Nano Ceramic coating for the BBQ industry Grill Guardian will make your outdoor appliances look better than ever. With one coating you can enjoy up to 2 years of benefits. Our extremely hydrophobic Nano Ceramic coating system resists fingerprints, water, dirt, dust, oils, rust and bird droppings. Grill Guardian also offers additional scratch protection and can be reapplied for increased performance. Join the Grill Guardian revolution today! Grill Guardian mel@grillguardian.com (714) 348-2796 www.grillguardian.com VISIT OUR BOOTH #441

The results speak for themselves. The right side of this grill was coated with Grill Guardian. Then we poured a bottle filled with mud, dirt, sand and salt over the entire grill but the Grill Guardian side stayed clean.

116 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com


Rockwood Charcoal smokes the competition, year after year. There’s a reason we’ve been ranked number one with consumers for six years running. Our all-natural lump charcoal, made exclusively from Missouri hardwoods, is perfectly aged, kilned and cooled to burn hotter and longer, with less smoke and ash for the best fire possible, every time. Visit us at Booth #713 and see firsthand what separates Rockwood Charcoal from the competition. Rockwood Charcoal The Saint Louis Charcoal Company, LLC info@stlcharcoal.com (314) 227-1386 RockwoodCharcoal.com VISIT OUR BOOTH #713

FREE FROM CHEMICALS, FILLERS, BINDERS AND OTHER IMPURITIES.

Made from a 100% Missouri hardwood blend -- predominately Oak & Hickory; with Pecan, Sugar Maple, and Cherry.

Rockwood all-natural lump charcoal is the perfect choice for charcoal grills, smokers and kamados.

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 117


| New Exhibitors at the HPBExpo |

Quit babysitting your smoker! Let SMOBOT take control! SMOBOT is a patented Wi-Fi enabled robotic damper system that attaches to the top vent of most Kamado style smokers like those from Big Green Egg, Kamado Joe, Vision and Primo Ceramic Grills. SMOBOT monitors the smoker and adjusts the airflow required to maintain the chosen temperature inside the smoker. Airflow is controlled by the natural draw through the top damper, which makes installation easy and power consumption low, enabling battery operation. The damper replaces the factory daisy wheel, or can be attached via one of our available adapter caps. Multiple Food probes, mobile apps, cloud monitoring and alarms ensure a successful cook. SMOBOT info@smobot.com (727) 314-3204 www.smobot.com VISIT OUR BOOTH #759

Complete SMOBOT Kit.

118 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

SMOBOT Damper installed on a ceramic grill.


BRIDGE BRIDGE Over Years of of Experience in in Over 3030Years Experience Fireplace Design and Manufacturing Fireplace Design and Manufacturing Woodbridge Fireplace proudly presents its extensive collection of indoor and outdoor gas fireplaces,

inserts, log sets, and firepits. All of our productsits areextensive manufactured to the highest industryand standards. Woodbridge Fireplace proudly presents collection of indoor outdoor gas Tony James, the founder of the company, will be in Dallas to greet you at the booth. We would like fireplaces, inserts, log sets, and fire pits. All of our products are manufactured to the highest industry to invite you to review our product line and become a Woodbridge Fireplace dealer. standards. Tony James, the founder of the company, will be in Dallas to greet you at the booth. We would like to invite you to review our product line and become a Woodbridge Fireplace dealer. Woodbridge Fireplace Inc. sales@woodbridgedealer.com Woodbridge Fireplace (844) 636-3473 sales@woodbridgedealer.com www.woodbridgedealer.com

(844) 636-3473 VISIT OUR BOOTH #3311 www.woodbridgedealer.com

VISIT OUR BOOTH #3311

NEWPORT, Clean Face gas fireplace with 60 inches wide viewing area.

NEWPORT, Clean Face gas fireplace with 60-inches wide viewing area.

ALGONQUIN, Outdoor gas fireplace with 36-in. by 32-in. viewing area.

ALGONQUIN, Outdoor gas fireplace with 36- by 32-inch viewing area.

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 119


| Business Climate |

JANUARY SALES

In early February, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare January 2019 sales to January 2018. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 188 useable returns.

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

14%

14%

26%

HEARTH

19%

BARBECUE

PATIO

51%

11%

27%

SPAS

39%

50%

23% 54%

72% Retailers Up

Retailers No Change

Retailers Down

Slightly more than half (51%) of Hearth retailers were UP in January, while 39% of Spa retailers were UP, 27% of Barbecue retailers, and only 14% of Patio retailers.

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

BARBECUE

HEARTH 19% 11% 10% 8% 9% 10%

2%

8% 10%

9%

3%

4% 8% 5% 1% 4% 3% 0% 1%

4% 4% -3%

1/18 2/18 3/18 4/18 5/18 6/18 7/18 8/18 9/18 10/18 11/18 12/18 1/19

PATIO

1/18 2/18 3/18 4/18 5/18 6/18 7/18 8/18 9/18 10/18 11/18 12/18 1/19

SPAS 27%

25% 8% 5%

1% 0% 0% -2%

16%

7% 2% 2% 5% 5%

2% 2% 2% 0%

5%

12% 13% 2%

21% 5% 5% 7%

9% 9%

4%

-6% 1/18 2/18 3/18 4/18 5/18 6/18 7/18 8/18 9/18 10/18 11/18 12/18 1/19

1/18 2/18 3/18 4/18 5/18 6/18 7/18 8/18 9/18 10/18 11/18 12/18 1/19

In January, both Hearth and Spa retailers posted a 4% increase over the same period in the previous year, while sales were flat for Patio and Barbecue retailers.

120 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com


RETAILER COMMENTS NORTHEAST Connecticut: (Hearth) “Finished up the year strong, and January sales are still strong. Even across the board – gas, wood, and pellet. Hopefully this trend will continue.” New Jersey: (Hearth, BBQ) “The cold

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 2019 77

111 110

111 98

102

spell is helping sales.”

96 111

“The contents of our five-decades-old brick-n-mortar shall be changing my friends! No more fireplace tools, hearth rugs, kettles, or any electric, wood, gas, or pellet appliance that is sold on Amazon/Wayfair/ Walmart, etc.” — New York

115 110

77 111 90 98 88

96

102 86

77

90

115

86

88 Record Coldest

Much Below Average

61

78

58 50

88 91 77 89 60 67 85 57 80 81 71 78 85 79 82 74 61 9058 88 89 62 87 78 94 50 82 88 74 79 88 72 1 = Coldest 78 6777 73 91 89 60 85 80 81 125 = Warmest 81 71 79 82 74 85 90 79 89 94 82 79 88 1 = Coldest 78 77 National Climatic Data Center/NESDIS/NOAA 72

81Near

Below Average

Average

Record Coldest

Much Below Average

114

Below Average

108

Near Average

73

71 Above

Average

74

ST

ST

125 = Warmest Much Record Above Average Warmest

79

Above Average

Much Above Average

85

Record Warmest

53

53 69

STATEWIDE AVERAGE 74 TEMPERATURE 89 57 RANKS 76 104 92 November 2018 January 2019 82 94 59 91 114 113 104

69 108 76 94 91

91

90 75

69

76

113

75

91

ST

90 60 93 65 83 53 57 60 91 53 73 76 69 70 82 85 70 51 74 9057 89 75 76 92 82 56 86 59 58 90 86 78 60 93 68 61 65 1 = Coldest 83 Warmest 57 60 73 76 124 = 91 60 60 70 82 70 51 101 90 75 86 56 58 86 68 61 1 = Coldest 78

90

Record Coldest

Much Below Average

Below Average

Record Coldest

Much Below Average

Below Average

S

National Climatic Data Center/NESDIS/NOAA 124 = Warmest

60

Near Average

New York: (Hearth, Spas) “The contents

of our five-decades-old brick-n-mortar shall be changing my friends! No more fireplace tools, hearth rugs, kettles, or any electric, wood, gas, or pellet appliance that is sold on Amazon/Wayfair/Walmart, etc.”

62

57 71 88 87

This year 21 states recorded Above Average to Much Above Average temperatures, eight National Climatic Data Center/NESDIS/NOAA more than a year ago, but down from 39 in January 2017.

New York: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Hearth

business is awesome! Mostly all high-end product being sold with full installations and trim. Service business is also very brisk. We have raised all of our prices for in-home service. People want it and are very willing to pay top dollar for good professional service.”

78

60 Above

Average

Much 101 Above Average

Record Warmest

STA

National Climatic Data Center/NESDIS/NOAA

120

115

Near Average

Above Average

Much Above Average

Record Warmest 111

100 107

85

For the three-month period from November through January, 18 states experienced Above 78 109 90 77 Average123 or Much Above Average (California and Washington) temperatures. 107 71

116

118 120 122 123

94

98

70 108 115

93

85 53 71

112 105 111 68 54 110 100 58 for 84 a mobile Click here 107 40 89 53 | MARCH 2019 friendly reading 78www.hearthandhome.com 9090experience 109 42 77 107 76

57

29

STA

84

37

2

| 121

85


= Coldest = Warmest

| Business Climate |

SDIS/NOAA

Record Warmest

WEATHER REPORT

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

STATEWIDE PRECIPITATION RANKS STATEWIDE PRECIPITATION RANKS January 2019 January 2019

Virginia: (Hearth, BBQ) “The media is

111

100 107 109 107 112 105 110 89

113

29 37

39 38

84

45 92

23 92

83

94

100 99

61

61

115

90

87

43

85

= Coldest = Warmest

70

93

86

104 97

80 80

100 78

88 82

74

103 73 79 73

81

118 115 109 118 112 98 85 79

1 = Driest 125 = Wettest

98

National Climatic Data Center/NESDIS/NOAA

Record Driest

Much Below Average

Below Average

Near Average

Above Average

Much Above Average

Record Wettest

In January, five states experienced precipitation that was Much Above Average (New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine).

“We are actively seeking new products that (1) are not sold online, and (2) require man-power (us) to deliver/install/set up. If you rep products that are also selling online, do not call on our business! Never. “Did you know that you can buy auger motors, snap disks, and blowers on Amazon? A big thank you to the hearth manufacturers and vendors who do not supply Amazon, and therefore support our business. That decision absolutely does not go unnoticed!”

SOUTH

New York: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Stoves,

come to a halt with sales in January, but not this year.”

fireplaces, and inserts are strong – gas is up, pellet up slightly, and wood down slightly. Pellet sales last year and this year so far are up tremendously from previous years.” Pennsylvania: (Hearth) “Our fiscal year

is July 1 and we are up 29%. Everything is selling well.”

122 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

throwing fear into everything!”

MIDWEST Illinois: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “One of our grill lines is having a price increase on February 7, so we sold quite a few of their grills, which is not normal for January.” Michigan: (Spas) “Flat-out-horrible

67

/NOAA

rd est

being down for the month of January was from the government shutdown here in the DC area. The other 10% was weather being up and down, warm/cold then cold/ warm. Mother Nature isn’t feeling well or something? LOL.”

Arkansas: (Hearth) “Not a bad retail

month considering the extremely cold weather that slowed down floor traffic and installations, which put our sales under 2018. We will make it up in February.” Florida: (Patio) “We were closed for the

first two weeks of January due to moving. Busier than usual; customers wanted to see the new store! Lots more square footage to see the furniture and accessories.” Louisiana: (Hearth, BBQ) “We usually

Mississippi: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ)

“Overall this is the best January we have had on record. Last winter started out much colder and we sold more logs last winter. Other than that things are great.” Virginia: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Half of

month all across the board. Glad January is over!”

“We were down for two weeks due to 18 inches of snow and severe cold from the polar vortex. This delay has backlogged us into February, and currently we have fought a week of ice, extreme cold and looking at another week of possible icy conditions.” — Missouri

Missouri: (Hearth, BBQ) “Cold weather

and snow have made for a great month in the hearth business. Too many times the weather is mild and sales fall flat. This arctic cold will be remembered into next year. Barbecue sales were very low for the same reason that hearth business was good. Very few brave people bought grills or cooked outside.”


“Our January sales have more than doubled. We have been installing a lot of fireplaces and stoves.” — Wisconsin

Missouri: (Hearth, BBQ) “We were down

for two weeks due to 18 inches of snow and severe cold from the polar vortex. This delay has backlogged us into February, and currently we have fought a week of ice, extreme cold and looking at another week of possible icy conditions. “We need a thawing period so we can resume rooftop work and complete many fireplace installs in the holding pattern. Overall, though, I predict that sales will stagnate and be on course for 2018 numbers due to an over-saturation of competition in the past year, and the housing sector slowing for new builds in the local market.” Wisconsin: (Hearth) “Our January sales

have more than doubled. We have been installing a lot of fireplaces and stoves.”

CONSUMER CONFIDENCE

138.4 127.7

136.4 126.6 120.2

The Consumer Confidence Index decreased in January, following a

100

decline in December. The Index now stands at 120.2 (1985=100), down

90

from 126.6 in December. “The Present Situation Index was virtually unchanged,” said Lynn Franco, senior director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board, “suggesting economic conditions remain favorable. Expectations, however, declined sharply as financial market volatility and the government shutdown appear to have impacted consumers. “Shock events such as government shutdowns (i.e. 2013) tend to have sharp, but temporary, impacts on consumer confidence. Thus, it appears that this month’s decline is more the result of a temporary shock than a precursor to a significant slowdown in the coming months.”

Year 6 Mo. Nov Dec Jan Ago Ago 2018 2018 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.

Wisconsin: (Hearth, BBQ) “Sales are

down on paper, however, a number of jobs will not be completed and billed until February. Strong month, slowed by the extreme weather, we are scheduled through April for installations now. Whew!” Wisconsin: (Patio, BBQ, Spas) “Mild

weather at the beginning of the month allowed people to still consider a hot tub. Extreme cold weather at the end of the month put a halt to even looking.” Wisconsin: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Cold,

lots of snow, more cold – too cold to work outside, too cold to work inside! Nice to have a warm fire to sit in front of!” WEST California: (Hearth, BBQ) “Sales and

installs still strong – five week lead time to install.”

California: (Hearth, Spas) “We got our

CANADA

normal slowing for Christmas/New Year’s but the general public is back to business. Our cold, rainy weather is back and should be steady now through February.”

British Columbia: (Hearth, BBQ) “We

Oregon: (Hearth) “January was super

Ontario: (Patio) “Dead; we’re in Canada.”

slow for us, the slowest in years. Weather isn’t helping, but it’s an advantage because it’s making us analyze what we need to maximize the traffic we are getting.”

have sold a lot more chimneys than expected along with wood stoves, but January has slowed down somewhat to an average winter month.”

Ontario: (Hearth, Patio BBQ) “Polar vor-

tex slowed traffic in the store, but we kept pace with last year.”

Oregon: (Hearth, BBQ) “The sales

Ontario: (Hearth, BBQ) “I am not sure

Washington: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ,

Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “After a

difference amounts to 1-2 units, no great concern.” Spas) “Warm December. Colder in January.”

why, when we have had such a cold winter, but our sales have been down by quite a lot!” dismal 2018 January, it’s nice to be back to normal sales again.”

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 123


$8,000

40%

$7,000

30% | Business Climate |

$6,000

21.2%

20% 14.4% STOCK WATCH 10% 1.7% COMPANY – EXCHANGE 0%

$5,000 $4,000 WEEK ENDING $3,000

52 WEEK

SYMBOL

HIGH

LOW

-2.0% Standard & Poor’s 500 (a) S&P 2,930.75 2,351.10 -10% HNI Corporation (b) HNI 45.40 32.55 S&P HNI POOL RH W Pool Corporation (c) POOL 175.87 123.88 As of 01-Feb-2019 Restoration Hardware (b) RH 164.49 74.50 Wayfair (b) W 151.20 60.53 NOTES:

% CHANGE

$2,0001-Feb-19 4-Jan-19

4 WEEK

$1,0002,706.53 2,531.94

6.9% -4.7% 3.3% -10.2% 1.6% POOL -3.5% 26-Jan-2018 13.4% -0.8% 22.1% -1.5%

37.08 $0 38.32 HNI 149.28 151.62 117.84 133.64 90.06 109.99

26 WEEK

52 WEEK

MARKET CAPITALIZATION ($000,000)

-2.0% 1.7% $1,710.00 RH W 14.4% $6,320.00 1-Feb-2019 45.2% $3,000.00 21.2% $10,790.00

(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

52-WEEK STOCK PRICE CHANGE 50%

MARKET CAPITALIZATIONS $11,000 $10,000 $9,000 $8,000 $7,000 $6,000 $5,000 $4,000 $3,000 $2,000 $1,000 $0

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www.hearthandhome.com/directory To inquire about your company listing or to learn how to get a listing, please email buyersguide@hearthandhome.com

124 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com


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www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 125


| Classifieds | Supplier

Classified Advertising

1 Column x 1 Inch Minimum 1 inch minimum Price per column inch = $175

Marketing Manager

For Sale For Sale Fireplace shop in North Dallas area. Same location for 37 years. For info call: 972-385-9437 or e-mail ralphcanaan@yahoo.com.

Help Wanted

Fireplace Fronts Inc., Mantles since 1994 Largest selection of styles. Multiple price points. Custom sizes. Short lead times. 12 Stain colors, Clear, and White. Any mantle can be made a cabinet. www.fireplacefronts.com (800) 308-8019

SUBSCRIBE ONLINE For Print and Digital editions!

Associated Energy Systems, a leading distributor of Hearth and Outdoor products in the Western and Midwestern United States, is seeking an experienced marketer to fill a Marketing Manager position. We seek a knowledgeable marketer, experienced manager, and energetic team-player used to working in a fast-paced dynamic environment. As the leader of the marketing team, the successful candidate will be responsible for developing our marketing strategy and plan while overseeing a small marketing team. The successful candidate will be adept at functioning in a working management role contributing by “rolling up their sleeves” and working on key initiatives and high impact marketing projects. You will ensure the company’s marketing efforts are highly effective at telling the story of the company and its products, creating preference for the company and its product offerings. Since our customer base includes traditional hearth and outdoor products dealers, home and hardware stores, heating and ventilation companies as well as builders, architects, landscape designers and others, experience in those industries would be ideal. The company provides a competitive salary along with a strong benefits package. If you want to make an impact and help a company take its marketing efforts to the next level, then this could be the job for you!

To subscribe, please go to our online subscription form at

www.hearthandhome.com/subscribe Editorial coverage of all three industries is provided in every issue.

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

| Ad Index | Advertiser Acadia Hearth Adrenaline Barbecue Company Apricity Barry’s Restore It All Big Green Egg Blaze Outdoor Products Blaze King Broil King Bull Outdoor Products Caframo Cajun Grill Cascade Coil Drapery Coyote Outdoor Living

126 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com

If you feel you fit the above guidelines for this critical marketing leadership role and are looking to grow personally and professionally please send your resume to: shawnar@aes4home.com

Page

Phone

Website/e-mail

111 112 31,103 113 39 43 97 C4 130,C3 6 114 111 93

(833) 222-3421 (704) 425-1023 (888) 997-7623 (888) 889-9876 (770) 938-9394 (866) 976-9510 (800) 456-8818 (800) 265-2150 (800) 251-2855 (800) 567-3556 (800) 822-4766 (800) 999-2645 (855) 520-1559

www.acadiahearth.com www.abcbarbecue.com www.apricityoutdoor.com www.barrysrestoreitall.com www.biggreenegg.com www.blazegrills.com www.blazeking.com www.broilkingbbq.com/become-a-partner www.bullbbq.com www.ecofan.com www.cajungrill.com www.cascadecoil.com www.coyoteoutdoor.com


| Ad Index | Advertiser Dansons Group/Louisiana Grills DuraVent ECCB Outdoor Eiklor Flames Empire Comfort Systems / American Hearth Energex Corporation Energy Distribution Escalera Forshaw of St. Louis Frankford Umbrellas Glen Dimplex Americas Green Mountain Grills Grill Guardian Hearth & Home Technologies Hearth Products Controls Company Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association HearthStone Quality Home Heating Products IMC – High Point International Casual Furnishings Association Ironhaus Kuma Stoves Maxitrol Company Memphis Wood Fire Grills Mendota Hearth/Johnson Gas Montigo Music City Fire Company Napoleon Fireplaces & Grills Olympia Chimney Supply Outdoor GreatRoom Company Phase 2/Vision Grills Powrmatic of Canada Regency / Fireplace Products International Sand Hill Wholesale & Mfg. SBI Stove Builder International Schott Robax Spartherm GmbH StÝv America Sunset West USA Supreme Fireplaces Telescope Casual Furniture Rockwood / The Saint Louis Charcoal Company SMOBOT by IOT Controls Travis Industries Treasure Garden Twin Eagles US Draft Kutzner + Weber Valor/Miles Industries Vesta Awards Wittus Fire by Design Woodbridge Fireplaces Yixing Able Ceramic Fibre Products

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

Page Phone

Website/e-mail

25 81 115 41 15 105 77 125 125 23 75 109 116 65 79 55 87 99 27 107 61 107 63 91 67 85 C2, 3 73 105 57 109 16,17 6 29 69 33 8,9 37 49 21 117 118 89 45 51 125 35 13 125 119 125

www.louisiana-grills.com www.duravent.com www.eccboutdoor.com www.eiklorflames.com www.americanhearth.com www.olhick.com www.energydistribution.co www.escalera.com www.forshawmantels.com www.frankfordumbrellas.com www.faberfire.com www.greenmountaingrills.com www.grillguardian.com www.hearthnhome.com www.hearthproductscontrols.com www.hpba.org www.hearthstonestoves.com www.imchighpointmarket.com www.icfanet.org/member/register www.ironhaus.com www.kumastoves.com www.maxitrol.com www.memphisgrills.com www.mendotahearth.com www.montigo.com www.musiccityfirecompany.com www.napoleonproducts.com www.olympiachimney.com www.outdoorrooms.com www.visiongrills.com www.powrmatic.ca www.regency-vision.com www.sandhillwholesale.com www.osburn-mfg.com www.schottrobax.com www.spartherm-america.com www.stuvdesign.com www.sunsetwestusa.com www.supremem.com www.telescopecasual.com www.rockwoodcharcoal.com www.smobot.com www.travisindustries.com www.treasuregarden.com www.twineaglesbbq.com www.kw-usa.com www.valorfireplaces.com www.vestaawards.com www.wittus.com www.woodbridgedealer.com www.yixingable.com

(877) 303-3134 (800) 835-4429 (800) 687-5086 (888) 295-LOGS (800) 851-3153 (717) 436-2400 (877) 257-2251 (800) 622-1359 (800) 367-7429 (856) 222-4134 (800) 346-7539 (800) 603-3398 (714) 348-2796 (800) 927-6841 (877) 433-7001 (703) 522-0086 (800) 827-8603 (702) 599-3046 (336) 881-1016 (866) 880-0900 (888) 714-5294 (248) 356-1400 (888) 883-2260 (800) 553-5422 (800) 378-3115 (866) 615-6232 (800) 461-5581 (800) 569-1425 (866) 303-4028 (877) 917-4273 (800) 215-9150 (604) 946-5155 (888) 726-3445 (800) 622-1359 (800) 822-0600 +49 5422 9441-0 (866) 487-7888 (760) 599-1021 (877) 593-4722 (518) 642-1100 (314) 227-1386 (727) 314-3204 (800) 654-1177 (626) 814-0168 (800) 789-2206 (817) 393-4029 (800) 468-2567 (800) 258-3772 (914) 764-5679 (844) 636-3473 86-510-82711631

www.hearthandhome.com | MARCH 2019 | 127


| Parting Shot |

NESTED AT NEEDLE ROCK

E

very neighborhood needs a great restaurant where friends and family can meet to enjoy locally-inspired cuisine. If the restaurant has an eye-catching, inspiring fire feature, such as the one at the Needle Rock Kitchen & Tap at the Verde River Golf & Social Club in Rio Verde, Arizona, upscale dining is assured. Guests at the restaurant cannot miss the custom “Nest” design fire feature created by Eric Tolbert for Eiklor Flames West. The restaurant was designed with comfort in mind, floor-to-ceiling windows to take advantage of gorgeous views. The showcase Click here for a mobile

128 | MARCH 2019 | www.hearthandhome.com friendly reading experience

kitchen has a popular wood-fired pizza oven, private wine storage, and a private dining room. The show-stopper, however, is Nest, the awesome fire feature that brings the idea of a bird’s nest to a whole new level. Sitting on a bed of stones, a flame rises from the center of the “nest.” The fire feature takes center stage at the restaurant. Eiklor Flames; 282 E. Pivot Point Road, Paoli, Indiana 47454; Phone: (888) 295-5647; Website: www.eiklorflames.com.

PHOTO COURTESY: ©2019 TRILOGY BY SHEA HOMES.


Who Reads

?

Chris Price, for one! City: Athens

State: Georgia

Occupation: “Sunbrella Regional Sales Manager.”

Special Interests/Hobbies: “Spending time with and traveling with my family, riding my road and mountain bikes, and reading a good book with a glass of red wine.” Problems/Issues Facing the Patio Industry: “The shrinking specialty retailer base, for one. In speaking with some California reps they noted that their business continues to be soft. I asked how this is possible in a state that has the fifth largest economy in the world. They said it was because so many specialty retailers have closed.” Key Trends in the Patio Industry Today: “From a Sunbrella or fabric perspective, it’s the beautiful, vibrant fabrics that are available. It’s no longer a beige and brown world. While the consumer will likely purchase a neutral for their base fabric, they can add the trendy fabrics with their pillows, umbrellas, poofs, and side chairs to make their patio stand out from their neighbor’s.” Forecast for Your Overall Business in 2019: “Personally, it will be fine.

There’s no doubt that the tariffs have had a negative impact, affecting some of my customers who rely on factories in China.”

Patio Retailers Face Stiff Competition, What’s Your Advice: “Virtually all consumers are researching online before visiting patio stores. Therefore, retailers need to make sure their websites are attractive, informative, and up-to-date, for the website is often the first impression consumers have of the store. “If the consumer does visit the store, then I believe the specialty retailer with a knowledgeable, approachable, and welcoming staff has the upper hand over the Big Box stores, online businesses, catalogs, etc., for people like buying from people. “Kudos to the sensational retailers on the recent ICFA retailer tour in San Antonio – Outside in Style (I got it right, Karen!), Summer Classics, and Home & Patio.” Years Reading Hearth & Home: “Twenty-five plus; I think I’ve known Richard and Jackie all 25.” Reasons for Reading Hearth & Home: “I enjoy reading Richard’s ‘Perspective,’ and learning about the hearth and barbecue industries. I especially like reading the September casual show issue, specifically the ‘Sitting Pretty’ article to learn what the furniture manufacturers are thinking. “I love the retailer comments, as sometimes there are true gems in the candid musings. I also like the fact that Richard, Jackie, and Tom have been together so long; they’ve created a lot of trust and good will.” PHOTO COURTESY: ©2019 TOM LASSITER.

Click here for a mobile friendly reading experience


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Profile for Hearth & Home

Hearth & Home Magazine – 2019 March 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 – 2019 March Issue  

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