THE VOICE OF THE HEARTH, BARBECUE AND PATIO INDUSTRIES
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| CONTENTS | FEATURES
1 0 Amazon: A Necessary Evil? Theft of intellectual property, aided and abetted by
Amazon, is hurting the barbecue industry. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, has the power to change that.
Go Upscale 2 2 Fireplaces If you have the money, the fireplace of your dreams awaits you.
3 2 Working Together in Baton Rouge A photo album tracks the 25-year progress of Casual Creations and the Bucy family.
Innovator, Survivor 4 0 Pioneer, Paul Erickson and Pacific Energy are an integral
part of the history of the hearth industry.
BBQ 4 8 Professor Greg Blonder takes a scientific approach to outdoor
cooking, and destroys some fallacies along the way.
5 4 Unsung Heroes Manufacturers’ representatives in the patio furnishing
industry, as in other industries as well, are the glue that holds everything together – if they do it right.
The Longest Install 60 On a mission to bring warmth to an orphanage in Tanzania, Tom Gross goes to Africa – twice.
Have It Your Way 66 ‘Mass Customization’ is transforming customer
choice at specialty retail.
The Cookbook 72 Alex Soubliere creates a best practices operations manual for hearth retailers, along with a hands-on help program that he supplies.
Clean and Care 74 Outdoor Elegance creates a program that generates new revenues while building relationships.
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Industry News 78
Business Climate 80
84 Stock Watch 87
Ad Index Who Reads Hearth & Home? Parting Shot
ON THE WEB News Median Household Income Tops $61,000 Solar Panels Most Popular in Pacific States
Primo Ceramic Grill’s Turkey with Whiskey Brine & Glaze Saber Grill’s Grilled Sausage Stuffing
THE VOICE OF THE HEARTH, BARBECUE AND PATIO INDUSTRIES
On the Cover
Montigo’s Ci620 linear fireplace in a Worley, Idaho hotel. COVER PHOTO COURTESY: ©2018 MONTIGO. WWW.MONTIGO.COM.
Fireplaces GO UPSCALE
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| Perspective |
Stealing the Work of Others
ne year ago, in our November issue, we published an article (“Stealing Creativity”) by Lisa Readie Mayer on the counterfeiting of products that is rampant in the barbecue accessories business. It’s also a problem with barbecue appliances, and certainly with other products in the hearth, patio, and barbecue fields. It just happens that barbecue accessories are particularly easy to knock-off, and manufacturers of barbecue appliances, and other products, are somehow reluctant to A NECESSARY EVIL? come forward. Culprits are able to photograph I products at trade shows, and/or go on the Internet to extract images, product details, and customer comments. Once copied, those products are being sold on Amazon, eBay, and other sites. Because it’s the largest company, Amazon is mentioned most often as being part of this illegal activity. Beginning on page 10 of this issue, Hearth & Home is publishing another article by Mayer focusing on the illegal activity of copying the work of others, and the tremendous impact it’s having on honest manufacturers. The article is titled “Amazon: A Necessary Evil?”
“We do suggest two courses of action, however: 1. If they (exhibitors) have a judgment of infringement from a court, we will help them enforce it at the show, i.e., if the finding of infringement and/or order states that specific other products are infringing their product. 2. They can serve a cease-and-desist order on the infringers before or at the show. It has been our experience that, in some situations, the infringer will remove the product to avoid further legal troubles. This becomes more of an interaction between each party’s lawyers.
| Counterfeit! |
Theft of intellectual property, aided and abetted by Amazon,
is hurting the barbecue industry. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, has the power to change that. By Lisa Readie Mayer
n the year since Hearth & Home first reported on the rampant counterfeiting of grills and accessories by overseas manufacturers, many more barbecue companies have come forward to reveal how intellectual property theft has decimated their companies’ sales, drained finances, caused physical and emotional stress, damaged their reputations, and in some cases, nearly driven them out of business. It doesn’t make it easier to learn the problem is not exclusive to the barbecue industry. Counterfeiting is pervasive, worldwide, and targets every type of product from agricultural crops to technology to consumer goods. According to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a U.S.-based non-governmental organization, “counterfeiting and pirating of pharmaceuticals, consumables, luxury goods, and intellectual property is the biggest single trans-national criminal activity, likely exceeding US $1trillion in retail value.” The International Chamber of Commerce estimates illicit trade robs the economy of 2.5 million jobs and local governments of hundreds of billions in tax revenues, while
posing a health and safety risk to millions of consumers. Forbes reports that by 2022, the retail value of counterfeit goods is expected to reach $2.8 trillion and cost 5.4 million jobs. FBI director Christopher Wray points the finger at Chinese companies as the biggest perpetrators of this illicit activity. In an interview with Norah O’Donnell on “CBS This Morning,” Wray calls economic espionage from China a “top priority” in the FBI’s overall counterintelligence mission. “They’re trying to steal our trade secrets, our ideas, our innovation,” he says. According to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of 36 member countries working to improve economic and social conditions around the globe, over 60% of the world’s knock-offs originate in China. Others, such as “The Counterfeit Report,” a watchdog groupdedicated to exposing and fighting counterfeiting, blame China for up to 90% of the world’s fake products.
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With the upcoming HPBExpo in Dallas, we asked Kelly Vandermark, vice president of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association, to explain the association’s position on such counterfeiting. Here’s what she told us. “What we typically say to any exhibitor is that our trade show is a three-day microcosm of the market during the other 362 days of the year. We do not have any special authority to decide, on our own, that one exhibitor’s product infringes on another exhibitor’s patented product. We understand that demonstrating infringement could take many months of research. Therefore, we cannot offer to close down booths (or order removal of infringing products) of competitors based on our own judgment that they are infringing.
www.hearthandhome.com | NOVEMBER 2018 | 11
“On top of this, we do provide signs if exhibitors don’t want any pictures taken in their booth. Show Security roams the floor and any pictures that are taken without permission are removed from cameras once we are informed. “Hours have also been shortened when exhibitors have access to the floor. They now only have access 30 minutes before the show opens each day. This keeps folks from walking around and going into booths uninvited. “We do have a security person posted at the New Products Pavilion, an area where infringement has occurred. Security combs the floor in the evening and removes everyone pretty quickly. The lights go off within 15 minutes from show closing, making it difficult to take pictures in the dark. “This is a topic we also plan to cover in a webinar this year with our exhibitors, and at our indoor/outdoor burn meeting since we will have many exhibitors attending. There are cameras everywhere in the ceilings, so we just have to be told that someone took a picture without permission and our security will be on it. It’s usually not a problem tracking the person down.”
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CATEGORIES Hearth Products Wood Products Gas Products Pellet Products Electric Products Hearth Products, Other Fuels Central Heating Systems Hearth Accessories Hearth / Barbecue Components & Controls
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| Counterfeit! |
A NECESSARY EVIL? Theft of intellectual property, aided and abetted by Amazon, is hurting the barbecue industry. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, has the power to change that. By Lisa Readie Mayer
n the year since Hearth & Home first reported on the rampant counterfeiting of grills and accessories by overseas manufacturers, many more barbecue companies have come forward to reveal how intellectual property theft has decimated their companies’ sales, drained finances, caused physical and emotional stress, damaged their reputations, and in some cases, nearly driven them out of business. It doesn’t make it easier to learn the problem is not exclusive to the barbecue industry. Counterfeiting is pervasive, worldwide, and targets every type of product from agricultural crops to technology to consumer goods. According to Global Financial Integrity (GFI), a U.S.-based non-governmental organization, “counterfeiting and pirating of pharmaceuticals, consumables, luxury goods, and intellectual property is the biggest single trans-national criminal activity, likely exceeding US $1trillion in retail value.” The International Chamber of Commerce estimates illicit trade robs the economy of 2.5 million jobs and local governments of hundreds of billions in tax revenues, while
10 | NOVEMBER 2018 | www.hearthandhome.com
posing a health and safety risk to millions of consumers. Forbes reports that by 2022, the retail value of counterfeit goods is expected to reach $2.8 trillion and cost 5.4 million jobs. FBI director Christopher Wray points the finger at Chinese companies as the biggest perpetrators of this illicit activity. In an interview with Norah O’Donnell on “CBS This Morning,” Wray calls economic espionage from China a “top priority” in the FBI’s overall counterintelligence mission. “They’re trying to steal our trade secrets, our ideas, our innovation,” he says. According to the Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, a group of 36 member countries working to improve economic and social conditions around the globe, over 60% of the world’s knock-offs originate in China. Others, such as “The Counterfeit Report,” a watchdog group dedicated to exposing and fighting counterfeiting, blame China for up to 90% of the world’s fake products.
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| Counterfeit! | According to “The Counterfeit Report,” 10 years ago, the majority of counterfeit goods made it to the U.S. via containers on cargo ships. Today, unscrupulous businesses peddle fake products through online marketplaces and ship them directly to consumers, making it harder to identify and seize the items. Globally, the biggest online source of illicit goods is Chinese-based Alibaba, and its off-shoot AliExpress, both classified as a “Notorious Market” by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the government agency responsible for developing, coordinating, and negotiating international trade. To reach U.S. consumers, counterfeiters sell on eBay, Facebook, Groupon, and even Ace Hardware’s Internet site, but their online channel of choice is Amazon.
Victims of counterfeiting in the barbecue industry say Amazon is complicit in the theft of intellectual property. According to one manufacturer who did not wish to be identified, Amazon purposely sets up competition between the site’s “direct-sales retail” division, where legitimate manufacturers sell their own legitimate products, and its “marketplace” division, where third-party-sellers peddle products – often fakes – at lowball prices. Illicit vendors manipulate the system by selling at lower prices so they are listed highest in search results and score the coveted Buy Box position. It’s difficult for consumers to distinguish the dishonest sellers because fake products frequently carry the “Prime” badge and the implied endorsement of being “fulfilled by
TOP: A screenshot of Smokeware’s official Stainless Steel Chimney Cap on Amazon. BOTTOM: A screenshot of a counterfeit copy under a different name.
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Amazon.” Even when counterfeit sellers are booted from the site, they often reopen under a new name within days. Because Amazon shields its contact information, it’s difficult to identify and locate fraudulent manufacturers to deliver cease-and-desist orders. “The situation is getting worse and has been devastating to my business,” says the barbecue manufacturer. (He is one of a number of manufacturers Hearth & Home spoke with who did not want to be identified for reasons that range from a condition of settlement against patent infringers to concerns over biting the hand that feeds them. According to CNBC.com, Amazon’s counterfeit issue “goes largely undiscussed by CEO Jeff Bezos and ignored by investors and analysts,” noting, “very few (merchants and manufacturers) are willing to speak on the record out of fear of retribution from Amazon.” According to the Denver Post, “In trying to provide the lowest-cost option for virtually every product on the planet, the company opened the doors to merchants from across the globe with little respect for intellectual property, despite an anti-counterfeiting policy that prohibits the sale of inauthentic items. That’s enabled manufacturers and third-party sellers, largely from China, to take advantage of cheaper production and labor costs to compete on the Amazon market.” The situation is expected to get worse. According to eMarketer Retail, Amazon’s marketplace sales are exploding and now account for 68% of sales on the site, compared to 32% for direct sales. It says that, by 2019, marketplace sales are expected to account for 70% of Amazon’s e-commerce business. eMarketer Retail reports 69% of consumers prefer to shop at online marketplaces because it’s easy to compare brands and prices, make purchases from multiple brands, and pay for everything in one transaction. “The thing people need to understand,” FBI director Wray says, “is that this has an impact on everyday people. It has an impact on American businesses. It has an impact on American jobs. It has an impact on American consumers.” Indeed it does.
The Fallout Chad Romzek loved cooking on the kamado grill he first purchased in 2009, but wished there were an easier way to clean out the ashes and salvage remaining chunks of charcoal for the next use. When his online search for such a product came up empty, he developed his own – the Kick Ash Basket. The heavy-duty wire basket holds charcoal in the base of a kamado, and when cooking is finished, it can be lifted out, the ashes shaken off, leftover coal pieces saved, and returned to the grill ready to be reloaded for the next cook. The product also improves airflow and facilitates fire lighting, according to the manufacturer. In 2013, with what he calls a “pork-butt business plan” (i.e. low-and-slow), Romzek took his design to a Wisconsin-based manufacturer and ordered 100 baskets, only to discover he had based the size on a discontinued kamado model. Undeterred, he invested in retooling, ordered another batch and started a Facebook page to promote it. Sales of the basket grew steadily through grassroots publicity, word-of-mouth, and recommendations on blogs, social media, and kamado forums. Romzek introduced new models to fit a greater variety of kamado brands and sizes, eventually leaving his job as a mechanical engineer at Kimberly Clark to join his wife, Tracy, working at their company full time. Romzek took the patented baskets to HPBExpo in 2016, where he found an enthusiastic reception among retail buyers. During the course of the show, however, he discovered that two baskets had been stolen from his booth display. “Whether it’s a coincidence or not, six months later knock-offs started showing up on Amazon,” he says. “We reported to Amazon that the counterfeit products violated our patents and that they were potentially toxic. Our baskets are made from stainless steel, but the knock-offs were coated in powder-coat paint that could emit off-gasses when burned under a hot charcoal fire.” Romzek says Amazon was “pretty responsive” and shut the counterfeit sellers down, only to have new ones pop up time after time in a vicious cycle. He and his patent attorney theorize these counterfeiters, and others like them, use after-market software to track legitimate products’ sales and reviews on Amazon, and once they hit a certain threshold, start copying.
“How do we convince them that there’s a difference; that our product is better, our service is better, we offer a three-year warranty? Do we pull out of Amazon? Amazon is the Beast – a necessary evil. They’re not helping us; we can’t even get someone on the phone. We keep trying to stay ahead of the counterfeiters by developing new products. But how do you make a product Amazon-proof?” — Chad Romzek Owner, Kick Ash Basket
Chad Romzek, Owner/Creator of Kick Ash Basket, and his wife Tracy.
“They’re heartless,” he says. “They steal our intellectual property and ask for forgiveness later. This year we’re down 10 to 15% in volume. Some of this could be due to declines in the kamado grill business, but a lot is due to knock-offs. I have easily spent $30,000 this year on getting and defending design and utility patents. It’s very expensive. The other part that sucks is that we have established relationships with retailers and customers, but they see counterfeiters selling product well below the retail price – even below wholesale. We like having relationships with retailers because they can explain the product and have a passion for cooking that’s missing in an online sale. But some consumers want to pay the least possible and like the convenience of shopping online.
“How do we convince them that there’s a difference; that our product is better, our service is better, we offer a three-year warranty? Do we pull out of Amazon? Amazon is the Beast – a necessary evil. They’re not helping us; we can’t even get someone on the phone. We keep trying to stay ahead of the counterfeiters by developing new products. But how do you make a product Amazon-proof?” That’s a question with which many manufacturers are wrestling. One barbecue industry manufacturer, who did not want to be identified, says he has lost in excess of $100,000 in sales and spent $20,000 in legal fees as a result of the issue since December 2017. Counterfeiters aren’t just knocking off his company’s products, they are copying
www.hearthandhome.com | NOVEMBER 2018 | 13
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| Counterfeit! | his brand name, packaging, and website after-market accessories for kamados, says information. The situation came to a sales of some of his patented products are head when he started receiving dozens of off by as much as 50% due to intellectual complaints about disintegrating product, property theft. He says the simple design missing instruction manuals, and even of his patented Grate Rack, a device that misspellings on packaging. Though none attaches to a Big Green Egg Nest to hold the of the products in question was his, the grilling grid while lighting or replenishing manufacturer honored the charcoal, has made it an easy warranty on the counterfeit target for counterfeiters who goods at his cost. offer inferior-quality fakes at Amazon eventually shut low prices on Amazon. down accounts for six of the “I sell primarily to brickcounterfeit sellers, but in doing and-mortar retail stores so, the online giant also closed the and distributors, but some legitimate manufacturer’s listing. consumers only want to buy To make matters worse, Amazon online, so we work with one comingled his authentic inventory authorized Amazon reseller with the counterfeit products in Mike Chance. who respects the pricing its warehouse, so when consumers policies we’ve set to protect ordered from rightful authorized our independent dealers. sellers, it was a Russian roulette-style crap Otherwise, it’s a race to the bottom,” shoot whether they would be shipped a real Chance explains. product or a fake. The fiasco cost him $15,000 The fallout from counterfeiting is proving in lost sales and product replacement. to be a race to the bottom of his checkbook. “The counterfeiters are ruthless “It costs $700 to $1,000 every time we have and prey mostly on the little guys,” the our attorney write a letter to Amazon,” he manufacturer says. “If we had the sales says. “Amazon will take the counterfeiter that were going to counterfeiters, we could down, but it reopens the next day under have hired another employee and even a different name. These counterfeiters sell paid more taxes to our community.” through Amazon, and Amazon warehouses Mike Chance, founder of Innovations and fulfills the orders, so the way I see it, by Chance, a company that develops and Amazon is in receipt of stolen goods the manufactures clever, problem-solving, same way thieves warehouse stolen Gucci
bags. It’s crazy that Amazon gets away with this. They don’t care that it’s happening, because they get paid either way.” It took Richard Looft, an award-winning stage and film director in Sweden, nine years to take his Looftlighter from idea to prototype to market, but less than one year for knock-offs to appear. A German company initially counterfeited the patented device, designed to ignite charcoal and wood quickly and efficiently by forced hot air. To date, Looftlighter has been knocked-off by 23 companies from the U.S., Denmark, Netherlands, China, and other countries, selling on Amazon, eBay, and even Ace Hardware websites. The illicit lighters, some even copying the Looftlighter name, logo, and exact descriptive copy, are of dramatically inferior quality and perform poorly. “As Oscar Wilde said, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” says Looft. “I guess this is evidence that we have a popular product, but it is hurting us and has had an impact on our sales, for sure. We have paid a lot of money to lawyers working on this issue, and it’s very expensive. We are a small company and a family business. We are taking steps to combat (counterfeiting), but we have to find different ways to fight, like educating consumers about our quality and warranty so they trust us.
An after-market cart that holds a kamado grill, by Mike Chance.
Richard Looft demonstrating his patented design, the Looftlighter.
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“If we put all our time and money into for wholesale. Turns out “dozens and fighting this issue, we won’t have enough dozens, if not hundreds” of Amazon left of either to invest in new product sellers were peddling low-quality copies development, marketing, or sales. We of the authentic parts he was sourcing need to be spending our time selling from American-based suppliers. He gave our product and building our brand. If up trying to explain this to customers we have a strong brand it’s like having a and stopped offering the price-match strong body with a good immune system. guarantee. “We’d lose money at the Hopefully, we can fight the virus.” prices they were selling at,” he says. Andrew Irvin, owner of According to Irvin, 27 sellers GrillPartsSearch.com, sells are infringing on his licensed, a wide selection of exact-fit patented, universal burner. replacement parts for most “We are a small company of the top grill brands, and and we’ve had to cut staff over has invented and patented this,” he says. “My staff is made an innovative, adjustable, up of friends, so it hurts us and universal replacement burner it hurts their families.” To that he licenses to grill add insult to injury, Irvin says manufacturers who make it Amazon suspended his own under their brand names. He Andrew Irvin. company’s account and froze started small in 2006, building more than $5,000 in funds for a website, and packing and orders that had already been shipping orders out of his garage. He fulfilled, over what he describes as a minor gained customers by offering a price-match issue with a handful of tracking numbers. guarantee if they found replacement parts “We try to get it fixed but no one from the An adjustable burner that was knocked-off. of equal quality selling for less. company ever replies,” he says. In 2015, the lure of Amazon proved Matt Merritt of Smokeware feels too hard to resist, and Irvin began Irvin’s pain. The inventor, manufacturer, counterfeiters to do damage. “Once the selling on the site. By 2017, he started and authorized seller of his own and other patents were granted, I could go back getting calls from consumers saying entrepreneurs’ unique grilling accessories, to seek recourse, but I couldn’t identify they found parts online for less – far says his company does over $1 million in the companies because Amazon protects less, in fact, than Irving could buy them business on Amazon annually, them by concealing their yet has no dedicated contact identities. Amazon has person for his account. “All created a legitimate way for calls (to Amazon) are handled stolen goods to be sold in the by a call center in a foreign U.S. without recourse.” country, with a different Merritt also blames Amazon representative every time you for adding fuel to the counterfeit call,” he says. “You have to fire by painting a theoretical send a letter and the process bullseye on products’ backs. takes weeks to resolve.” “Counterfeiters don’t have He knows that through Matt Merritt. to do much work to identify experience. His “Lifter,” a which products to knock off handled apparatus designed because Amazon actually to easily insert or remove a kamado’s suggests products they should make,” he cumbersome heat-diffuser plate, was says. “Amazon proactively contacts sellers knocked off within months of its placement to say, ‘XYZ Product is under-represented on Amazon. “Chinese companies were on Amazon.’ They literally recommend selling low-quality fakes on Amazon for specific products for these crooks to less than I could make it for,” Merritt says. target. The counterfeiters jump on it and “They copied our design and were even sell their knock-offs at low prices. Prices using our product images.” (on the legitimate product) go down, He says selling his product under margins erode, and soon legitimate The Smokeware Lifter allows safe and easy patent-pending status, rather than manufacturers and sellers can no longer removal of the heat difusser plate – another waiting the three to four years for afford to make it, and the real product product that was knocked-off. patents to be issued, made it easier for is wiped out.”
www.hearthandhome.com | NOVEMBER 2018 | 17
| Counterfeit! | Amazon: A Partner in Crime? Critics say Amazon has no incentive to clean up its act because it is paid fees for every item sold, whether authentic or counterfeit, by its two million affiliated sellers. By fostering cutthroat competition among companies that sell on the site, Amazon ensures the lowest prices for the consumers that buy on the site, thereby earning shoppers’ respect, loyalty, and repeat business. In fact, for the past three years, consumers have voted Amazon the number-one most reputable company,
verb because of the damage it can inflict on other companies. To be ‘Amazoned’ means to have your business crushed because the company got into your industry. Fear of being ‘Amazoned’ has become such a defining feature of commerce, it’s easy to forget the phenomenon has risen mostly in about three years.” Forbes called Amazon “a cesspool” of counterfeiting, fraud, fake reviews, data hacking, and bribed employees. The company’s tentacles have a wide reach, disrupting nearly every industry. It already offers an Amazon credit card and
“Amazon Go” Beta Test Store on the Amazon Campus in Seattle, Washington.
according to Harris Poll studies. Shoppers turn to Amazon as a product-research tool, trust its user reviews, and appreciate its convenience, good customer service, quick delivery, and hassle-free returns. Many rely on it as the go-to source for all types of goods at low prices. According to eMarketer Retail, nearly half (46.7%) of all online product searches in the U.S. begin on Amazon today, compared with 34.6% that start on Google. These figures have reversed from just three years ago. But, as great as Amazon may be for consumers, manufacturers and retailers are not feeling the love. According to Bloomberg.com, “Amazon has become a
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is reportedly creating an Amazon digital bank that would be a gateway to ATMs and banking kiosks at Whole Foods and elsewhere, and would provide access to data on customer finances and spending, according to eMarketer Retail. Data is also reportedly the reason behind its exploration of the home-mortgage business. According to Bloomberg.com, mortgage applications would allow Amazon to mine information on consumers’ personal assets, bank accounts, 401Ks, employment information, credit scores, and more. Amazon’s Alexa Fund, its $100 million venture-capital arm, has teamed with other investors to fund a company
making sustainable, prefabricated homes using digitized production that cuts construction time by 50% and costs by 10 to 25%. The online retailer is increasingly entering the brick-and-mortar retail realm. Last year, Amazon purchased Whole Foods with 490 retail locations in North America and the United Kingdom. It has opened dozens of Amazon Pop-Up stores in malls and at Kohl’s stores, and just launched the first Amazon 4-Star Store in the hip SoHo area of New York City, offering a selection of some of the bestselling, 4-star-rated, new-and-trending products from its site. It is partnering with Good Housekeeping magazine on a 2,800 sq.ft. pop-up store at the Mall of America from October through December this year, displaying 40 Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval items in room vignettes so consumers can visualize how the products might be used in their homes. Plus, it just announced plans to launch up to 3,000 “Amazon Go” cashier-less retail stores by 2021, utilizing cameras, sensors, and a smartphone app to automatically track product selections and charge purchases to shoppers’ credit cards. A Reuters news agency report says Amazon Go “is widely seen as a concept that can alter brick-and-mortar retail.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports consumers’ Amazon accounts have been hacked by unscrupulous counterfeiters in order to post fake 5-star reviews in the consumers’ names on products they never purchased. Posters on Amazon sellers’ forums tell stories of fake negative reviews being hurled against legitimate products to make the counterfeit options look better. It’s a growing problem and Amazon has reportedly booted more than 1,000 sellers and manufacturers for “reviews abuse.” Knowing how influential reviews are in purchase decisions today, it is a significant issue. The Wall Street Journal reports on a study from Marketplace Pulse showing one-third of the one million active sellers on Amazon are from China, with 250,000 of them having entered the marketplace in 2017 alone. According to the article, Amazon holds conferences in China regularly to promote its site and invite Chinese businesses to sell on the platform.
Entrepreneurial Amazon “experts” have even launched consulting businesses, hosting hundreds and hundreds of classes to teach Chinese companies “what Americans want” and how to sell to them effectively on the platform. “Many of the (attendees) have small factories producing for foreign brands and now want to cut out the middleman,” according to The Wall Street Journal.
The company has more than 100 million Prime members worldwide, who each pay $119 per year to subscribe. An estimated 56.4 million U.S. households have a Prime subscription today, a figure that is expected to reach nearly 65 million by 2020. On Prime Day 2017 alone, members ordered more than 40 million items, a 60% jump over Prime Day 2016.
“In years past, the railroads carried goods. Today, the Internet is the train that controls the flow of goods, and Amazon is the equivalent of a modern-day robber baron. Unfortunately, it’s almost become a cost of doing business.” — Brad Barrett Founder and CEO, GrillGrate
The newspaper also reveals that unscrupulous Amazon employees in China are illegally selling data the company collects regarding sellers’ sales volume, members’ buying habits, reviewers’ email addresses, and other proprietary statistical information. Some employees also are reportedly accepting bribes to “game the system,” including removing negative reviews – the going rate is $300 per review with a minimum of five reviews, according to the article. It says, “Potential internal corruption is the latest challenge Amazon faces in upholding its platform’s integrity, after problems with fake product reviews and counterfeit merchandise.” Why Not Just Quit Amazon? It’s Not that Simple. The reasons for wanting to sell on the online site are compelling. Amazon just hit the trillion-dollar value mark and its 2018 sales topped $258 billion, up nearly 30% from last year. Fifty percent of all U.S. e-commerce dollars will be spent on the site by the end of 2018, up from 44% in 2017. A June 2018 study by Bizrate Insights found that 41.5% of U.S. Internet users had bought something on the online marketplace in the past 30 days. A survey by Dering Hall even found that 84% of design professionals turn to the Internet to source products.
According to eMarketer Retail, brands are often willing to relinquish some control over their products and direct relationships with consumers for the opportunity to reach Amazon’s huge consumer audience. In fact, Amazon reports more than 300,000 small U.S. businesses started selling on its site in 2017 alone. “You feel as if you don’t put your product on Amazon, you’re missing an opportunity to be found by consumers,” explains Brad Barrett, founder and CEO of GrillGrate, a grilling grid accessory. When his product, packaging, and even the instruction booklet were knocked off within months of first listing on Amazon, he responded by backing
off the site. “We purposely didn’t emphasize or try to grow our Amazon business because of the issues, but now I think that has hurt our sales,” he says. “We are looking to hire a data ninja to manage our Amazon marketplace business and try to protect ourselves as best as possible,” Barrett continues. “In years past, the railroads carried goods. Today, the Internet is the train that controls the flow of goods, and Amazon is the equivalent of a modern-day robber baron. Unfortunately, it’s almost become a cost of doing business.” Progress in the Battle The counterfeit issue is getting more attention in national business, trade, and consumer media. Watchdog groups such as “The Counterfeit Report” provide consumer education and awareness outreach, and also offer services and support to U.S. and global companies to combat counterfeiters and fakes. Data analytics company Fakespot uses patented algorithms to analyze online product reviews on sites such as Amazon, and to weed out fakes to ensure consumers are making purchase decisions based on authentic reviews. Consumers can paste the link for the Amazon product listing on the Fakespot website or app, and Fakespot shares a letter grade of A, B, C, D, or F for the product or seller in question, based on the authenticity and reliability of the reviews. The Wall Street Journal reports that European Union antitrust authorities are investigating Amazon’s treatment of merchants that sell through the platform, and are looking into whether the company uses the data it collects from all transactions and merchants on the site to gain unfair competitive advantage. In the U.S., some policy makers also are calling for a reshaping of the country’s antitrust laws to regulate Amazon’s tactics and everbroadening tentacles. President Trump has criticized Amazon for hurting both traditional retailers and the United States Postal Service (USPS), through a long-standing treaty that deeply discounts U.S. Postal fees for international mail. According to “The Counterfeit Report,” it’s actually cheaper for a business in China to ship a package to the U.S. – about $1.50 for a one-lb. package – than for an American business to mail it across the street.
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| Counterfeit! |
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Amazon calls the Transparency program, “a transformational service for IP rights owners to protect their customers and fight counterfeits.” According to the website, over 100 brands from Fortune 500 companies to startups are currently participating in the program, noting, “Since onboarding, we’ve received zero counterfeit related notices of infringement for products enrolled in Transparency.” Some barbecue industry manufacturers are hopeful about the program; others, such as Merritt of Smokeware, are critical. “Amazon has created a counterfeiting situation that is eroding U.S. companies, and they have the nerve to charge us for the code numbers?” he asks rhetorically. “Every single thing is a new source of revenue for Amazon.”
Some have considered starting a Change.Org petition to draw attention to Amazon’s business practices and create consumer awareness about the extent of counterfeiting on the site. Others have contemplated pooling resources to take out a full-page, open letter to Jeff Bezos in the The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and other high-profile newspapers. Greg Blonder, Ph.D., a barbecue industry expert, entrepreneur, and holder of 100 patents, suggests barbecue manufacturers – even competitors – form a consortium and establish a website selling only vetted, authenticated products direct from the manufacturer or authorized seller. “They could charge
PHOTO COURTESY: ©2018 SEATTLE CITY COUNCIL.
The Inspector General’s Office estimates the USPS lost $308 million between 2010 and 2014 delivering international mail under this arrangement. In August this year, the Chinese government passed a law holding the e-commerce marketplaces – not just the merchants who sell on the platforms – accountable for the sale of counterfeit goods. The law takes effect Jan. 1, 2019, and levies fines up to $291,000 per infringement. Amazon policy prohibits listings that violate intellectual property rights, and federal, state, and local laws, however, many feel the company has paid little more than lip service to the issue. Amazon is criticized for lax enforcement, placing policing responsibilities on the shoulders of intellectual property owners, and doling out punishments for violators that amount to little more than a toddler’s time out. A step in the right direction might be Amazon’s new Transparency program. Launched in spring 2017, participating companies register product SKUs with Amazon and purchase (from Amazon) secure, 26-digit, alphanumeric Transparency codes for every product unit the brand manufactures within that SKU, regardless of whether it will be sold through Amazon or another channel. Companies then have these individual numbers printed on labels, and affix the barcode labels to every package. Amazon scans packages for registered Transparency codes at its fulfillment centers to distinguish between legitimate and counterfeit product in its warehouse to “ensure only authentic products are shipped out to customers.” In addition, shoppers can use the Transparency app any place they shop to scan and authenticate a registered product. Amazon charges for identifier codes: reportedly five cents per unit code for SKUs with fewer than one million units, and three cents per unit code for SKUs between one million and 10 million units. On top of that, manufacturers incur the costs of making and applying the labels. One barbecue accessory manufacturer who just enrolled in the program estimates it will add about 12 cents to the total cost of each product unit and increase his manufacturing lead times by about two weeks.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaking at the Amazon Spheres grand opening in Seattle, Washington.
Merritt has considered putting a lobbying effort together to press Congress to require that all foreign companies selling in the U.S. have registered agents in the U.S., with full disclosure and contact information about the companies they represent. “Right now, our only recourse is to go through Amazon and ask them to take down the listing, and even if they do, another opens a few days later,” he says. “Amazon might eventually react to an issue, but they don’t do much to prevent this stuff from happening. Requiring a registered agent would allow us to identify corrupt companies and ensure they follow the laws, pay taxes, and respect intellectual property rights. It would be easier to take action against violators.”
manufacturers to list on the site to cover administrative and marketing costs,” he explains. “Small companies don’t have time or money to defend themselves against these giants, but they gain strength by working together. If you put a lock on your house, hopefully the bad guys will go to the next house. Otherwise, the parasites win.” “Counterfeiting is a drain on U.S. wealth and jobs,” Merritt says. “It’s wiping out U.S. companies, innovation, and entrepreneurship. We’re handing our assets to China on a silver platter called Amazon. The situation is a disaster. It’s rectifiable, but Jeff Bezos won’t protect U.S. companies’ intellectual property until he’s forced (to do so).”
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Life Begins Outdoors.™
| High-end Fireplaces |
GO UPSCALE If you have the money, the fireplace of your dreams awaits you.
A contemporary Ortal fireplace in the Fairmont Tremblant in Mont-Tremblant, QuĂŠbec.
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By Bill Sendelback
Moberg Fireplaces When talking about high-end custom fireplaces, Moberg Fireplaces (since 1979) has taken that growing category to a ridiculous level. Fireplaces designed and fabricated by Moberg start at $100,000 and run into the millions of dollars. Moberg’s worldwide clientele is so exclusive that names and locations cannot be divulged, but suffice it to say they include celebrities, billionaires, and world leaders. “Over the years we’ve developed an underground reputation for high-end, custom fireplace products, and we’ve been privileged that this has evolved into the highest-end fireplace sales in the world,” says president and CEO Walter Moberg. “We’re seeing substantial sales growth, and having trouble keeping up with demand. Recently, I’ve had to hire additional staff.” Working with interior designers and architects, the majority of Moberg’s business is in private museums developed by his clients to house private art collections and other valuables. The boom in very high-end homes also has added to Moberg’s business, along with the lobbies of commercial buildings. “Another opportunity for us is in the growth of very high-end rental towers in cities such as Seattle, New York, and Chicago,” he adds. Most of Moberg’s creations are freestanding gas fireplaces with a steel armature covered with materials such as glass and bronze. Gas models are 60% of his sales, and wood-burning models account for 40%. Besides designing and fabricating these creations, Moberg’s staff also supervises the installations.
PHOTO COURTESY: ©2018 MOBERG FIREPLACES AND HOWELLS ARCHITECTURE + DESIGN/PHOTOGRAPHY BY DAVID AGNELLO.
ith the improvements in the economy, an increase in homebuilding, and consumers willing to spend, sales of upscale fireplaces are on the rise. While most fireplace manufacturers offer higher-end models, and some claim “custom” models by allowing customers to select log styles, colored glass embers, and refractory styling, some have taken it to the next level with very high-end, true custom fireplaces – and that is paying off for these innovators.
Moberg’s Glass Fire with Ceramic Stone Hearth.
“Part of the price is the time, effort, and costs to get these models certified, either here in North America or in Europe or other parts of the world where they will be installed.” Moberg’s business also includes reconstruction of classic, historic fireplaces and surrounds. Stellar Hearth Products Stellar Hearth Products, acquired in September by Hearth & Home Technologies as a separate stand-alone division, says its sales of high-end, custom gas fireplaces are “great, up quite a bit,” according to Ross Morrison, senior executive vice president of Marketing. “Our motto is ‘Never Say No,’ so we get quite a few complicated and funky designs.” The biggest part of Stellar’s sales is its semi-customs, available in four-ft. increments. But Stellar’s true custom designs represent much larger individual sales, such as $250,000 at retail. These true custom fireplaces appear to have no design limits. Morrison points to a current job requiring gas flames to travel 23 ft. up a wall before turning to a horizontal level, and also a traditional-looking fireplace suspended from the ceiling.
Stellar Hearth’s Cradius GLR.
“Sometimes we’re asked to defy the laws of gravity, but it’s all fun,” he says. Stellar’s jobs come from designers and architects who find Stellar on the Web, and also from a small but growing number of hearth products dealers. “In the past, hearth product dealers were not looking at this segment of the market,” says Morrison, “but now we’re getting more and more dealers. Click here for a mobile
friendly reading | experience www.hearthandhome.com NOVEMBER 2018 | 23
| High-end Fireplaces | These could be $100,000 sales, so you can sell one of ours or 25 others.” Morrison points out that the majority of Stellar’s creations can be installed by a dealer, just like a regular fireplace; for more complicated installations, Stellar sends its engineers. “This is a growing category, and it will just keep growing,” he says. Montigo Montigo is no stranger to high-end custom fireplaces, having introduced its C-View series of gas models in 1999. “We can make almost anything the customer can dream up, depending on what the customer is prepared to pay,” says Jonathan Burke, president and CEO. With this series capable of lengths to 60 ft., those costs can run as much as $200,000 retail and installed. The company’s BF series can have customized venting for installation almost anywhere, and front-glass cooling with Montigo’s Power Cool Pack option allowing glass temperatures almost to ambient room temperature. New from Montigo is its Prodigy series, available in corner units and see-throughs in lengths from three to eight
Ortal’s Island 130.
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“We’re seeing architects, designers, and builders trying to again make the fireplace a focal point.” — Spencer Lowe General Manager, Ortal
ft. and glass heights from 12 to 60 inches. Other features in Montigo units include remote-mounted control panels so dealers will not have to go into the fireplace to make adjustments. Montigo also offers custom, direct-vent wall terminations. “This category of high-end, custom gas fireplaces is absolutely growing,” according to Burke. “It started off for us with hotels and soon included installations in coffee shops, sports centers, and retirement homes, especially since we can offer the very cool
glass fronts. Now we’re seeing a big increase in custom installations in high-end homes.” Montigo dealers now are soliciting this business; some are actively hosting local architects and designers. Sales leads going directly to Montigo are promptly forwarded to its dealers. The company’s staff does the engineering for custom models, based on submitted specifications, to determine if the company can do the job as specified. All fireplaces are tested in-house before being shipped to the dealer or to the installation site. Montigo also offers annual dealer training on topics such as how to quote jobs, updates on code changes, and new products, to bring dealers “up to speed,” according to Burke. Ortal Ortal is having a “very good” sales year with its high-end and custom, vented, gas fireplaces, says Spencer Lowe, general manager. “This is our fourth year with very large sales growth,” he says. That growth is coming from installations in homes of more than $1 million, and commercial and hospitality opportunities. In particular, Lowe sees a “lot of growth” in resort condominium properties. “We’re seeing architects, designers, and builders trying to again make the fireplace a focal point.” Lowe attributes much of Ortal’s success, especially with commercial and hospitality installations, to its Cool Wall technology which keeps the glass cool while still allowing the fireplace to produce heat. He sees the market moving to larger models with larger glass viewing areas. Another growth area for Ortal is its indoor/outdoor models using its Cool Wall technology on both the inside and outside. True customs account for only 5% of Ortal’s sales, but it has 90 high-end standard models going to eight feet long. Specifications of more than eight feet, and with glass of more than 24 inches, are considered customs. Ortal also uses its standard models as modular units, bolted together, to reach any length. New from Ortal are its freestanding Island and Curve models featuring all glass with no metal showing; those models are becoming more popular for commercial installations. Ortal also has introduced granite firebox refractory that can be matched to other stones in the home.
Pacific Energy Fireplace Products While Pacific Energy has long offered its Town & Country Luxury Fireplaces as high-end, vented, gas fireplaces, it’s now introducing its new Architectural Series of high-end, custom gas fireplaces as part of the Town & Country line. These new models can be made in custom burner lengths from three to eight ft. in one-ft. increments, and with glass 16 or 24 inches high. Available in peninsulas, see throughs, and islands, as well as single sided, Architectural Series models can be load-bearing and come only with power venting for venting in almost any configuration. Combustible material can be installed right up to the fireplace opening, which is covered with Cool Touch glass. Featured in the current New American Home, Architectural Series models include a custom control board that can be tied into a home control system and includes a fireplace diagnostic system that even shows gas fuel pressures. “We’re doing a very controlled launch of our T&C Architectural Series,” according to Cory Iversen, National Sales manager. “We’re slowly opening selected dealers. The feedback has been very good, and sales are as good as we let them be while we control distribution. This slow launch allows us to make product adjustments. There is more demand than we’re now willing to supply. These are big and expensive units, and we want to make sure they are ready to go to market.” Selected dealers must display an Architectural Series model, and Pacific Energy staff will install that dealer’s first sale. Spartherm Spartherm, a newcomer to the North American market from Germany and one of Europe’s largest hearth products producers, does not yet manufacture custom fireplaces, but it’s certainly making its mark in high-end, wood-burning models. “Sales have been steady, but since we just started in the North American market, it’s too early to really gauge our success,” says Markus Aumann, Export Sales manager. “We’ve had very good response in Canada and on the East Coast of the U.S.” Stressing very high quality materials and innovations in design and functionality, Spartherm offers 14 wood-burning fireplace
models with retail prices ranging from $6,000 to $11,000. Spartherm is working on a yet-to-be-introduced concept to make the flames more visible and more prominent. Stûv America Another European hearth product company making inroads into the North American market is Stûv America. Offering both wood and gas high-end production fireplaces but no custom models, Stûv emphasizes its clean, contemporary fireplaces with 35 models and retail prices ranging from $5,000 to $12,000 and
sizes with openings to 50 inches wide. “Architects and designers love these clean, uncluttered designs because it allows them so much flexibility with surrounds to make unique, custom installations,” says Nadia Gilbert, Marketing and Customer Service director. Sales for Stûv are “very good,” according to Gilbert. “We’ve had great sales growth for the last four years. Sales of our gas models are growing, but sales of our wood models are still our best. Our larger models have become our most popular. “With these high-end luxury fireplaces, consumers are taking their time and
Spartherm’s Premium A-3RL-80h.
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| High-end Fireplaces | asking many questions before deciding. It’s now more about their lifestyle, and they want a fireplace that fits their home design and their lifestyle.” Stûv’s design philosophy is to fill a need in the market with “beautiful and high-quality products,” Gilbert adds, “so we don’t develop products just to follow short-term trends.” Wittus – Fire by Design Wittus is an importer, distributor, and retailer of high-end European stoves and fireplaces. This includes wood stoves costing as much as $15,000, and wood and gas fireplaces topping $40,000. “Our customers today have no problem with higher prices,” says Niels Wittus, president. “They want a particular look. They come to us because they are looking first for unique designs. They are not buying a heater.” Wittus points out that his architect and designer clients want clean, minimal, contemporary styling with no louvers or trim. For Wittus, sales of wood-burners are growing, and now account for 65% of his sales. “We’ll always have clients who want to burn wood,” he says. Wittus’ high-end market is looking for bigger, wider, cleaner landscape, or linear, models. “If it is going into a high-end home, they want to put a TV above it. For our wood-burning clients, they don’t care that these models may be less efficient; they want an open fire, not an overnight burn.” That is one reason Wittus thinks the EPA’s efforts to regulate wood-burning
Artisan Series by CAPO Fireside.
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The Phenix Neo Green 95 from Wittus – Fire by Design.
fireplaces are “ridiculous. These fireplaces are for aesthetics, for occasional use – not for heat. “Our clients don’t normally shop in stove stores,” Wittus advises. “Hearth dealers have to cultivate architects and designers to get a piece of this profitable, high-end fireplace business.” CAPO Fireside Some hearth products dealers are doing just that, successfully. CAPO Fireside, with eight and soon to be 10 locations in Southern California, is not a typical hearth products dealer, but a growing group of design centers selling high-end fireplaces and other hearth products. “Sales of high-end custom fireplaces for us are doing very well,” says Eric Peterson, owner. “They are bringing us very high margins. But the margins have to be good because these are very complex products
and costly to install.” Peterson points to a recent $145,000 custom, 11-ft. long fireplace CAPO had to install on a client’s penthouse reception deck. “Imagine getting that up in the elevator!” he says. Total dollar sales compared between fully custom fireplaces and high-end production models are about the same for CAPO, Peterson says. But the unit numbers by far favor production models. “We do two to five customs a month while we sell maybe a hundred high-end production fireplaces monthly.” In addition to installations in very high-end homes, Peterson does “a lot” of commercial jobs. He now has 25 salespeople working with architects, designers, and builders to bring in the jobs. While many jobs are from repeat customers, Peterson’s fireplace manufacturer suppliers offer sales leads to CAPO. “We have the in-house capability to do some initial engineering from the provided specifications,” he says, “our true custom models are engineered by the manufacturer.” Trinity Hearth & Home High-end and true custom fireplaces are a “growing opportunity” for Trinity Hearth & Home, Grand Prairie, Texas, along with the many builder boxes it also sells and installs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, says Sam Kidwell, Sales manager. Selling five to 10 custom fireplaces a week, Kidwell says architects, designers, and builders are looking for innovation. “After we learn what the client wants, we send that info to the manufacturer who engineers the unit and the installation,”
Design Wood Fireplace
www.spartherm-america.com Contact: email@example.com
Made in Germany. 7
| High-end Fireplaces | says Marcus Davidson, Custom Fireplace manager. “Then we present that to the builder. There are a lot of things you can run into in the plans, such as venting and framing and where the unit is planned to go. So we often have to adapt the manufacturer’s specs to what the builder wants, and what can be installed safely.” “To make sure it’s a safe installation and that it performs properly, we have to take responsibility for the installation,” adds Kidwell, “so we handle the job from inception to finish.” “Our customers for custom fireplaces want a fire feature for entertainment, not for heat,” says Davidson. “They want to use it year ’round, so besides cool-to-the-touch glass, many installations include heat management systems to re-route heat. That’s particularly important for commercial installations where the fireplace will be burned all day.” Linear models were originally extra long with short glass, says Davidson, but he now sees demand for linear styling but with taller 24- to 30-inch glass. Trinity’s high-end fireplaces sell for $10,000 to $40,000 retail, but its customs may top $90,000 retail. Dreifuss Fireplaces “Even before the economic downturn, we pioneered modern and linear fireplace styling in our area and aimed at the high end,” says David Waldman, president
“Customers want a real clean look with no metal showing. For the past couple of years, we’ve seen demand for even circular, orb-style fireplaces hanging from the ceiling!” — David Waldman President, Dreifuss Fireplaces
of Dreifuss Fireplaces, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Now our sales of high-end and custom fireplaces are extremely strong. As the economy came back, our commercial business for these fireplaces has gone crazy.” High-end residential jobs top out at about $30,000 retail for Waldman, but he currently has one home with seven new fireplaces, a job totaling $110,000. “The sky is the limit for commercial jobs, but our peak is probably $80,000 retail,” he says. Margins for Waldman are very good; not as good on commercial jobs, “but the dollars are much greater,” he says.
A custom Mason-Lite, see-through fireplace from Colorado Comfort Products.
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Waldman does not “pound the pavement” for jobs since Dreifuss has been in this category for so long that Waldman works with the same designers, architects, and builders on a regular basis. “Although we service only our Philly area, we get calls from all over the country,” he says. Waldman points out that the jobs have become more complicated, “but builders don’t want to listen to things like clearances to combustibles, so it’s important that we stay involved.” Waldman sees a trend toward more European styling and logs rather than glass ember beds. “Customers want a real clean look with no metal showing,” he says. “For the past couple of years, we’ve seen demand for even circular, orb-style fireplaces hanging from the ceiling!” Colorado Comfort Products Sales of high-end and custom fireplaces are doing “really well” at Colorado Comfort Products in Denver, Colorado, according to Matt Hall, manager. “More and more people want a fireplace with that ‘Wow’ factor,” he says. “Now they want bay models, peninsulas, corners in a wide variety of sizes. They are looking for something that’s not ordinary. Whether it’s a commercial installation or for a home, this gives the impression of a high-end place.” Hall sells twice as many high-end production fireplaces as full custom models. Production fireplaces top out at about $35,000 retail for Hall, while customs can hit $250,000. “The margins are great, but since our suppliers don’t set retail prices, we can establish our own retails to cover costs and margins.” The biggest challenge for Hall is getting builders to understand that custom fireplaces are a “different animal. Even though we do all the installations, builders need to know these are all power-vented units requiring different venting and often have external control panels. “Six years ago, I didn’t think we would be doing nearly as many customs as we now are,” says Hall. “This is a revolutionary concept for our industry and shows architects and designers new, innovative ideas instead of fireplaces that all look the same.”
Beautiful. Bright. Alluring. Montigo Prodigy CONCEALED BURNER The Prodigy adds tranquility and warmth to your home. The linear burner produces a relaxing ribbon-like flame. Your desired media can completely cover the bed of the firebox, enhancing the ambience even when the fireplace is not in use.
FRAMELESS DESIGN Clean contemporary lines and frameless double glass design deliver breathtaking aesthetics. Finishing materials can be attached directly to the fireplace and brought down to the edge of the glass creating a stunning focal point without interruption.
COOL-PACK GLASS TECHNOLOGY A channel of cool air constantly flows between the two layers of glass so that the fireplace is always safe to touch, and no safety
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| Retailing |
WORKING TOGETHER IN BATON ROUGE A photo album tracks the 25-year progress of Casual Creations and the Bucy family. By Tom Lassiter
he photo album stays behind the counter at Casual Creations, tucked on a shelf alongside the current catalogs from casual furniture manufacturers. Some of the colors in the photographs, now almost 25 years old, have faded. But the memories they prompt are vivid. A snapshot of an umbrella display causes Rick Bucy to chuckle. “That was our first umbrella rack,” he says,
Colorful birdbath basins from Evergreen.
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shaking his head. “Five umbrellas.” Another photo shows boxes of gas logs, maybe enough to almost cover the bed of a pickup truck. It was the first shipment of hearth products destined for Casual Creations. “I told my dad, ‘How are we going to install that many logs?’ Yesterday, I ordered 100 sets from Blount. Early buy.” A picture of a stack of replacement cushions reminds Bucy of his duties from his younger days. “My dad used to make me rotate these cushions every two weeks. What was on the bottom had to go to the top,” he says. The photo album chronicles the evolution of Casual Creations from its earliest days to a recent interior remodeling project that included new ceilings, new flooring, and slatwall paneling. Every available square inch of space, vertical and horizontal, is used to display outdoor living products at Casual Creations. Wind chimes hang from the ceiling just behind the storefront windows. Grills line the left side of the store, accompanied by a potpourri of sauces, rubs, and accessories. Built-in hearth displays provide a backdrop
for the main showroom’s casual furniture. It’s old-school merchandising – a little of this, a lot of that, and the occasional what-the-heck-is-that-doing-here? A rack near the counter holds colorful birdbath basins. His wife, Beth, and his mother, Nancy, outvoted Bucy and introduced the birdbaths to the store. Tucked between the towering rack of products bearing the colors of LSU and the New Orleans Saints, and another displaying YETI gear, the birdbaths weren’t moving fast enough to suit Bucy. He thought they were a waste of space. Debate ensued. “The weekend we were having this big argument, we must have sold six or seven of the things,” he says, a hint of resignation in his voice. The birdbaths stayed. That’s the way things work in a close-knit,
PHOTOS: ©2018 CHAD CHENIER PHOTOGRAPHY. WWW.CHADCHENIERPHOTOGRAPHY.COM.
With 4,000 sq. ft. and 20 furniture lines, every foot of floor space is used.
(mostly) family-owned business. There’s give, there’s take, and everyone acknowledges that the customers’ votes count most. Pillow Talk Take, for instance, throw pillows. “We’ve got a ridiculous amount of ’em,” Bucy says. “Everybody has been on me to quit buying throw pillows. They say, ‘Don’t buy any more of ’em!’ It’s just an on-going battle with space.” Throw pillows from Elaine Smith, Hatteras Hammocks, and Peak Season accent just about every seat. Bucy is considering adding the new Wendy Jane line, from Gabby. Throw pillows threaten to spill from the cushion room and flow throughout the store like molten lava from a volcano. Why so many throw pillows, with even more in the off-site warehouse waiting their turn? They sell. “I can’t get over it,” Bucy says. “It’s not uncommon for a woman to come in here and spend $500 to $1,000 just on throw pillows.”
Back Row (L to R): Rick and Beth Bucy; Danny Brown, partner. Front: Nancy Bucy.
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| Retailing | The store’s Sunbrella kiosk stands in the cushion room, which doubles as a get-away for staff to meet with customers and spread out swatch books and catalogs to work on custom orders. The vast assortment of ready-made throw pillows wasn’t satisfactory for a recent customer, a designer. “He bought $3,000 worth of fabric just to sew his own throw pillows,” Bucy says. “We sell a lot of fabric for throws.” Bucy has a physique of a former collegiate lineman and the booming voice of a football coach. Don’t let that throw you. He can hold his own talking color, design, style, and fabric. “I don’t have a college degree in it,” he explains, “but we’ve got a good idea of what people are looking for.” He admits that the choices available at Casual Creations, as at most casual furniture stores, can be overwhelming to customers. That’s why he and his colleagues tend to listen more than talk. They’ll visit a customer’s home to get a sense of the existing décor and the Outdoor Room possibilities. They guide customers through the decision process with informed suggestions. It’s a process of elimination to find the fabrics and frames and colors that are just right. “We start weeding through all of it to narrow it down for them,” he says. Bucy looks over the display of replacement cushions, stuffed on shelves covering an entire wall. Nearby is “the largest selection of hammocks in the Baton Rouge area.” In the main showroom, under the recently raised ceiling, is a towering Treasure Garden cantilever umbrella. Market umbrellas, ribs and canopies folded, stand in a rack like soldiers at attention. Casual furniture, mostly cast aluminum and all-weather wicker, spreads over a covered deck off the rear of the store. Other sets greet customers entering the main showroom. Altogether, Casual Creations has about 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space. “We stock enough furniture to fill a 20,000 sq. ft. showroom,” Bucy says. Much of it is in an off-site warehouse, waiting to replenish sets sold off the floor, or it goes directly to purchasers’ homes.
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“You say you want a hammock?”
Deep-seating chairs are positioned for customers right in front of a roaring fire.
Bucy’s wife, Beth, says he always seems to know exactly what’s on hand, right down to individual sets, colors, and styles. “I don’t know how he does it,” she marvels, “but somehow he does.” A couple recently drove from New
Orleans, more than an hour to the southeast, to shop Casual Creations for a specific brand of high-end furniture. When it turned out to be more expensive than anticipated, Bucy suggested another line’s group. They loved the photos in the
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| Retailing | manufacturer’s catalog. But the product wasn’t on the floor or in the warehouse. They waffled. If the couple just could see the furniture, touch and sit in it, the sale was almost certain. Bucy picked up the phone and called clients who had that very set in their Outdoor Room. Could he bring some prospects over to see their furniture? Of course, they said. Result: done deal. That sale, Brown Jordan, totaled about $15,000. Bucy showed his gratitude to the owners of that Outdoor Room by returning and cleaning all of their casual furniture. “It’s insane, the number of out-of-town people that we get,” Beth Bucy says. Customers find their way to Casual
the business with his wife, Nancy, after retiring from commercial and contract furniture sales. Nancy Bucy, now 82, still comes to the office every day. The refurbishment business grew in importance in 2016. A flood caused by a tropical depression struck Baton Rouge and inundated much of the area around Casual Creations. The flood put a damper on the local economy for a good while after the waters receded. Sales of new furniture slowed. The opportunity to save money by replacing cushions and slings, and give their furniture a fresh powder-coat finish, appealed to lots of homeowners. Casual Creations uses a nearby paint shop to refurbish frames and performs other reconditioning operations in-house.
Casual Creations carries 10 brands of grills.
Creations from all over Louisiana, and some travel great distances for unusual reasons. A customer recently made the trek from Shreveport, about 250 miles to the northwest, with a load of casual furniture to be reconditioned. Making well-loved, well-worn furniture like new again is something else that sets Casual Creations apart. “I’m always joking with people that I’m not a very good salesman,” Bucy says. “Because I’m supposed to be selling you new furniture, not redoing your old furniture.” Casual Creations has repaired furniture since it opened as a PVC-only store in 1994. Rick’s late father, Bob Bucy, started
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The flood also ruined fireplaces, gas logs, and fireboxes, leading to a slew of hearth-related repair and replace projects. “That helped keep us going,” Bucy recalls. Refurbishment remains a popular option. A customer this spring was interested in replacing a set of Homecrest at least two decades old. An updated set came to about $3,200. Bucy showed the customer another option, also American-made, by Woodard. It was slightly less. But the customer still found the prices off-putting. Bucy told the fellow, “I can’t, in good conscious, let you leave without telling
you that I can strip the furniture, paint it, and put new slings on it for under $2,000. And it’s going to be like new.” The customer chose the latter. In the Pink A hot pink market umbrella shades a cast-aluminum table and chairs positioned near the street in front of Casual Creations. That umbrella also appears in the company’s logo. Even people who don’t know the name of the store, Bucy says, know exactly where that pink umbrella is. The pink umbrella goes back to the store’s earliest days. Rick’s father had seen a similar umbrella on a trip to Florida and liked how it stood out. The umbrella’s status as a local landmark is one thing that keeps Casual Creations rooted in its original location, Bucy says. The other is the high cost of real estate. An acre of land in the same general vicinity commands at least $1 million. So Casual Creations makes the most of its current location. Family members own the business, along with Dan Brown, a childhood friend of Rick’s who joined the company in 2000. He became a junior partner in 2007. Andy Hamilton, a sales rep and president of Dallas-based Dennis Sales Associates, has called on Casual Creations since 1998. His lines include Ebel, Hanamint, Treasure Garden, Elaine Smith, and Breezesta. He describes Casual Creations as “a quintessential Mom-and-Pop store. They can do anything and everything. They have that eye for design. They even know lines they don’t sell.” The store’s emphasis on customer service, Hamilton says, enables the owners to make the most of their relatively modest space. The volume generated, he says, is “amazing. Every year, I look at what my dealers do. In dollars per square foot, they’re always there at the top.” Show Business Everyone knows the casual furniture industry is weather dependent. Bucy notes that, in Baton Rouge, the casual furniture business is also mood dependent. Baton Rouge, home of Louisiana State University, is a football town through and through. When the LSU Tigers are doing well, Bucy says, business seems to follow
For a winning business recipeâ€Ś just add EGGs!
| Retailing | the trend. Optimism abounds and sales keep the staff of seven at Casual Creations jumping. The fortunes of the New Orleans Saints also have an affect on sales. After football season comes Mardis Gras, a perfectly timed, mood-elevating prelude to spring. “We’re so party-oriented,” he explains. “If people aren’t happy, they’re not spending money. Anytime we have something out of the ordinary, or something that’s not good for the area, it affects (sales).” The shop has felt the effects of other trends, altered its strategy, and capitalized on fresh marketing opportunities. Casual Creations once regularly took part in home and garden trade shows. But attendance in recent years waned, Bucy says, and the shows didn’t generate the on-going buzz and after-show sales that they once did. The shows “turned into a waste of time and energy.” In 2017, Bucy sold casual furniture to a promoter who runs the Louisiana Sportsman show, a “deer, duck, and fishing expo.” He convinced Bucy to give the spring show, held in nearby Gonzales in March, a try. “We were caught completely off-guard” by the crowds, Bucy says. Upwards of 50,000 people attended over the show’s four-day run, “and there was nothing like us there. I was just completely blown away.” Hunting and fishing are a way of life in Louisiana. A grill (or two or three) is as necessary as a bass boat and duck decoys. Bucy displayed furniture, four fire pits, sauces, and rubs. He cooked on a Holland grill, a Memphis grill, and two Big Green Eggs. Over the course of the show he cooked five turkeys, four Boston butts, six racks of ribs, 36 bratwursts, numerous chickens, and countless wings. The aromas coming off the grills guaranteed a constant stream of people entering the booth to sample the fare and see something besides fishing tackle and camouflage gear. Women fish and hunt, too, and some simply accompanied their sportsman mates to the show. Casual Creations’ unique product lines stood out, attracting TV cameras to the smoking grills and burning fire pits. “It was really exciting and refreshing, talking to people,” Bucy says. “We ran out of business cards. We ran out of everything.”
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Show sales included Breezesta furniture, one of the demo Eggs (to a show vendor from Dallas), and some $1,500 in seasonings. Spot sales paid for the cost of the exhibition, Bucy says, and he expects residual sales to continue for months. “Since the show, we’ve had people come in and buy Breezesta,” he says. “I know more are going to be coming.”
After that came fall football season, and Bucy and crew were rooting for the LSU Tigers to win and keep people in a buying mood. Casual Creations, which marks its 24th anniversary in November, will be ready for anything and will take things as they come. As they say in Cajun country, “Laissez les bon temps rouler!”
Store Name: Casual Creations Patio & Fireplace
Gross Annual Sales: $1.5 million
Location: 13203 Perkins Road, Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70810 Owners: Nancy Bucy, Richard Bucy, and Dan Brown Key Executives: (see above) Year Established: 1994 Web Site: www.casualcreationsbr.com E-mail: email@example.com Phone: (225) 766-0101 Av. Sq. Ft. of Building Space: Showroom: 4,000 Warehouse: 5,000 Outside Area: 1,000 Number of Stores: 1 Number of Employees: 8 Full Time: 7; Part Time: 1
Brands Carried: Patio: Summer Classics, Hanamint, Ebel, Breezesta, Treasure Garden, Woodard, Brown Jordan, Tropitone, Homecrest, Gloster, Sunvilla, Peak Season, Indosoul, Sunbrella, Outdura, Ratana, Hatteras, Pawleys Island, Telescope, Elaine Smith Barbecue: Big Green Egg, Holland, MHP, Delta Heat, Twin Eagles, Del Sol, Napoleon, Fire Magic, American Outdoor Grill, Memphis Grills Hearth: Stoll, Golden Blount, Dagan, Uniflame, RH Peterson Co, Rasmussen, Pilgrim, Napoleon, Astria, Superior, Hearth Products Controls Advertising % of Gross Revenues: 4% Advertising: Social Media 2%; Radio 5%; Newspapers .5 %; Magazines 1.5%; TV 1%; Direct Mail 0%; Print 1%
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| Manufacturing |
PIONEER, INNOVATOR, SURVIVOR Paul Erickson and Pacific Energy are an integral part of the history of the hearth industry. By Bill Sendelback
ith the oil shortages of the late ’70s, the demand for wood stoves exploded overnight. Crude oil prices rose from $3 a barrel in 1973 to $30 a barrel in 1980. Almost anyone with a cutting torch and a welding machine began making wood stoves in their garage or basement. That, in turn, gave rise to scores of small manufacturers such as Earth Stove, Fisher, Buck, Craft, and many, many more. But wood stoves also gave us wood smoke, so particulate emissions regulations by the state of Oregon in 1984, followed by emissions regulations from other states and then the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 1986, gave rise to required emissions limits and expensive stove testing. That put the brakes on the sale of wood stoves. Most of these small wood stove manufacturers simply packed it in. Some were merged into larger hearth products companies, but few of these early wood stove pioneers and innovators exist today. One of those is Pacific Energy Fireplace Products, and it not only has survived, it has thrived in the hands of its founder, Paul Erickson, now president and still owner. This year Pacific Energy celebrates its 40th anniversary, headquartered in Duncan, British Columbia, on Vancouver Island about 30 miles north of Victoria. “Back in the late ’70s, the price of heating oil was increasing monthly and becoming a major concern,” Erickson explains. “I had just bought my first house, and my heating oil bills had become greater than my mortgage payments. That really got my attention!” At the time, Erickson was working for a metal fabrication company, so he had the tools and materials, and apparently the ability, to build a wood stove. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” he says. Erickson’s first wood stove was installed in his basement, and soon he was selling them one at a time to friends.
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A: Employee assembling a pellet stove. B: Distribution goes worldwide from the companyâ€™s Vancouver Island warehouse. C: Pacific Energy is North Americaâ€™s only hearth manufacturer with an in-house porcelain enamel plant. D: Crafting Town & Country fireboxes using continuous-seam welding techniques. INSET, L to R: Cory Iversen, Sales, Paul Erickson, Owner, and Mark Esterhuizen, Operations.
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| Manufacturing | “I worked until midnight and all day Saturday and Sunday, and I loved every minute of it,” he says. “After two years it was time for me to decide to hang it up or make something of this venture.” In 1978, Erickson made Pacific Energy his full-time passion. “There was no textbook in 1978 on how to build a wood stove, so I just kind of winged it. We were all just making five-sided steel boxes with a door.”
In 2002, the company started a hearth industry revolution with its high-end Town & Country Luxury Fireplaces, the industry’s first clean-faced gas models. “This has been a great line for us, a solid sales performer right through the recession, and sales continue strong,” says Erickson. “It’s not a high-volume line, but a highpriced, luxury fireplace going into very expensive new home construction, and commercial and hospitality installations.”
stores. When a customer comes in after shopping at Lowe’s or Canadian Tire, now the dealer has a product to compete to keep that customer from walking out the door. Quite often we find that this starts a conversation with the customer, giving the dealer a great opportunity to up-sell the customer to our mid-line, our Pacific Energy products.” Erickson’s product line obviously is a far cry from the simple, black, home-made
The Town & Country line includes linear and portrait styling all with the clean-faced look pioneered by Pacific Energy. “At the 1995 Las Vegas HPBExpo, architects and designers asked us why all fireplaces looked alike. They wanted a cleaner look. So we went with edge-toedge glass and got rid of all the hardware that then was typically on fireplaces. Since then clean-face fireplaces have become an industry category.” Finally, in 2010, the company introduced its value-priced True North line of basic wood and pellet stoves designed to retail for around $1,000. “We don’t sell to mass merchants,” Erickson says, “but we wanted to give our specialty hearth dealers a product to compete with the products offered by the Big Box
wood stoves he pioneered 40 years ago. But his leadership with products ahead of the cutting edge of hearth appliance aesthetics and technology continues to pay off. Pacific Energy sales are up 10% over the last three years, and this year sales are up 20% through August. “A lot of companies say their sales are up dramatically over the years,” says Erickson, “but if you look at their numbers, acquisitions are a big part of that growth, not real sales growth.” Bottom line for Erickson is that “business is good.” Between his North American sales and those of Pacific Energy’s Australian distribution operation, the company maintains its manufacturing year ’round. “Our North American demand tapers off a bit in November, but by then we are
Architectural Series by Town & Country.
Over those 40 years things have become a lot more professional, efficient, and complex for Erickson. Today his company employs 200 people in a 100,000 sq. ft. plant. He now has three brands of hearth appliances including gas, wood, and pellet stoves and inserts, and gas fireplaces. The Pacific Energy brand is Erickson’s original, flagship brand of mid-priced wood and gas stoves and inserts. It was in this brand that in 1980 Erickson introduced the industry’s first glass-front wood stove complete with an air wash to keep the glass clean. A sub brand in the Pacific Energy line now is the Alderlea line, cast-iron wood stoves with a steel firebox. Another sub brand is the Tofino line of high-efficiency gas fireplace inserts and zero-clearance fireplaces.
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| Manufacturing | starting to produce for the Australian market,” he says. North America is 85% of Erickson’s sales with the remainder sold in Australia, Japan, and Eastern Europe. Pacific Energy sells exclusively through two-step distributors. “Our distributors have boots on the ground, so they know the dealers and they select the right ones,” Erickson says. “We obviously go after A dealers, but we would rather be number one in a B dealer than number four in an A dealer.” One reason for the success of Pacific Energy is the company’s core values that Erickson says guides him and his staff. “Pacific Energy exists for one purpose, and that is to provide the finest products backed by a tradition of trust, integrity, and reliability. In fact, those are the core elements of our company’s mission statement.” While so many other hearth products manufacturers have jumped on the gas bandwagon, Erickson believes that one of Pacific Energy’s big competitive advantages is that the company still is very strong in wood-burning products. “More than 50% of our sales are from wood-burners,” he says.
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Erickson points out that already 90% of the company’s wood-burners are tested and certified to the 2020 NSPS 2.0 gph standard, all non-catalytic. “Our strength is that we have so much talent and so much industry knowledge in wood-burning. Just between me, our Technical Support manager John Francisty, and our Sales manager Cory Iversen, we have a combined hundred years of industry experience. Our whole company is an amazing group. We’ve all been through the many changes in this business, and with the recent addition of Mark Estherhuizen as Operations manager, we are well positioned for the future. Wood stoves are our core business, and it’s a huge advantage having all this talent in-house.”
True North 20 Wood Stove.
As if to emphasize this, Erickson points out that already 90% of the company’s wood-burners are tested and certified to the 2020 NSPS 2.0 gph standard, all non-catalytic. Only two low sales volume models have yet to be certified. “Some in the industry think it’s not possible to meet this standard without going catalytic. It’s not every company that can pull this off. We did.” Pacific Energy always has been innovative, e.g., with its industry-first glass-door wood stoves, and the first clean-faced gas fireplaces. That innovation continues today. In its Town & Country line, ceramic “disappearing” glass is featured. “This glass is clear, not tinted like most ceramic glass used in our industry,” Erickson explains. Most ceramic glass has a green tint to it, giving the logs and wall panels a green look, especially with the fire off. It doesn’t look natural. Our glass is different – it is truly transparent.” The Town & Country line also offers a Power Vent Wall Termination that allows the power vent to be framed into the outside wall of the house, making the termination flush. Recent innovations allow the power venting to track the flue gas temperatures to change the power venting motor speed, and to keep the unit as quiet as possible. Brand new in the Town & Country line is the Architectural Series, a high-end, semi-custom line built in two-foot
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| Manufacturing |
“I’m not 25 anymore, but I still come to work most every day. We have a very strong management team that can run this company quite nicely, so this leaves my options open.” — Paul Erickson President and Owner
The Pacific Energy factory on Vancouver Island.
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increments to allow installations “as long as you like.” The full line includes single sides, see-throughs, peninsulas, and bays. The company is controlling distribution with very slow introductions to selected dealers to make absolutely certain the models are ready to go to market. The company is installing dealer display units and is training dealer staffs on installations. With retail prices starting at $7,000 for the smallest units, the Architectural Series is featured with multiple installations in the current New American Home. In the Pacific Energy product line, the patented EBT or Extended Burn Technology is a totally automatic combustion air control, says Erickson. “There is no user interface needed. It senses the amount of draft in the stove, which is proportional to the stove temperature. When the draft falls, it allows more combustion air.” Erickson recognizes all of his 200 employees as being a major part of the
company’s success. “Our average length of service is probably 15 years, but we have more than 70 people who have been here for 10 years, and a couple dozen have been here more than 20 years. We’re a major employer in our small town, so most people who come to work for us stay with us.” With so much consolidation continuing in the hearth product industry, and so few old timers still owning and running their companies, it’s realistic to wonder why Pacific Energy remains a privately-held company. “Yes, there has been interest in us from inside and outside our industry,” Erickson explains. “I’m not 25 anymore, but I still come to work most every day. We have a very strong management team that can run this company quite nicely, so this leaves my options open. “Quite often I think to myself, what else could I be doing that would be as much fun.” To date, the answer appears to be – nothing.
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| Viewpoint |
Greg Blonder, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Boston University, Boston Massachusetts.
By Lisa Readie Mayer
Greg Blonder takes a scientific approach to outdoor cooking,
and destroys some fallacies along the way.
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ome say barbecuing is an art. Greg Blonder says it’s much more about science. The professor of Mechanical Engineering at Boston University, with an undergrad degree from MIT, and a Ph.D. in Physics from Harvard, is a scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur. He holds over 100 patents in wide-ranging fields such as Green energy, medical devices, computer systems, and consumer products. He also happens to be an avid barbecuer. But, unlike outdoor cooks who use a combination of culinary rules-of-thumb,
passed-down traditions, estimation, and guesswork to feel their way through the process of coaxing fire, smoke, and meat into deliciousness, Blonder relies on proven, science-based facts. In fact, he wrote the book on it. He co-authored, with Meathead Goldwyn, the book “Meathead: The Science of Great Barbecue and Grilling,” and is the chief science advisor and contributor to the AmazingRibs.com website. Blonder cuts out the fat and tells it like it is when it comes to outdoor cooking. He delights in debunking long-held barbecue
©2018 ABOVE PHOTO BY JACKIE RICCIARDI FOR BOSTON UNIVERSITY PHOTOGRAPHY.
myths such as “oil the cooking grid to prevent sticking” (false: it’s much better to oil the food) and “pre-soak wood chips and chunks in water to create the most smoke” (false: the water barely penetrates the wood and makes no difference in smoke creation). His recommended techniques and suggested methods are based on factual evidence gleaned from rigorous scientific experimentation, and yield proven and consistent results. Hearth & Home interviewed Professor Blonder to learn how he came to merge science and smoke, and in the process, help backyard Joes become barbecue heroes. Hearth & Home: How did you get into
barbecuing and grilling?
Greg Blonder: “Cooking has always
been an interest since I was a kid. In college I was very good at cooking in my dorm room with a hot pot and a hot plate. I’ve always grilled a lot.”
What are your specialties? Blonder: “My wife and I make chicken
wings and pastrami in a pellet smoker. We do ribs, briskets, steaks – now that our kids have grown and left, we tend to do more steaks. I grind my own meat for burgers – I like a coarse grind, using a 30-70% blend of brisket and chuck so it tastes more steak-like. We also like to grill fish, and even cook bacon on the grill – we pre-cook a lot of bacon at once and freeze it.”
So, is barbecuing more about art or science? Blonder: “All cooking is, at its root, a
science. Science allows you to consistently achieve the flavor goal you desire. Note I said the flavor profile you want. I hate it when a recipe claims to be the world’s best chocolate chip cookie or whatever. It may be the best to them, but not to everyone. For some people, the flavor profile they remember and associate with grilled food actually includes the taste of lighter fluid. For them, it’s part of the nostalgia.” How did you first connect science and outdoor cooking? Blonder: “My wife is a good baker,
but sometimes the pastries would fail. I would notice the recipes were contrary to the laws of thermodynamics, so I’d help my wife redesign them based on scientific knowledge. I would use my tools to calibrate the oven – ovens can be off by 50 degrees. And, many times recipe instructions are ridiculous. They’ll say to start at one temperature for a certain period of time and then drop the temperature for the rest of the baking time. It makes no sense. Ovens vary a lot in the time it takes to increase or decrease to the desired temperature, so the results could never be consistent for everyone. “I would do the same (type of analysis) when I barbecued. For instance, when I smoked brisket, I noticed it went through the stall (when the internal temperature of the meat rises steadily, then plateaus for several hours before ticking back up again). I found an interesting article online by Meathead with a graph illustrating the stall and wrote to him about it. He asked me, ‘Why does it stall? Can you explain it?’ “So I went back as physicist and created an experiment. There were many previous theories about why this happens, but what I discovered is that the stall is caused by the evaporative cooling of moisture being released from the cells within the meat. The stall stops when the meat runs out of moisture and bark develops on the exterior. “Meathead then had questions about other barbecue topics, so I did more
experiments. As a teacher, you have to d i sp e l t he old a nd i nc or re c t t heories before people will accept the new. And you have to explain the facts in a non-scientific way.”
“A home cook needs recipes based on science for consistent results.” — Greg Blonder
Why is it important to bust these long-held barbecue theories and myths? Blonder: “Through science I can tell
you how to simplify a recipe and avoid problems. A trained chef can learn how to compensate for differences in meat, cooking appliances, and outside conditions to create a dish consistently. But a home cook needs recipes based on science for consistent results. “Take the idea that you can touch a steak and compare it to your palm to judge whether it’s rare, medium, or well done. Maybe a seasoned restaurant chef, buying meat from the same supplier, and cooking on the same grill every time, can tell by touch. But most home cooks don’t have that ability. Everyone’s hand is different, natural products vary, different cuts of meat vary in firmness. The only way to guarantee doneness is to use a meat thermometer. You will be shocked at how much better the results are.” Is judging doneness a home griller’s biggest issue? Blonder: “Getting time and internal
temperatures right are the main things cooks get wrong. The biggest mistake people make is overcooking or undercooking food. Chicken breast is very difficult to grill and people overcook it constantly. White meat is unforgiving. You don’t want it to get above 150 degrees, but also you don’t want it to be unsafe Click here for a mobile
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| Viewpoint | at 135. Dark meat chicken has collagen, so it’s more forgiving, and chicken wings are hard to abuse. Using a thermometer is the best solution. Another big issue is knowing when to salt.” Shouldn’t we salt before cooking? Or are we doing that wrong, too? Blonder: “It’s useless to salt immediately
before cooking. You salt meat to break down muscle proteins and retain moisture, but it takes a long time for salt to penetrate. You need to salt a one-inch steak overnight and a big brisket takes several days for the salt to get to the center. If you salt far enough in advance to penetrate, the meat will yield 5% more – that’s more meat for your money for a home cook and more profit for a restaurant. “After proving this, we changed all recipes on AmazingRibs.com to eliminate salt from the rubs and add it separately. The guideline we suggest is half a teaspoon of kosher salt per pound, but find the amount you like. Rub it on the outside of the meat, let it sit a day or two (in the refrigerator), then add the herbs and spices just before cooking. You can add finishing salt before serving.” That’s a revelation. What other myths have you disproven?
Cutting meat right after cooking is the way to go.
Blonder: “Resting meat after cooking
is irrelevant. Conventional wisdom is that meat needs to rest to retain juices. But through experimenting, we found if you cut it right away, the difference in the amount of juice that runs off is inconsequential; it’s about a teaspoon’s difference. Also, that nice crust gets soggy under an aluminum foil tent while you’re waiting. (Barbecue expert, author, restaurateur, and competitor) Adam Perry Lang doesn’t let it rest. If you like
a crust, don’t let it rest. We’re not arguing one way is better than another; it just depends on what you want.” Where and how do you conduct your grilling experiments? Blonder: “I own 11 smokers and grills.
When I experiment, I have to make sure the results are not specific to the tools and appliances. I test everything on electric, gas, charcoal, and wood grills and smokers to make sure it’s replicable, and also to settle bar fights.” Have you settled the gas versus charcoal debate? Can you weigh in from a scientific perspective? Blonder: “Gas grills dominate because
they are ready in an instant and act like an oven – they produce heat, but no smoke. Frankly, for mild foods that cook in 15 minutes or less, gas is perfect. Charcoal offers good direct heat and flame. It adds flavor from fat dripping on the coals and is better for getting a hard char and for smoking.” Do you have a go-to grill? Blonder: “Depends on what I’m cooking.
Salting meat immediately before cooking is useless, according to Blonder.
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I use gas for quick-cooking chicken, fish, and vegetables. For a burger or a steak, I’ll always go to charcoal. I like to reverse-sear
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| Viewpoint | steak because it cooks the interior and exterior perfectly. You set up the grill with two-zones and start out cooking the steak slowly over low heat on the indirect side. When it’s almost done, you move it over to the very hot charcoal flame to get a crusty char. “For smoking, I like to use a dedicated smoker, because I want clean smoke. I would recommend having one good gas grill and one good charcoal grill. If I could have a third, it would be a pellet smoker, and beyond that a stick-burner. That’s how I ended up with 11 grills!” The pellet grill category seems to be catching fire lately. Blonder: “I have two pellet grills. If
you’re just getting started in smoking, I would recommend a pellet grill. You just set it and forget it. They cost a little more money, and need electricity, but in terms of convenience and consistency, they’re hard to beat.”
Blonder: “In the Northeast, the big trend
is eating out. Cooking has become more of an assembly process, rather than true scratch cooking. People go to Trader Joes and buy a salad kit, and other partially assembled ingredients, and put dinner together. “Meals are becoming less formal and prescribed. In a restaurant, it’s common to have a mix of appetizers for dinner. ‘Bowls’ are popular, where everything is thrown together in a dog bowl, and you can eat it with a spoon or fork. When they do cook, people want uncomplicated recipes finished in half an hour. They don’t have the time, attention span, or skills. They have no trouble buying pre-brined brisket or pre-seasoned ribs, but barbecuing is slow and messy.”
How about kamados? Do you test on kamados too? Blonder: “Yes. Kamados excel as lower-
Based on your interaction with young people today, do you think the next generation is learning about or interested in barbecuing and grilling?
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“Wi-Fi may be eye-candy that sells, but what they care about more than Wi-Fi are grills and recipes that get a lot of good reviews. Positive reviews and community recommendations validate a grill, accessory, or recipe, and consumers trust it will make them a better cook and host. Of course, reviews can kill you, too. “Novelty also matters with this generation. It’s really important to give them something that’s not too hard to do, but a little different. It’s a “constrained novelty,” like adding chocolate to a barbecue sauce. It’s foolish to try to fight trends; you need to find a way to tie in.”
Blonder: “Fire-pit and live-fire cooking is
special-event cooking. You get some beers, gather around, build a fire, cook, and graze. It’s more about the experience than putting a meal on the table, but it definitely fits in with the experiential trend.”
We noticed you taught a university seminar on cooking a better Thanksgiving dinner. Have you ever taught a barbecue course? for fun. I have taught about the math behind cooking, but never barbecuing. I have had students design and build an oven scale and a spatula with a weight sensor, because weight loss is a good indicator of doneness, particularly for baked goods. Students experimented by weighing the chicken and cookies raw, and periodically throughout the cooking process, to determine doneness.”
— Greg Blonder
What about live-fire cooking as a way to connect with young people? Statistics show Millennials are on-board the fire pit trend.
temperature ovens because they hold heat well. I know people use them as generic appliances, but they are more specialized. They’re great for smoking and baking. I don’t use them as much for direct grilling.”
Blonder: “The Thanksgiving class was
“People turn to partially cooked or easy-to-assemble meals because they reduce the risk of failure.”
Weight loss is a good indicator of doneness, Blonder says.
How can the barbecue industry better connect with young people to ensure a market for the future? Are high-tech smart grills and apps the way to go? Blonder: “Personally, I believe technology
is not the main issue to attract Millennials to grilling. A lot of young people are scared to cook because they don’t have the knowledge or training. People turn to partially cooked or easy-to-assemble meals because they reduce the risk of failure.
Any final thoughts to share? Blonder: “Well, I can tell you that in
high school, I was at the forefront of the Outdoor Room trend (laughing). I earned money building brick patios for neighbors. It was in the ’70s, when decks and patios were uncommon. Interlocking pavers weren’t available then; I used sand, red bricks, and railroad ties. I never got building permits. I just knocked on doors and did one or two projects a summer. Some people wanted built-in planters or to extend the patio to their natural-gas grill. I was good at figuring the math and geometry patterns to lay them out.”
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| Manufacturers’ Representatives |
HEROES Manufacturers’ representatives in the patio furnishing industry, as in other industries as well, are the glue that holds everything together – if they do it right. By Mark Brock
t’s a Saturday afternoon and you’ve been working with a customer for the past couple of hours. She wants to furnish a newly constructed Outdoor Room and is considering the purchase of more than $10,000 in casual furniture and accessories. There’s just one catch. She wants to know if the chairs she’s considering are available in a custom frame color, and you’re not sure. Who are you going to call? If your manufacturers’ representative is Andy Hamilton, or many others like him, you pick up the phone and call even
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though it’s Saturday. You established long ago that calls on the weekend are just part of doing business at specialty retail. If you really need help, you never hesitate to reach out. “Weekends are when the most customers are in the stores, they’re the big money days, and I tell my customers to call me anytime because getting an answer from me can make all the difference in making a sale,” Hamilton says. “Being a good rep is hard work because you’re working all the time, and good communications is a big part of that.”
Manufacturers’ reps have long played a vital role in the success of both manufacturers and specialty retailers. With an increasingly complex and competitive business environment, the demands on a rep’s skills, knowledge, and commitment are growing. “Manufacturers’ reps are an integral component of the outdoor category, fulfilling a central role as liaisons between manufacturers and product brands, and specialty retailers and their stores,” said Jackie Hirschhaut, executive director of the International Casual Furnishings Association, which since 2010 has sponsored a program to recognize outstanding reps and to promote increased professionalism. “Manufacturers’ reps must have excellent business and interpersonal skills,” she says, “and they must gain extensive product knowledge that they can share with store associates. Our rep of the year program emphasizes leadership, professionalism, exceptional service, communication skills, knowledge, and product training expertise.”
ANDY HAMILTON Carries on a Family Tradition For Andy Hamilton, serving as a manufacturers’ rep continues a family tradition that goes back to his grandfather, who was one of the industry’s earliest representatives in the outdoor category. But it was a love for the business and respect for the people he serves that got him hooked on the career he enjoys today. “When I graduated from college in 1997 I wasn’t intending to get into this business at all; it never had crossed my mind,” said Hamilton, co-owner of Dennis Sales Associates (DSA) of Dallas. “But I did agree to come on board with my stepfather’s firm and found that I really enjoy building relationships with my customers. It’s a tight-knit industry, and you can’t beat the quality of the people you work with.” Hamilton owns DSA with his stepbrother, Steven Dennis, and they cover a territory that includes Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah and Southern Nevada. Major lines represented include Hanamint, Treasure Garden, Breezesta and Ebel. DSA also operates a showroom in Dallas that serves interior designers. “The most rewarding part of the work is setting up my retailers for success,” Hamilton said. “That means sales associates are well trained and that my manufacturers’ products are fairly distributed throughout the territory. I want to assure that there are enough retail sources carrying our products, but not so many that we’re over-saturated and retailers are unable to differentiate themselves in the markets they serve.” According to Hamilton, a manufacturers’ rep must enjoy the business because it’s a demanding career, requiring extensive travel and continual learning about new product introductions from multiple manufacturers each season. While Hamilton is often on the road, the seasonal nature of the business means that he’s home for longer stretches of time during December and January for quality time with his wife and two children. “Retailers have so many challenges today with staff turnover and the need to keep people trained,” Hamilton said. “We not
only work with new retail employees, but we also focus on experienced salespeople to keep them up-to-date on what’s new and help keep them energized. At the end of the day, if you’re honest with your retailers, do the right thing for them and build relationships based on setting them up for success, the money will be there for everyone.” One of Hamilton’s many successful specialty retailers is Home & Patio, a specialty retailer in San Antonio that has been a family-owned and operated company since 1967. “We see Andy more like a partner than a manufacturers’ rep,” said Home & Patio owner Judy Kelley. “We value his input
into the products we should carry, and we believe what he says because he has never steered us wrong. Andy watches out for us, and if there’s a product he doesn’t think will sell, he tells us. He’s in the store every season to train our staff.” Hamilton’s relationship with Home & Patio extends throughout the company, including Kelley’s son, Adam, who works in the business. “Andy and Adam are closer to the same age, so they can talk about what our younger generation customers will buy,” Kelley said. “We appreciate Andy’s input because we trust him, and he’s always available if we have questions or need help in tracking down specific pieces.”
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| Manufacturers’ Representatives |
JACK GLYNN Has Been on Both Sides of the Casual Industry Fence Jack Glynn brings a special perspective to his role as manufacturers’ rep, having devoted 17 years of his career to owning and operating fireplace and patio retail stores throughout the northern Illinois area. In 2000, he and his partner sold those stores, and Glynn formed JJG Sales as a rep firm. “During my 17 years running my own retail stores, I worked with a lot of different reps, and I came to respect them and learn how to work with them to get what I needed for the business,” he said. “There has been so much change in specialty retail during the past several years, especially in the rate of turnover of employees and in the number of retail employees who are not members of the store ownership family.” With increased turnover of specialty retail employees and a diminished family focus, the training offered by manufacturers’ reps has become essential, according to
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Glynn, who concentrates a good deal of his time to imparting both product knowledge and sales training insights. “Every time I train a new sales associate, I consider myself to have added a new partner in the business,” he said. “The more people you can get on the same page with your products and how to sell them, the more successful both of you will be.” Glynn’s primary clients include Ironhaus, OW Lee, Palm Springs Rattan (Watermark Living), and Jensen Leisure, covering Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, and Nebraska. He partners with Mark Cannon in JJG Sales. For Glynn, the key to success for a manufacturers’ rep is to maintain a high level of visibility with retailers. “Manufacturers and their reps have different types of relationships with specialty retailers,” Glynn said. “The rep is there to develop a deeper relationship with the retailer, which means spending a great deal of time in the stores. Many of my retailers are not only my customers, but they’re also my friends and partners. If I go into a retail
store just once a year for the early-buy, I won’t build a relationship and get the type of exposure that my manufacturers need. I’m in the stores often with training, and I’m there for special weekend events when a retailer needs an extra set of hands.” The primary focus of store visits remains the constant need for training new sales associates and updating everyone on the latest new offerings from manufacturers. “Some retailers say they want to do training themselves, but I point out that the reps can bring a lot to the training table, and it’s free to the retailer, so why not,” Glynn said. “I want to look every retail sales associate in the eye and tell them about my products, and I want to do everything I can to help store owners perpetuate their businesses. The more comfortable everyone gets about the lines and about the categories, the more successful we all can be. Specialty retailers should take advantage of every rep who walks in their doors and learn how they can help you.” One of Glynn’s customers who appreciates the training and new product information is Chad Kruger, a buyer for Marx Fireplaces & Lighting in Springfield, Illinois. “We see Jack in the store quite a bit, and he’s valuable to us because like some of our other reps he comes from the retail side,” Kruger said. “Jack understands what we need to do to be successful and he’s never pushy on what we should buy. He steers us toward things that will work in our store and he never steers us in the wrong way.” As a retail store buyer, Kruger appreciates the product information that Glynn and other reps offer, ranging from how to maintain wood furniture to the latest in new fabrics. It’s the type of knowledge transfer from manufacturers to retailers that would be virtually impossible without manufacturers’ reps who have close ties to manufacturers and who develop working relationships with retail outlets from coast to coast. “A good manufacturers’ rep is one who provides great training and one who consistently follows up and takes care of issues and questions for you quickly,” Kruger said. “When Jack says he’s going to do something, we can count on him; he calls me right back when I have a question, and he goes the extra mile to get what I need. A great rep like Jack is there in a pinch to help us make our customers happy.”
BRYAN ECHOLS Sharing New Ideas, Best Practices After Bryan Echols graduated from the University of Georgia, he first thought his career would be in banking. But after only a year with a bank in Florida, he began to look for a new direction. “I realized early on that I wasn’t built for life inside of a cubicle,” Echols said. “My father was with the Samsonite Furniture Company and helped steer me to an entry-level rep position in a small territory for Samsonite. That was in 1992, and I’ve never looked back.” Today, Echols is the owner of Echols’ Enterprises, which is located near Charlotte, North Carolina; he represents Lloyd Flanders, OW Lee, Treasure Garden, and Outdoor By Design in the Southeast, primarily the Carolinas. He was voted the ICFA Manufacturers’ Rep of the Year in 2010 and 2016, and serves on the ICFA Board of Directors. In addition to a focus on training, customer service, and product distribution, Echols stresses the importance of information sharing with his specialty retail customers. Through his active involvement with ICFA, and by networking across the country, Echols has access to the latest insights into best practices in retailing and continually shifting consumer preferences. “Most of my specialty retail customers are closely held businesses that are focused on the demands of operating a small business day-to-day,” Echols said. “They do stay informed about trends and issues, but I try to bring additional information to them that I’ve secured through industry roundtables and through conversations with people I network with across the country. “This is a time with a great deal of unsettling transitions taking place, but it’s also an exciting time, especially for manufacturers and retailers who can take advantage of change,” he said. “Specialty retailers are being challenged to embrace the Internet while they also focus on creating a shopping experience inside their stores that cannot be duplicated online. “It’s essential that retailers position
themselves as specialists in the outdoor category who can assist their customers in creating unique backyards, porches, patios and Outdoor Rooms unlike anything they could create on their own or by working solely online.” As with all successful manufacturers’ reps, Echols is driven by a desire to make the manufacturers he represents and the retailers he serves more successful. Within this environment, he’s found there is a driving passion for the business that makes the casual industry unique. “The thing that struck me when I first got involved in casual is that people may change what they do in the industry – manufacturers’ rep, retailer or supplier – but it’s rare when someone leaves the industry entirely,” he said. “There’s a passion among people in the casual industry to help consumers find just the right products for their outdoor spaces. The quality of people in our industry is amazing given the relatively small size of the casual market.” One of Echols’ valued customers is Hearth & Patio of Charlotte, North Carolina. The company traces its roots to 1978 when it first opened as the Chimney Shop. Over the years, the company added casual furniture as a seasonal complement to fire and hearth products, and changed the name to Hearth & Patio. Don and Mildred Marze purchased the business in 1985 and Cindy Marze, one of the owners now, has been with the company for 33 years. “Bryan has a lot of compassion about his job and makes sure that we are kept upto-date on the latest products, promotions, sales, and merchandising approaches,” Marze said. “If there’s an issue, we know he’s there to solve it, and if he can’t find a solution he’ll take it to the manufacturer. He’s a good partner to us and always available, even on a Saturday. If we need him, we call, and he either picks up or returns our call from a message.” In addition to training and problem resolution, Hearth & Patio turns to Echols for input on product planning and is available for hands-on assistance at any time. “During training, he’ll focus first on the product category and help us understand the category in general,” she said. “Then he’ll focus on the products that he represents and, of course, is partial
to. He also brings us new ideas on a regular basis, on how we can present our products to make them more appealing, how to grow and improve the business.” For Marze, working with manufacturers’ reps is a two-way street in which everyone – manufacturers, reps, and retailers – should all benefit. “You have to have a partnership with your reps,” she said. “I emphasize to our employees, don’t do anything to a rep that will break the bond. It’s a partnership and there has to be respect on all sides.”
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| Manufacturers’ Representatives |
SAARA WISSBAUM It’s All About People Despite all of the talk of product features and benefits, the growth of the Internet, and continually changing demographics, for manufacturers’ rep Saara Wissbaum success in the casual industry really boils down to one thing – people. “Specialty retail is all about people, it’s a people business,” said Wissbaum of Wissbaum & Associates in Sacramento, California. “Products have to be good and they have to be able to stand on their own merits, but for specialty retailers to be successful, they have to be able to work well with whoever walks into the store. It’s all about being great with people.” Wissbaum knows what she’s talking about, having pursued a successful career in retail before becoming a manufacturers’ rep in 1998. She serves customers in the northern and northwestern regions of California, along with Hawaii, representing Telescope Casual Furniture, Ratana, Cast Classics, and a variety of accessory lines. As a manufacturers’ rep, Wissbaum sees herself as fulfilling roles for both manufacturers and retailers. “While representing a manufacturer, it’s my job to create the best possible situations for both manufacturers and retailers,” she said. “It’s my responsibility to know what’s happening in the marketplace, and to suggest ideas that will make everyone better. If we try something new for one retailer and it works, I’ll share that idea with others. I can be a good information resource because I’m in contact with many different markets.” Wissbaum says it’s a 24/7 job that requires keeping a finger on the pulse of consumer preferences and the needs of retailers. “I’m out in the marketplace, talking with retailers every day and seeing what’s selling and what’s not,” she said. “I can serve as a resource for my manufacturers on what’s needed in the stores, not just in products, but also in sales tools that retailers can use. For my retailers, I try to be available all the time; it doesn’t matter the day or time of day. If it’s 6 am or on a weekend, I want my retail customers to call me if they need me to answer a question that’s going to help them make a sale.”
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In terms of her outlook on the casual industry, Wissbaum is optimistic in general, and in particular for retailers who can adopt new technology and focus on the customer’s in-store experience. “The casual industry is doing great things, and I think the outlook is very positive,” she said. “It’s up to retailers to create unique experiences inside the store, including special events and the use of technology; I’m glad to help by providing ideas and information. “We should be looking at how we can sell to the next generation and to the generation behind that one. Technology will be a big part of all that. I also encourage my retailers to embrace the contract market as a great opportunity, and I emphasize how it’s essential that they dedicate someone to selling to hotels, restaurants, and hospitality.” For Mike Perkins, a salesman at The Patio Place in Fresno, California, responsiveness is at the top of the list when it comes to manufacturers’ reps, which is an area at which he says Wissbaum excels. “A typical example is with a customer who wants a particular piece for a special event, but the usual delivery time is six to eight weeks,” Perkins said. “I’ll pick up
the phone and call Saara and ask if the manufacturer can do any better in terms of delivery. She’ll do the follow-up at the factory and, if we’re judicious enough in asking, we can usually get some help on the delivery so we can make the sale.” According to Perkins, Wissbaum not only keeps the store up to date on the latest offerings from her manufacturers, but also shares insights into selling from her own extensive sales experience. “One of the best sales techniques I’ve learned from Saara is how to bring something personal into a conversation with a customer,” Perkins said. “When I’m working with a customer, I might mention something about a similar piece that I have at home and how it works for me. By sharing my experience with the customer, I’m able to make a connection so that it’s not just me trying to sell them something. It creates a friendly conversation.” In working with manufacturers’ reps, the bottom line for Perkins can be summed up in one word – responsiveness. “When a customer has a question, I want to give them a quick response, and reps like Saara typically get right back to me,” he said. “A quick response can make all the difference in my closing a sale.”
INSIGHTS ON MANUFACTURERS’ REPRESENTATIVES Commission-based – Manufacturers’ reps are typically compensated based on commission, but astute reps say that, if you focus on the success of retailers, the money will follow.
Professionalism – The International Casual Furnishings Association began a Manufacturers’ Rep of the Year program in 2010 to recognize outstanding reps and to promote professionalism.
Training – Manufacturers’ reps are the primary resource for product training for specialty retailers; they have the latest information and selling tools from manufacturers.
Information sharing – An increasingly important role for manufacturers’ reps is the sharing of information on best practices, and innovative approaches to sales and merchandising.
Responsiveness – When it comes to what specialty retailers value most from reps, it’s responsiveness when questions or problems arise, especially after-hours and on weekends.
Visibility – The most effective reps are those who invest in their relationships with retailers, visiting on a regular basis, not necessarily to sell but to listen to what’s working and what’s not.
Liaison – With reps visiting specialty retailers on a regular basis, they serve as an excellent information resource for manufacturers on product features and effective sales tools.
Retailers’ best interest at heart – While reps work for manufacturers, it’s essential that retailers believe their reps have the retailer’s best interest at heart, and that communications are open and honest.
Weekend availability – Weekends are the primary selling days for specialty retailers, and reps who make themselves available on Saturdays and Sundays are highly valued.
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www.hearthandhome.com | NOVEMBER 2018 | 59
| Into Africa – Twice |
LONGEST INSTALL On a mission to bring warmth to an orphanage in Tanzania, Tom Gross goes to Africa – twice.
First trip: Gross finishing window.
By Richard Wright
Ed. Note: Tom Gross is the second-generation co-owner and president of Fireside Stone & Patio in Ellicott City, Maryland. This is his story.
t begins in 2011 when Tom Gross was having trouble connecting with a current customer who was interested in purchasing another appliance. On any date that Gross had open, the customer said he would be out of the country. Some people travel a lot, thought Gross, but this guy travels all the time.
First trip: Gross with completed “mud hut.”
L to R: Tom Gross and daughter Adde.
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A herd of elephants passing by.
PHOTOS COURTESY: ©2018 TOM GROSS.
Buildings housing orphans.
Map showing Arusha.
Mount Kilimanjaro as seen from Arusha.
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| Into Africa – Twice | Eventually, he learned the customer was setting up an orphanage in Tanzania, and that piqued his interest. You see, Gross, his wife, Beth, and his partner Steve had a desire to do something other than creating income from the business. They wanted to use their talents for something more, perhaps something different.
“We’re right in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the highest peak in Africa (19,341 ft.), there’s even a glacier cap on the top.” — Frazier Mathes Bringing the first Jøtul stove in.
A site-made ladder was needed for the job.
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“I asked the customer if it was cold there,” says Gross. “Yes,” he said, “it gets pretty cold. We’re right in the foothills of Mount Kilimanjaro, which is the highest peak in Africa (19,341 ft.), there’s even a glacier cap on the top.” Gross asked if a wood stove could be used in a place like that, and the customer broke down in tears. He said he and his wife had been trying to come up with some alternative heating system for the orphanage. They had been using kerosene – when they could find it. The thought of a wood stove was like manna from heaven. So Gross told him, “I’m going to make this happen. I’m not sure how, but let me work on it.” Raising the Funds Gross made a few calls. The first was to his friends at Jøtul, who immediately said they would provide two wood stoves. Next was DuraVent, who told him to send over a material list; they donated about 70 to 80 ft. of Class A chimney. That was easy enough. The challenge came when Gross focused on getting all the parts to Africa. Luckily, he found someone who sold him a 20-ft. sea container at a good price. In went all the “stuff” for the project, but there was still a gaping hole to fill.
Gross found a fellow who was a surplus manager of school equipment for one of the counties in Maryland. They filled the rest of the container with tables, desks, chairs, chalkboards, old computers, a playground set, a lawn mower, chain saws, and other stuff needed for construction, and also stuff that the kids might need in the compound. The container was shipped over, and Gross and his wife spent about six months saving up money for airfare. Meanwhile, the director of the orphanage had set up a team from Maryland that went over to work on the premises of the compound. That reassured Gross that he would have some help with the installation of the stoves; that’s why just he and his wife flew over. They were picked up at the airport and driven 45 minutes to the orphanage, called Havilha, where Gross asked if everything had arrived in good shape. “We have some bad news,” they were told. “The container is stuck in customs and they want $10,000 to release it. We had just spent 16 hours in a plane and $6,000 on airfare. I was pretty angry.” Who wouldn’t be? The problem was characterized as “miscommunication.” To his credit, Gross shook off the anger and concentrated on what could be done during the 10 days left until the flight back home. All he had was his backpack and the clothes on his body. Everything else had been packed in the container. “We pooled the cash we had, walked into the village, and did an extreme mud hut makeover at this lady’s house. We put a coat of Portland cement on the inside and outside. We installed a metal roof. We painted it yellow and put two doors and two windows on, and poured a concrete floor. “It was a change in direction, but it was not in vain,” says Gross. “Yet I was feeling sorry for myself, wondering why this had happened to me. At that point I noticed two other people from the village who had been helping us. Here I am wearing my $120 Timberland sandals, and one of the guys had no shoes, the other guy had smashed one-liter plastic coke bottles, and sewn a string through them to make sandals. They were happy. It was a wake-up call for me.”
Gross doing what he knows best.
A couple of zebras showing affection.
Steve Hook, the store manager, obviously enjoyed the work.
www.hearthandhome.com | NOVEMBER 2018 | 63
| Into Africa – Twice | Gross flew back to the U.S. and resumed life as usual. He thought he would never see the container, or the stoves, or the chimney, or his clothes again. Fast forward two years. Gross gets a call from the director, saying, “It finally made it. It has been unloaded and everything is there. Nothing was stolen.” It seems the container was in the way at customs, so they finally accepted $100 to release it. “If you ever get a chance,” said the director, “we would love to have you come back and finish the job.” At first, Gross said, “Heck, no. I wasted all that time and I’m not going back again.” But after a few years it started working on him. Here was a job he had not finished. One of these days, he thought, I’ll go back and finish it. So he called the director and said, “I would like to do it next summer.” This time his wife stayed behind and his 20-year-old daughter Adde, his store manager Steve Hook and his daughter Hailey joined him. “There was another team there painting and doing other work to get the whole facility ready for a big dedication in the village. The two stoves, by the way, were going into a learning center, a very large building (about 4,000 sq. ft.) in the compound. It’s really a trade school for the village. They teach the kids sewing, woodworking, computer repair, cell phone repair, as well as regular school courses.” So Gross got the two stoves out of storage, took an inventory of parts, and went to work. In two and a half days they had both chimneys up and both wood stoves installed using basic hand tools that they had brought with them. Other tools, such as ladders, were fabricated on site. “It turned out better than we expected,” says Gross. “We had a great time connecting with the kids, plus a little free time. So Steve and I took our daughters on a safari for a day. It was wonderful.” The village is called Arusha, and it’s in Tanzania within eyesight of Mt. Kilimanjaro. It’s a village and a project that Gross, Steve and the two daughters will never forget. “Maybe reading this will motivate some other people to do something out of their comfort zone,” says Gross, “something that will help others.”
Adde Gross and Hailey Hook with a throng of newly-made friends.
Boys being boys, and having fun.
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At the building’s dedication ceremony, house mothers and orphans pose in their colorful clothing.
Gross explaining the proper way to run the stoves.
Hailey, Adde, and Frazier are all smiles as the work nears completion.
Frazier Mathes, director of the orphanage. He manages his job primarily from the States.
The completed project; the building is used to teach trades.
The Maasai, one of the tallest people in the world, have an average height of 6 ft. 3 inches. Here they are performing the “jumping dance” – from a stand-still.
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| Cut Yardage |
HAVE IT YOUR WAY ‘Mass Customization’ is transforming customer choice at specialty retail.
By Mark Brock
hen it comes to icons of American business, few can compete with Henry Ford. He pioneered the modern day assembly line, paid his workers a living wage, and produced an automobile that was affordable by the middle class. But when it came to catering to his customers, he wasn’t quite as innovative. Ford famously said: “A Ford customer can have a car painted any color that he wants, so long as it’s black.” Ford’s approach of one color for all worked well as long as his company dominated the American automotive industry, but, years later, he had to relent and offer new models and color options as competition increased. In today’s retail marketplace, one of the dominant trends is known as “mass customization,”
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which is broadly defined as the ability of manufacturers and retailers to offer custom options to virtually every customer, best summed up by the classic Burger King tag line, “Have it your way.” Mass customization has made its way into specialty retail through an avalanche of fabric options made possible by cut-yardage programs supported by leading fabric brands, furniture makers, and distributors. If a customer doesn’t see exactly what she’s looking for in stock fabric lines, there is a world of additional options that a casual furniture sales professional can order in quantities as small as one yard. “Our customers don’t want their outdoor spaces to look like everyone else’s; it’s got to be unique and special and not cookie-cutter at all,” says Karen Miller, buyer for Williams Ski & Patio of
Highland Park, Illinois. “The range of fabric options and the range of frame designs we have in our showroom really helps us in meeting the customer’s needs for something that’s uniquely their own. Instead of being limited to 50 fabric options, there may be 400 options. You want customers to appreciate all of their choices, but we have to be careful not to overwhelm them with too many options.”
Virtually all of today’s major casual fabric and furniture brands and distributors offer cut-yardage programs to supplement their already expansive stock fabric offerings. We contacted three industry leaders – Bella-Dura, Trivantage (Sunbrella), and Outdura to learn more about cut-yardage programs and how these initiatives are helping specialty retailers better compete with Internet sellers and Big Box stores. Bella-Dura Achieving DoubleDigit Growth in Cut Yardage Bella-Dura launched its “By the Yard Collection” in 2011 in response to customer and industry demands for readily-available, high-performance textiles in a variety of textures, colors, patterns, and styles. The program has grown by some 20% annually with more than 230 fabrics currently offered. Changes are made to the line every other year with between 50 and 70 SKUs added or changed bi-annually. The collection is highly diverse with 40% in solids or textures, 40% in patterns (broken down into small scale, geometrics, and statement patterns) and the remaining 20% in stripes. “We select patterns for the collection that we are confident will sell, and we focus on creating a cohesive collection that allows people to easily coordinate patterns, plains, and stripes to design an entire setting,” said Sarah Keelen, lead designer for the collection. “We achieve these goals by analyzing sales of our woven-to-order lines and by asking our top customers what items they would like to see available by the yard. This input gives us an excellent read on what will sell well in the future. From that point, we review the offerings and decide what else is needed to make the collection compelling and balanced. Then we develop new patterns – usually coordinates and statement patterns that are based on trend research and some intuition on what patterns the industry will be drawn to.”
The Bella-Dura “By the Yard Collection” features offerings as small as one yard that typically ship within 24 hours. Many of the major casual furniture manufacturers participate in the program, including OW Lee, Ratana, Summer Classics, Tropitone, Woodard, and others. It’s these furniture manufacturers that provide specialty retailers with a supply chain link to Bella-Dura’s “By the Yard Collection.” “We have seen our By the Yard Collection become a nice percentage of our business that continues to grow, with more customers participating,” said Ari Gasner, president of Wearbest Sil-Tex Mills, parent company of the Bella-Dura brand. “It’s a way for our
customers to reach more segments of the marketplace without the expense of maintaining fabric inventories. Our By the Yard program especially benefits smaller retailers who don’t necessarily have an in-house design team so we make it easy by offering a fully merchandised collection, ready to go. There is no need to inventory, so they can use their resources in other ways.” Gasner and other industry observers view mass customization, through programs such as cut yardage, as a strategic response that specialty retailers can deploy to compete against Internet merchants and Big Box stores. “In order for specialty retailers to be relevant in today’s market, competing
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| Cut Yardage | against e-commerce and Big Box stores, it’s imperative that they offer their customers a unique buying experience,” he said. “Bella-Dura’s aesthetic and performance for both indoors and outdoors is becoming increasingly well known. With Bella-Dura, retailers have the ability to create a unique experience in their stores that sets them apart.” Sunbrella Kiosks & Trivantage Distribution Support Custom Options With the support of Trivantage, the nation’s largest awning, marine, and furniture distributor, the Sunbrella brand of casual fabrics maintains a leadership role in providing fabric options at specialty retail through its distinctive Sunbrella Kiosk cut-yardage program encompassing a distinctive point-of-sale display. The program not only incorporates fabrics in the Sunbrella stock collection, but also fabrics in the Sunbrella Select program, which encompasses fabrics available in limited distribution, including the specialty retail channel. “Our programs for specialty retailers allow them to offer more than 500 different Sunbrella fabrics,” said Franck Seguin, Decorative Fabrics manager for Trivantage. “The Sunbrella Kiosk program is an exceptional marketing tool for retailers, not only displaying the wide variety of options, but also allowing customers to interact with the fabrics to better appreciate the soft hand and the design aesthetics.” Sunbrella fabric offerings are based on extensive market intelligence, including interaction with specialty retailers who have insights into their customers’ wants, needs, and desires. The design team at Glen Raven works closely with Trivantage, which is also owned by Glen Raven, to offer fabrics in the Kiosk program that align with the latest in color and design trends. “Cut yardage is growing steadily each year,” Seguin said. “Our customers appreciate how we can give them the ability to offer a wide array of fabrics without the cost and the logistics that would be required for large fabric inventories. It’s an important point of difference from the Internet and mass
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merchants. With distribution centers all across the U.S. and in Canada and Mexico, we can typically ship fabrics the same day.” In addition to the wealth of fabrics offered by the Sunbrella Kiosk program, Trivantage began stocking Sunbrella Throws during 2017. The throws are made with Sunbrella acrylic fibers, which makes them bleach-cleanable, and machine washer and dryer safe. Retailers are encouraged to incorporate the throws into their merchandising schemes in creating total outdoor vignettes.
large fabric inventories,” said Gloria Tsocos, Outdura Design manager. “Cut yardage is growing not only with the casual furniture manufacturers and their retail customers, but also with the cushion makers we serve. They may need only a few yards for a pillow, and
Outdura swatch books.
“The Sunbrella Kiosk program, Sunbrella Select Collection, Sunbrella Throws and point-of-sale collateral pieces represent the marketing and customization tools that we believe specialty retailers need to compete with Internet and mass merchants,” Seguin said. “With the support of the Sunbrella brand and Trivantage distribution teams, specialty retailers can provide their customers with virtually unlimited possibilities in outdoor decorating.” Outdura Cut Yardage at 200 SKUs and Growing As is true for all of the major casual fabric brands, the cut-yardage business at Outdura is growing steadily each year. Furniture manufacturers and their retail customers not only appreciate the great variety of fabric offerings, but they also appreciate the fact that they can have these options without the expense of maintaining large fabric inventories. “Our customers enjoy being able to have so many different fabrics at their fingertips, but not having to maintain
they know we can provide the fabric on short order.” With the increasing popularity of cut yardage, Outdura is in the midst of producing a sample book devoted to the program. The design team at Outdura works closely with sales and marketing in determining the fabrics that will be available in cut yardage. You’ll find a mix of solids, jacquards and stripes that can be coordinated with stock offerings for a unique outdoor look. Specialty retailers often select fabrics from multiple fabric brands, including Outdura, Sunbrella, Bella-Dura, Tempotest and others. “Our cut-yardage program is a significant investment for us in design and development, weaving, inventory, sample books, and staffing needed to ship fabric orders within 24 hours,” Tsocos said. “But this program is essential to our customers because we all know that consumers want to make a personal statement in their home décor, and they have grown accustomed to getting just about any product they want within a day or two.”
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| Cut Yardage | Tsocos travels frequently to stay in touch with the retail marketplace and has experienced how fabric options are empowering retailers to not only stand out from the Internet and Big Box stores, but also from other retailers. “We can provide retailers with so many different options, including cut yardage, to make their stores look different than any other,” she said. “Not only are retail stores different from state to state, but
“One of our core values has always been to give our customers more choices; in fact, our business model is designed to maximize choice.” — Ashley Newton Buying and Advertising Director for Leader’s
they are different from neighborhood to neighborhood. Retailers know their customers and merchandise the stores using fabrics that will appeal to their specific clientele.” Tsocos sees the mass customization trend becoming stronger in the future, which will challenge fabric brands to provide effective sales tools while encouraging patio retailers to offer their sales professionals ongoing sales, marketing, and design training. “Our goal at Outdura is not to just provide a sample book, but to help our customers use these sales tools to interact with their customers so they can appreciate all of the options available and so they can make the sale,” she said. Mass Customization – It All Boils Down to One Thing – Choice Leader’s Casual Furniture in Florida is one of the industry’s largest and most successful companies in the industry with a long track record of innovation and growth. Many factors account for this success, including the ability to offer its customers a world of choices.
Fabric Sample Rings at Leader’s Casual Furniture.
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“One of our core values has always been to give our customers more choices; in fact, our business model is designed to maximize choice,” said Ashley Newton, Buying and Advertising director for Leader’s. “If a company is only offering four or five choices, that’s really not mass customization. You have to go much beyond that to give consumers more choices so they can create the outdoor space they’re envisioning. It takes an investment and the ability to leverage programs, such as cut yardage, offered by manufacturers and distributors.” Leader’s typically maintains an inventory of more than 150 fabrics to support its retail sales and its cushion manufacturing business. But, even with this large inventory, Leader’s also finds that cut-yardage programs are an important adjunct resource. The company works with Trivantage and Sunbrella, as well as Bella-Dura and Outdura in tapping into special by-theyard offerings. “The cut-yardage programs are a nice addition to the choices we offer, particularly the Sunbrella Kiosk program through Trivantage that allows customers to see and touch the fabric. It makes quite a statement on the retail floor.” During her 15-year career in the casual industry, Newton has seen continuing improvements in casual fabrics, including durability, design, range of offerings, and special services, such as cut yardage. These advances have translated into growth opportunities for manufacturers and retailers as consumers are increasingly aware of how elegant outdoor spaces can be created and how they can, indeed, have it their way. “Casual fabrics today are available in a much wider variety of colors, and everything has improved in terms of durability and sustainability,” she said. “Consumers can create outdoor spaces that look better and feel better than ever before, and have an outdoor space as nice as indoors. It’s important that the casual industry continue to speak to the consumer, as Sunbrella has done, to let them know what’s available in outdoor décor. When we speak to the consumer and offer more choices, everyone sells more.”
| Retailing |
THE COOKBOOK Alex Soubliere creates a best practices operations manual for hearth retailers, along with a hands-on help program that he supplies. By Bill Sendelback
lex Soubliere has been a hearth products dealer for 15 years. After the first five years, he was unhappy with the results of his three Friendly Fires stores in southern Ontario. Sure, the stores were profitable and sales were increasing, but Soubliere believed his stores could be doing better and that he and his employees should be feeling more enjoyment going to work each day. Out of his soul-searching came Soubliere’s “Cookbook for Success,” an operations manual for any retail operation, and part of an individualized retail program Soubliere has been offering for three years. Included in his Cookbook program are sections, or modules, on sales, service, hiring, training, accounting, operations, health, safety, facilities, and management. “My first five years in business I was working a tremendous amount of hours, really trying hard by putting in the physical and mental efforts,” Soubliere explains, “but I was not achieving the results I had hoped for. Frankly, I was not having fun. There had to be a better way.” He began to research what it took to be successful in business, including reading the late Tom Pugh’s “Blueprint for Success,” and talking with business owners from many industries. “I wanted to understand the standard operating processes and best practices needed to
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keep our entire team headed in the same direction. We were not following most of these processes, and as a result, even though we often thought we had a problem solved, just like a “Groundhog Day” moment we would soon face the same problem again. Now we focus on the processes to reduce problems and eliminate mistakes from recurring down the road.” Soubliere admits that when he read Tom Pugh’s “Blueprint for Success,” he agreed with all of it, but implemented almost none of it. “We as owners are slow to change,” he says. “I read all those recommendations and they made sense, but I was not able to connect the dots to see just how much sense and how important those recommendations were.
That gave rise to my Cookbook program approach.” Soubliere began developing a “Cookbook,” essentially an operations manual of the best practices that all of his team members could understand and follow, practices that also would help train new employees. “The Cookbook allowed us to grow and, as an owner, to improve myself in the day-to-day operations of our business. It has worked out great.” He also knew that other dealers were struggling with similar challenges, a realization that resulted in the Cookbook program individualized for any dealer. More than a dozen dealers have signed on for an individualized Cookbook program. “We take the Cookbook that we wrote for our stores and work with other storeowners to tailor a Cookbook for each particular store,” Soubliere explains. “No two stores are alike, so we develop the best practices applicable for each individual store.” While Soubliere offers one-day workshops at regional distributor and manufacturer dealer meetings, he has learned that the most complete and successful method is to work directly, oneon-one, with dealers in a paid program to develop individualized programs. He, along with his business partner Brad Leonard, use scheduled telephone conference calls, sometimes twice weekly, to develop, advise, and implement each Cookbook. When addressing specific parts, or modules, of the Cookbook, such as the service or accounting module, the dealer’s employee in charge of that function is often involved in the conference calls to ensure they provide input and buy into the program.
Human Resources Service Forms
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Health & Safety
But a Cookbook offers many benefits other than perhaps improved profitability, according to Soubliere. “It is now more enjoyable coming to work because there is less chaos, fewer emergencies, fewer angry customers, less staff turnover, and less conflict among our team. I no longer have to be involved in the minutia that happens in all companies. I can now focus on the things I enjoy doing and not be distracted by the things I don’t enjoy doing. Employees are no longer operating in a chaotic atmosphere. Instead everyone operates in a much more processed and best practices environment.” Shirley Hampton, vice president of Sierra Hearth & Home, a hearth retailer in Jackson, California, thought she could put Soubliere’s program in place for her
very expensive process, as much as $10,000 depending on how long it takes to develop and implement in the dealer’s operation,” Soubliere says, “So it is a significant investment for the dealer.” On average, he says it takes from six months to two years to complete and implement the program. “There are some dealers that are able to schedule their time and focus themselves to make this happen more quickly. But for others with larger operations, or with more complex issues, it can take longer.” Soubliere’s Friendly Fires stores have consistently seen sales and profit increases over the last 10 years. “I say the last 10 years because, for my first five years, I was doing things wrong. Our Cookbook customers who have spent the time, energy,
— George Hill Ultimate Home Comfort Halifax, Nova Scotia
“The Cookbook program is the greatest thing I’ve done for my business in 20 years.”
store by herself, after hearing about the Cookbook three years ago. “I tried, and even though I am familiar with how large companies are run, I just could not make this work by myself for our operation.” So she contacted Soubliere and began to implement his program. “Things went very smoothly, and in just 10 months we accomplished putting our Cookbook program in place.” Hampton and Soubliere had conference calls two or three times each month as Cookbook procedures and practices were tailored to the individual needs of Sierra Hearth & Home, including job descriptions, operations procedures, and even how to open the store each day. “It was certainly worth the cost,” Hampton says. “Now our business almost runs itself. We don’t have to tell employees what to do because it is all written down in our Cookbook.” “The Cookbook program is the greatest thing I’ve done for my business in 20 years,” according to George Hill, owner of Ultimate Home Comfort, Halifax, Nova Scotia. “It’s a roadmap on how to run my business, and it has really opened my eyes.” Hill realized that there was only one of him and he was trying to do too many things, including running the business. “Now, other employees are doing their functions, giving us more time to think, to plan, and to evaluate each job. It has made us more profitable.” Hill says the Cookbook has caused him to see his business in a totally different way. “Everything is in writing in our Cookbook, and is available for every employee to read. Our store manager now runs the store. I’m no longer in the trenches, giving me more time to truly oversee the operation.” Hill started Soubliere’s Cookbook program two years ago, and says he is still in the middle of it. “We take it one module, or function, at a time, along with a conference call every other week with Alex. His consulting has really helped us as we discuss challenges and problems, and getting his advice as we continue to develop our Cookbook.”
and money to roll out their Cookbook, too, have consistently seen similar sales and profit improvements.” While improved profitability is a result of implementing the processes in the Cookbook, he does not suggest implementing a Cookbook just to improve profitability. “Implementing a Cookbook requires change in a company,” says Soubliere, “change by the owner, in the way they do business, and change by the staff on how they do things every day. As silly as this sounds, simply pushing change for the sake of profitability does not offer a significant enough reason for many owners to change.”
Soubliere does not offer generic Cookbooks. “That seemed like an easy approach, to take something off the shelf, but we came to the realization that, for a dealer to successfully roll out this program, it takes work and a bit of pain to realistically look at the operation, accept the advice, and develop the needed processes. That is the only way for this program to be successful. As an example, anyone can buy a gym membership, but those who regularly meet with and work with a personal trainer will be more successful and actually meet their goals.” A bit of that pain is the cost of the fullblown, individualized program. “This is a
| Service |
CLEAN AND CARE Outdoor Elegance creates a program that generates new revenues while building relationships. By Mark Brock
pecialty retailers who are interested in creating a new source of revenue while also building relationships with some of their largest and best customers may want to borrow a page from Doug Sanicola’s playbook. His outdoor
living company in southern California, Outdoor Elegance, not only sells high-end casual furnishings, but it also helps its customers keep those furnishings looking like new through a program called “Clean and Care.”
Sanicola was inspired to create the program after recognizing that many of his customers lacked the knowledge and the expertise to properly clean and care for their casual chairs, tables, and cushions. After a season or two, even the best-of-thebest in casual furnishings needs a bit of tender loving care to extend their useful lives and keep them looking beautiful. “In our business we educate, we preach actually, about the longevity of the furnishings we sell,” Sanicola said. “When people come into the store and ask about the difference between what we sell and what you’ll find at a mass merchant,
Ed. Note: Photos in this article are from Getty Images and NOT from Outdoor Elegance.
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PHOTOS: ©2018 GETTY IMAGES. WWW.GETTYIMAGES.COM.
we emphasize value. Our Clean and Care program is an investment in backing up that message of quality and longevity through proper cleaning and care.” Outdoor Elegance, which is based in La Verne, California, launched the Clean and Care program about 15 years ago. The program is offered to both residential and contract customers; hotels, resorts,
hotel and hospitality staff members so they better understand how to keep upscale outdoor furniture looking like new. Clean and Care is also available to residential customers, including some of southern California’s wealthiest residents. “One of our residential customers has an estate and gardens so extensive that they employ a full-time gardener,”
and tourist attractions form the lion’s share of customers. Two specially-trained technicians deliver the service operating from a van filled with cleaning and retreatment supplies and equipment. “For our hospitality customers, we typically service their poolside casual furniture twice each year – in early October when the pools close for the season, and in early May when the pools open up again; we also have customers call us whenever their outdoor furniture requires special attention,” Sanicola said. “While all hotels have maintenance people on their staffs, we found that many of them are not familiar with the care and cleaning of outdoor furniture.” The Outdoor Elegance team arrives onsite and gives casual furniture a thorough cleaning and retreatment for UV protection by following manufacturers’ recommendations. They touch up any dings or scratches, and also work with
Sanicola said. “Our team helped teach him about casual furnishings so he can do most of the work himself.” Outdoor Elegance has approximately 60 customers in its Clean and Care program, representing hundreds of casual furniture pieces. Sanicola says his company regularly receives referrals to new customers from his existing client base that includes Disney, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Sheraton, McDonald’s, ESPN Zone, and Best Western. Southern California is a mecca for tourism, and Outdoor Elegance has positioned itself to capitalize on the need for beautifully maintained pool and other outdoor settings. According to Sanicola, the Clean and Care program appeals to both high-end and more moderately priced hotels. “Five-star properties hire us for Clean and Care because they must offer their guests the ultimate experience, including the condition of poolside furniture,” he said.
“Three-star properties attract more families with kids, which can be especially abusive to outdoor furniture. They call on us because their casual furniture really takes a beating and needs attention every season.” Top-of-the-line outdoor furnishings and fabrics are manufactured for durability with high levels of UV resistance that’s designed to last the life of the product. But even these pieces need cleaning and a refresh of UV resistant qualities when in contract settings such as hotels and tourist attractions. “Suntan lotion reduces the UV resistance of frames and fabrics, which is why Clean and Care is so important,” he said. “We clean off the debris and then we refresh the UV resistance as recommended by the manufacturer. The result is fresh cushions and straps and shiny frames.” Not only is Outdoor Elegance benefitting from the program, so are its many hotel and resort customers. “One of the hotels we work with said that before signing up for Clean and Care they were replacing poolside furniture every three or four years because of wear and tear,” he said. “They now have furniture that’s been is use for 12 years because of our Clean and Care program. It soon will be time for that furniture to be replaced, but our customer is extremely happy to have extended the life of their furniture; when they buy new furniture we can be confident they’ll buy from us.” Sanicola concedes that some may think he’s doing himself a disservice by helping his clients extend the life of their furniture rather than buying new pieces. He disagrees. “With Clean and Care we build strong relationships with our contract customers, and that translates into additional sales and all-important referrals,” he said. “We include Clean and Care in our new business program for contract customers, offering one year of free service with new sales. After a hotel or resort sees how good their furnishings look after the first cleaning, they’re hooked and will keep us onboard every season.” Under the management of hospitality specialist Jodi Brown, Outdoor Elegance has built a substantial contract portfolio in southern California over a period of many years. Click here for a mobile
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| Service | “The contract market is challenging, and it took a real commitment on our part to grow this business,” Sanicola said. “The Clean and Care program also took a real commitment, and we invested in this business for a couple of years before we started to see a return.” The important thing, says Sanicola, is a long-term view of the business. “We made a commitment to the contract market many years ago, and we’re also committed to the long-term growth and health of our business overall,” he said. “When I retire, my son, Joseph, will be taking over, so we see a long-term future ahead. Clean and Care is one of the ways we’re helping assure that our business is continuing to grow and prosper over the years.” Specialty retailers interested in the contract market and in offering a program such as Clean and Care should realize that it will be an investment that won’t pay for itself in the first year, maybe not even in the second year. But with a commitment
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to invest, the long-term prospects are good. “It did take a substantial investment for us to carve out the contract niche and get Clean and Care up and running,
but both of these aspects of our business differentiate us from the competition,” he said. “We are offering a level of service and expertise that no one else can.”
| Industry News |
NEW PRODUCTS Couristan
The Harper Collection of indoor/outdoor area rugs is made of 100% Coutron Polypropylene and is UV stabilized. Construction is structured flatweave and the rugs are mold, mildew and water resistant and have a modern, eye catching pattern. Call (800) 223-6186 or visit www.couristan.com.
Built to accommodate extra-large pots and delivering a powerful flame with dual burners, the Power Burner has a combined 70,000 Btus. The sealed burner bowl with drain protects from boilovers and spills and the stainless steel top cover provides protection from outdoor elements. Call (888) 905-7463 or visit www.hestan.com.
Exterior Elements Outdoor Living Focus Industries
The revamped BBQ Light has a stainless steel flex arm, with a combination of 12-in. rigid stem with 16-in. flex in 12 or 120 volt options. The lights come in a choice of four mounting options, flex deck, flex clamp, quick connect or weighted base. Call (888) 882-1350 or visit www.focusindustries.com.
Mixing teak with durable stainless steel, the Hawaii Lounge Collection brings a modern look to the Outdoor Room. The chairs fit well in any outdoor setting and are roomy and comfortable. A handy side table offers a spot for drinks and snacks. Call (519) 636-3921 or visit www.exterior-elements-outdoor.com.
Hearth Products Controls
The Sedona copper fire bowl has depth to allow for the control box of the remote electronic ignition inserts to be inside the bowl, as well as the match lit ignition system valve. This allows for the flexibility to place the fire bowl at ground level. Call (877) 585-9800 or visit www.HPCfire.com.
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The Rectangular Skillet was designed and crafted by hand and is ideal for grilling a meal for a family or large gathering. Grill and serve food on the same skillet, which keeps food hot longer. The rectangular skillet wonâ€™t crack, chip, dent, rust or tarnish; clean-up is easy and no polishing is necessary. Call (800) 553-2048 or visit www.armetale.com.
Kalamazoo Outdoor Gourmet
The Arcadia Cabinetry Series offers the homeowner the freedom to create a custom kitchen with 200-plus colors. Cabinets also come in two standard finishes from which to choose: FSC-certified oiled ipe wood and charcoal gray powder-coated stainless steel. Call (888) 229-6952 or visit www.kalamazoogourmet.com.
KENAI Coolers by Grizzly
The KENAI 45-qt. sleek, roto molded cooler comes in a variety of colors to accentuate outdoor spaces. Take the cooler on a kayak trip, or use it to store cold items for a backyard gathering. Call (563) 202-9199 or visit www.grizzlycoolers.com.
Royal Palm and West Palm recycled plastic Adirondack chairs have wide arms, curved seats and high back support. Constructed of high density assimilated wood and stainless hardware, the chairs are UV protected. Call (909) 590-5005 or visit www.shineco.com.
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| Business Climate |
In early October, Hearth & Home faxed a survey to 2,500 specialty retailers of hearth, patio, and barbecue products, asking them to compare September 2018 sales to September 2017. The accompanying charts and selected comments are from the 2,003 useable returns.
RETAILER SALES - U.S. AND CANADA September 2018 vs. September 2017
55% Retailers Up
58% Retailers No Change
Spas remain on a roll, with 77% of retailers posting an UP month in September. That was followed by Hearth retailers, with almost half (48%) having an UP month.
13-MONTH YEAR-OVER-YEAR RETAIL SALES September 2018 vs. September 2017
11% 10% 8% 9% 10% 6% 7% 9%
2% 4% -1%
9/17 10/17 11/17 12/17 1/18 2/18 3/18 4/18 5/18 6/18 7/18 8/18 9/18
8% 5% 1% 4% 3% 0% 1%
9/17 10/17 11/17 12/17 1/18 2/18 3/18 4/18 5/18 6/18 7/18 8/18
SPAS 8% 5%
7% 2% 2% 5% 5%
12% 13% 2%
5% 5% 7%
9/17 10/17 11/17 12/17 1/18 2/18 3/18 4/18 5/18 6/18 7/18 8/18 9/18
9/17 10/17 11/17 12/17 1/18 2/18 3/18 4/18 5/18 6/18 7/18 8/18
In September, Spa retailers posted a 7% increase over the same period in the previous year; Hearth retailers followed, but with only a 3% gain.
80 | NOVEMBER 2018 | www.hearthandhome.com
RETAILER COMMENTS NORTHEAST Connecticut: (Hearth) “The month started out strong, then fizzled. With the price of oil rising, we thought we would end up strong. We’ll have to wait and see. Strong traffic though. Maybe the tariff causing the price of steel to increase is the problem. Not sure.”
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 September 2018
Maryland: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “RAIN
– RAIN – RAIN. There are no other specialty patio retailers in our area, so we compete with BJ’s, Costco, Sam’s Club, and Lowe’s. In September we usually have some decent sales when the mass merchants clear out their patio products, but this September the store count of patio customers dwindled dramatically!”
52 115 11360
Delaware: (Hearth, BBQ) “Even though
sales in 2017 were down for the year, there was a nice spike in September 2017. We believe it was mainly due to a sale our stove manufacturer generally has, but did not have this year – 2018. That explains the decrease in sales for September 2018. We tried to do sales to make up for the difference but, of course, this eats into our profit margins.”
Pennsylvania: (Hearth, BBQ) “I truly
believe our current administration in Washington has helped to turn things
113 124 Record Coldest
122 121 102 122 122 111 122 87 116 121 123 103 113 124 122 103 122 116 119 124 121 124 123 47 118 86 102109 122 122 124 123 111 122 87 119 116 121 123 122 78 10397 124 122 122 103 121 1 = Coldest 119119 116 124 124 123124 = Warmest 118 124 73 109 86 115 123 119 124 122 78 97 122 1 = Coldest 119 121
Much Below Average
124 = Warmest National Climatic Data Center/NESDIS/NOAA
Much 124 Above Average
In September, seven states posted Record Warmest temperatures – Arizona, Utah, Florida, National Climatic Center/NESDIS/NOAA Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Nationwide, it was the Data fourth hottest September since 1895. Record Much Below Near Above Much Record Coldest
124 56 STATEWIDE72AVERAGE TEMPERATURE RANKS 105 124 124 July 2018 - September 111 2018 113 124 112
107 124 124 113
New York: (Hearth, Spas) “Following 24
days that saw rain in September, we are considering development of a side business of ark construction. The slowly but surely rising prices of natural gas and propane has led to an uptick of interest in pellet stoves here in the Northeast. Staffing continues to be a challenge, with absenteeism at the top of our concerns. The extremely low unemployment rate has led to higher wages for skilled installers. Finally, supplier prices are going up and up and up. Most quotes now are only guaranteed for 10 days. Vent pipe in particular has been brutal.”
Connecticut: (Hearth) “Sales are up
nicely and all indicators appear to mean a good selling season, but as always we are expecting the unexpected.”
124 72 112 124
107 Record Coldest
Much Below Average
123 89 124 123 119 65 124 100 105 123 124 121 120 56 108 122 62 105 94 124 124 122 111 124 115 62 120 123 118 122 71 89 92 123 119 118 65 118 115105 1 = Coldest 100 121 120 124 =123 Warmest 108 122 107 62 94 115 122 121 115 118 71 92 118 115 118 1 = Coldest Near Average
124 = Warmest
National Climatic Data Center/NESDIS/NOAA
121 Much Above Average
National Climatic Data Center/NESDIS/NOAA
Much Below Average
Much Above Average
In the three-month period 115 from July 85to September, 11 states experienced Record107 78 109 90 Rhode Island, Warmest weather – California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, New York, 77 123 107– 71 Massachusetts,116 Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine. It 94 was the fifth warmest July 112 84 98 76 years. September throughout the contiguous U.S. in 124 111 105 57
108 115 116 100
70 100 68 54 110 107 58 84 85 40 89 53 78 53 109 90 a mobile for 77 Click here 90 107 42 reading experience 71 94 friendly www.hearthandhome.com 112 2018 9384 | NOVEMBER 33 76 38 105 57 77 70 1 = Coldest 6841 5440 58 84 124 =110 Warmest
49 STAT 15 49 7 | 81
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around. I saw nothing but decline for over four years, and we are now bouncing back in a big way. Even my employees have a more positive outlook.”
The Consumer Confidence Index
large improvement in August. The Index
Arkansas: (Hearth) “Disappointed in
this month’s sales due to warmer weather, schools starting up, county fairs, etc. Folks are just not interested in buying hearth products. Come on, cold weather!” Florida: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Sales
have been strong up until the end of September, but early October sales are showing a decline.”
North Carolina: (Patio) “Luckily we
“After a considerable improvement in August, Consumer Confidence increased further in September and hovers at an 18-year high,” said Lynn Franco, director of Economic Indicators at The Conference Board. “The September reading is not far from the all-time high of 144.7 reached in 2000.
solid economic growth exceeding 3.0%
conditions remains extremely favorable, bolstered by a strong economy and robust job growth. The Expectations Index surged in September, suggesting
sales, especially gas grills, did very well!”
for the remainder of the year. These
Texas: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “Last year
continue to support healthy consumer
Virginia: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “This has
been the busiest September in a very long time! People are buying – Kha-Ching $$$! I’m in fireplace heaven right now. LOL.” Virginia: (Hearth) “After two months
of rain and more rain, there was a recent two week pause which was good as some home starts were able to get underway. Just as things started to look up, 10 tornadoes struck in one day throughout the areas
from 134.7 in August.
Tennessee: (Hearth, Patio) “Our grill
slow season this year. Our best sales month ever was this past July. We are looking forward to another record breaking year.”
now stands at 138.4 (1985=100), up
“Consumers’ assessment of current
Texas: (Hearth, BBQ) “We did not have a
increased in September, following a
avoided an expected direct hit from hurricane Florence, but the rest of the state was not as fortunate. The extended lousy weather didn’t help business – but how can we complain?”
was a record year. This year is tracking well ahead, driven by very high-end gas fireplaces and other fireplace products. Patio is OK, but there are literally a dozen new players in the market. The tickets are larger, but further apart. Grills were strong in spring but much softer now. Kamado-type smokers have faded drastically, once again there are many players that have entered the market. I think we must adjust to a new normal market.”
Year 6 Mo. Jul Aug Ago Ago 2018 2018
historically high confidence levels should spending, and should be welcome news for retailers as they begin gearing up for the holiday season.”
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.
we serve. Sadly, there was one fatality from these twisters, and lots of property damage. Since then, we have enjoyed beautiful weather and home starts and regular retail sales have increased a bit. We’re praying this will continue and cold weather will be here soon – and customers will want to stay warm.”
been anything outstanding so far for the retail side. Now my in-ground pool sales, renovations, and service department have been outstanding. I just wish we could get our hands on some qualified help! Next year looks just as good given all of the signed contracts we already have booked.”
MIDWEST Illinois: (Hearth) “We have been busier with log sales this year and not so much with fireplaces and inserts.”
a bit more interest in the pellet stove line compared to last year.”
Indiana: (Patio, BBQ, Spas) “Our two
stores have maintained an average year, so far nothing to brag about. We had a fairly nice summer once the cold weather went away; our last freeze was April 30. This was about a month later than normal, so the season started out slow and hasn’t
Iowa: (Hearth, BBQ) “Seems to be quite
Michigan: (Hearth) “Sales are up with new
construction, early-buy, and homeowners’ purchases of gas inserts and gas fireplaces due to remodeling.” Michigan: (Spas) “Amazing summer
with great weather, trying at times because of poor summer fill-in help. All the year-round people did an amazing job. Staff
www.hearthandhome.com | NOVEMBER 2018 | 83
| Business Climate |
STOCK WATCH COMPANY – EXCHANGE
Standard & Poor’s 500 (a) HNI Corporation (b) Pool Corporation (c) Restoration Hardware (b) Wayfair (b) NOTES:
S&P HNI POOL RH W
2,929.67 45.40 175.87 164.49 151.20
2,581.00 31.16 109.56 71.78 55.33
2,901.52 44.10 164.26 159.00 135.17
2,913.98 44.24 166.88 131.01 147.67
0.4% 0.3% 1.6% -17.6% 9.2%
10.3% 22.6% 14.1% 37.5% 118.7%
15.7% 6.7% 54.3% 86.3% 119.1%
MARKET CAPITALIZATION ($000,000)
$1,840.00 $6,240.00 $2,460.00 $11,580.00
(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 119.1%
HNI POOL RH
MARKET CAPITALIZATIONS $12,000 $11,000 $10,000 $9,000 $8,000 $7,000 $6,000 $5,000 $4,000 $3,000 $2,000 $1,000 $0
As of 28-Sep-2018
Staff got beat up pretty good; consumers are getting tougher and demanding more. It made for an interesting 150-day season. Having merchandise stacked up deep and ready to go was key to our successful summer.” Ohio: (Hearth, BBQ) “Foot traffic has
finally picked up. After a long summer of slow sales for grills and hearth remodeling projects, it feels good to have busy showroom RTK floors again. We need a really good fourth quarter to catch up with the numbers from our record-setting sales in 2017. Direct-vent inserts are once again taking sales away from vent-free gas logs with glass doors. Gas products overall seem to still be the high demand item. Not a whole lot of people are asking for wood.”
Wisconsin: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “New
construction is at a 30-year high, most homes are getting four to five units. The more costly, the easier it is to sell.” WEST Alaska: (Hearth, BBQ) “Unusually warm summer in southeast Alaska lasted into October, but didn’t slow down stove sales in all categories; oil stoves are making a comeback, but wood and pellet are still selling strong.” California: (Hearth, BBQ) “Last year in
public is positive about the economy, the stock market, etc., but have not forgotten the last recession. We’re hoping for a wet/cold winter. Business is up on all products, including spas which because of our drought conditions, has been a challenge.” California: (Hearth) “This year and for
the past four years has seen a steady increase; we have added two more employees in that time. No advertising for almost a year and we’re still going crazy; installs are scheduled out to Thanksgiving.”
September there was a major fire in our area, 5,500 homes burned. Now we have a major rebuild.”
Colorado: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “It’s
California: (Hearth, Spas) “Lots of fireplace
Oregon: (Hearth) “Business is up for
business this summer/early fall. The general
84 | NOVEMBER 2018 | www.hearthandhome.com
hard to compete with the Box stores, especially on outdoor products.” September, which is very refreshing.”
Statement of Ownership, Management, and Circulation PS Form 3526-R (Requester Publications Only) 1. Publication Title
Hearth & Home
3. Filing Date
2. Publication Number
4. Issue Frequency
British Columbia: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ, Spas) “September was
7. Complete Mailing Address of Known Office of Publication (Not printer) (Street, city, county, state, and ZIP+4 ®)
cool and wet, this put a real damper on barbecue and patio product sales. Gas fireplaces are up; hot tub sales are up a little. Overall, it was a decent month.”
Sept. 19, 2018
5. Number of Issues Published Annually
6. Annual Subscription Price (if any)
PO Box 1288, Laconia, Belknap County, NH 03247
Telephone (Include area code)
8. Complete Mailing Address of Headquarters or General Business Office of Publisher (Not printer)
PO Box 1288, Laconia, Belknap County, NH 03247 9. Full Names and Complete Mailing Addresses of Publisher, Editor, and Managing Editor (Do not leave blank) Publisher (Name and complete mailing address)
Richard C. Wright, PO Box 1288, Laconia, NH 03247 Editor (Name and complete mailing address)
British Columbia: (Hearth) “Strange year in that the phone
started ringing in July, that’s about 2 1/2 months earlier than usual. Half wanted to book service/sweeping and the other half wanted to buy wood or pellet units, installed.” British Columbia: (Hearth, BBQ) “Wood stove and fireplace
sales have kept us consistently busy. We thought we had booked enough chimney for most of the year, but we have had to reorder almost as much as we had booked.”
Richard C. Wright, PO Box 1288, Laconia, NH 03247 Managing Editor (Name and complete mailing address)
Richard C. Wright, PO Box 1288, Laconia, NH 03247 10. Owner (Do not leave blank. If the publication is owned by a corporation, give the name and address of the corporation immediately followed by the names and addresses of all stockholders owning or holding 1 percent or more of the total amount of stock. If not owned by a corporation, give the names and addresses of the individual owners. If owned by a partnership or other unincorporated firm, give its name and address as well as those of each individual owner. If the publication is published by a nonprofit organization, give its name and address.) Complete Mailing Address Full Name
Village West Publishing Richard C. Wright Jacqueline Avignone
PO Box 1288, Laconia, NH 03247-1288 PO Box 1288, Laconia, NH 03247-1288 PO Box 1288, Laconia, NH 03247-1288
11. Known Bondholders, Mortgagees, and Other Security Holders Owning or Holding 1 Percent or More of Total Amount of Bonds, Mortgages, or Other Securities. If none, check box. None
Complete Mailing Address
12. Tax Status (For completion by nonprofit organizations authorized to mail at nonprofit rates) (Check one) The purpose, function, and nonprofit status of this organization and the exempt status for federal income tax purposes:
Has Not Changed During Preceding 12 Months Has Changed During Preceding 12 Months (Publisher must submit explanation of change with this statement.)
14. Issue Date for Circulation Data Below
Richard C. Wright/Hearth & Home
15. Extent and Nature of Circulation
Ontario: (BBQ) “2018 will be a record year for us. The pendulum
of consumer demand is slowly swinging back to independent, full-service dealers. The onus is on all of us to keep the consumer coming to the independent dealer.” Ontario: (Hearth) “Second best September in our 30-year history.
Extremely busy, on the floor and doing quotes. Selling mostly gas, but a strong wood component too.”
Ontario: (Hearth, Patio, BBQ) “We had major highway
reconstruction last year which affected our business. This year’s weather was more cooperative in regards to barbecue sales. Our sales were up enough this year to put a smile on our faces.”
d. Nonrequested Distribution (By Mail and Outside the Mail)
It’s not a weather factor. The economy is supposedly very good. Maybe it’s due to new players in our market: Wayfair, Costco on-line, and others.”
Outside County Paid/Requested Mail Subscriptions stated on PS Form 3541. (Include direct written request from recipient, telemarketing, and Internet requests from recipient, paid subscriptions including nominal rate subscriptions, employer requests, advertiser’s proof copies, and exchange copies.)
In-County Paid/Requested Mail Subscriptions stated on PS Form 3541. (Include direct written request from recipient, telemarketing, and Internet requests from recipient, paid subscriptions including nominal rate subscriptions, employer requests, advertiser’s proof copies, and exchange copies.)
Sales Through Dealers and Carriers, Street Vendors, Counter Sales, and Other Paid or Requested Distribution Outside USPS®
Requested Copies Distributed by Other Mail Classes Through the USPS (e.g., First-Class Mail®)
No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date
Outside County Nonrequested Copies Stated on PS Form 3541 (include sample copies, requests over 3 years old, requests induced by a premium, bulk sales and requests including association requests, names obtained from business directories, lists, and other sources)
In-County Nonrequested Copies Stated on PS Form 3541 (include sample copies, requests over 3 years old, requests induced by a premium, bulk sales and requests including association requests, names obtained from business directories, lists, and other sources)
Nonrequested Copies Distributed Through the USPS by Other Classes of Mail (e.g., First-Class Mail, nonrequestor copies mailed in excess of 10% limit mailed at Standard Mail ® or Package Services rates)
Nonrequested Copies Distributed Outside the Mail (Include pickup stands, trade shows, showrooms, and other sources)
Total Nonrequested Distribution [Sum of 15d (1), (2), (3) and (4)]
Total Distribution (Sum of 15c and e)
Copies not Distributed (See Instructions to Publishers #4, (page #3))
Total (Sum of 15f and g)
Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation (15c divided by 15f times 100)
5,612 12,942 -0-
Average No. Copies Each Issue During Previous 12 Months
a. Requested and Paid Electronic Copies
b. Total Requested and Paid Print Copies (Line 15c) + Requested/Paid Electronic Copies (Line 16a)
c. Total Requested Copy Distribution (Line 15f) + Requested/Paid Electronic Copies (Line 16a)
d. Percent Paid and/or Requested Circulation (Both Print & Electronic Copies) (16b divided by 16c Í 100)
* If you are claiming electronic copies, go to line 16. If you are not claiming electronic copies, skip to line 17.
16. Electronic Copy Circulation
Quebec: (Patio) “Not sure how we can explain why we’re down.
c. Total Paid and/or Requested Circulation (Sum of 15b (1), (2), (3), and (4))
Ontario: (Hearth, BBQ) “In September, new orders were up
about 10%, indicating that the season has started. Overall we are up 5% YTD. Let’s hope the trend continues.”
a. Total Number of Copies (Net press run)
b. Legitimate Paid and/or Requested Distribution (By Mail and Outside the Mail)
September 1, 2018 Average No. Copies Each Issue During Preceding 12 Months
60.25% No. Copies of Single Issue Published Nearest to Filing Date
I certify that 50% of all my distributed copies (electronic and print) are legitimate requests or paid copies.
17. Publication of Statement of Ownership for a Requester Publication is required and will be printed in the issue of this publication. 18. Signature and Title of Editor, Publisher, Business Manager, or Owner
November 1, 2018 Date
Sept. 19, 2018
I certify that all information furnished on this form is true and complete. I understand that anyone who furnishes false or misleading information on this form or who omits material or information requested on the form may be subject to criminal sanctions (including fines and imprisonment) and/or civil sanctions (including civil penalties).
www.hearthandhome.com | NOVEMBER 2018 | 85
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For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-561-5550
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| Classifieds | Business For Sale For Sale Stove, furniture and gift shop in the mountains of Northern California. Owners retiring. Loyal customer base, working with Air Quality until 2020 on a stove change out. Sales around $900,000 a year. Beautiful area, a great place to raise your children. Contact us at: email@example.com or (530) 283-2929
Call the Advertising Department at (800) 258-3772
MAHPBA Executive Director Needed Mid-Atlantic HPBA seeks person or mgmt. co., to work with Board in members’ best interest. Industry exp. preferred. Travel required. For more information and to apply visit: www.MAHPBA.org/employment
Help Wanted Help Wanted WORK FROM HOME! TECH/Sales Rep wanted. Acadia/Breckwell Hearth is looking for a motivated applicant with strong gas technical background to join our team. Responsibilities include: product development, design, technical training and sales. BONUS for wood/pellet knowledge. Travel required.
Experienced Sweep Wanted Looking for certified sweep. 40 yr old, family owned chimney sweeping co., near Sacramento, CA. Salary/commission, medical/vacation, signing bonus available. Full Time position. Please email resumes to Amie Ryan: firstname.lastname@example.org.
| Ad Index | Advertiser
Send resume to email@example.com
This ad index is an additional service provided by Hearth & Home to its advertisers. Hearth & Home assumes no liability for any incorrect information.
Bradley Technologies Canada
Big Green Egg
Bull Outdoor Products Cajun Grill
Cardinal Systems Dansons Group DuraVent
Empire Comfort Systems Escalera
Hearth Products Controls Company
Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association IMC – Las Vegas
J&R Home Products Ltd Montigo
R H Peterson Co Ratana
Sand Hill Wholesale & Mfg. Spartherm Stûv America Sunbrella
Telescope Casual Furniture
Tjernlund Chimney Products US Draft Kutzner + Weber
(770) 938-9394 (800) 665-4188
82 59 43
C2 29 86
30,31 C3 71 35 79
14,15 39 86 85
(337) 233-6808 (877) 303-3134 (800) 835-4429
(888) 295-5647 (800) 851-3153 (800) 622-1359
(877) 433-7001 (703) 522-0086 (702) 599-3046 (800) 561-5550 (800) 378-3115
(866) 606-6330 (800) 332-3973 (866) 919-1881 (888) 726-3445
www.peakseasoninc.net www.rhpeterson.com www.ratana.com
(800) 255-4208 (817) 393-4029
Zhongshan Sunshine Electrical Appliance Tech Company
Wittus Fire by Design
Wood Carver / Regal Teak
Valor/Miles Industries Vesta Awards
www.sunbrella.com www.tjernlund.com www.kw-usa.com
+86 760 8756 5126 www.sunshine-manufacturing.com
www.hearthandhome.com | NOVEMBER 2018 | 87
Gregg Guidry, for one! City: Lafayette
Occupation: Owner, Percy Guidry Manufacturing/Cajun Grill Special Interests/Hobbies: “I love being outdoors, duck hunting, fishing,
boating, cooking, and on the farm with our animals. Of course, I’m always doing it with my gorgeous wife, children, family, and friends.” Favorite Drink, Favorite Food: “Community Coffee café special
in the am, unsweetened tea for lunch, Bayou spiced rum or a good 12 yr. old single malt scotch over ice for evenings and weekends. My favorite food is, without a doubt, barbecue! My definition of BBQ is only over a real wood fire. I light my Cajun Grill at least three times a week and never use briquettes!” Issues and/or Opportunities in the Barbecue Industry:
“The HPBA is and always has been a great venue for the barbecue industry. I feel strongly that a fall show for the Patio and BBQ industries would benefit retailers and manufacturers. Most retailers have committed to products way before the HPBA show in spring. New and exciting products made in the USA are what our consumers in our demographic want.”
Key Things Retailers Should Do to Improve Their Barbecue Business: “Know your product, not just what’s
on the brochure, but how to cook on it. Got a client on the fence? Put a demo grill in their backyard for the weekend; that’s a guaranteed sale every time. Fire up a different grill you sell each Saturday, and demo for your customers and employees. Be the expert in your market, get on TV for free air time, for May BBQ month, 4th of July, safety tips for BBQ holidays, etc. Train salespeople to be passionate and confident.” Years Reading Hearth & Home: “I have been reading it religiously since it first came out, and prior to that it was called Wood ’n Energy. In 1982 I started implementing Hearth & Home strategies, and began the process of transforming our retail facility from a simple mom-andpop store to Percy Guidry Hearth & Patio.” Reasons for Reading Hearth & Home: “As a retail manager, the main
reason to read Hearth & Home is to see the new products and trends. Also, to learn better ways to market, display, train sales staff, expand offerings, etc. To read what’s working in other markets, implement it, and see your company prosper is the greatest feeling. “From a manufacturer’s point of view, the retailer has the pulse on the U.S. consumer, their wants and don’t wants. The retailer highlight articles are great resources. Hearth & Home also aids me in product design, where to expand, and where to eliminate.” Click here for a mobile friendly reading experience
PHOTO: ©2018 ZOOM PHOTO STUDIO.WWW.ZOOMPHOTOSTUDIO.COM.
Keith Guidry, for one! City: Lafayette
Occupation: Manager, Percy Guidry Hearth & Patio Special Interests/Hobbies: “Fishing, family time,
cooking, fishing and fishing!”
Favorite Drink, Favorite Food: “A good cup of
coffee; any dish where shrimp is the key ingredient.”
Has Your TV show – “Grillin’ with the Guru” Been Great for Exposure?
“It really picked up some momentum this past season (season six). I get stopped in restaurants and grocery stores all the time by people who love the show. It shows off our grills in a very positive and controlled light, as well as educates the public on how to use their grill and think outside the box!” Issues and/or Opportunities in the Hearth Industry: “As I see it now,
there will be significant opportunities for Service Providers. As more and more specialty gas fireplaces and stoves are designed, built, and sold… the more customers will need a reliable and trained person to service their product. “With that, we have seen a dramatic uptick in sales of high-end, specialty gas products, which carry with it a higher sales ticket. Sell one high-end unit for $10,000 - $15,000 and it makes you think – how many Builder’s Boxes would we have to sell to equal that, and with a much lower margin. Opportunity: Explore more designer options. Issues: Labor, economy, not enough time to fish!”
Key Things Retailers Should Do to Combat Big Box and Internet Sales:
“Again, we can’t compete on price. Stand out as the area’s BEST service company – word gets around quickly. Go high-end, stock less inventory, and special order as needed. The one thing that the hearth industry has going for itself is that, when it comes to specialty fireplaces and wood stoves, where installation and service are key, we have somewhat of a safety net. The momentum builds quickly, but you can help yourself out by posting jobs that you do EVERYWHERE: facebook, instagram, snapchat, pinterest, and your website.” Years Reading Hearth & Home: “As long as it’s been published (since 1980).” Reasons for Reading Hearth & Home: “Keeping up-to-date with current
topics and products. H&H always has great content on marketing and suggestions on how to compete in this ever-changing marketplace.”
PHOTO: ©2018 ZOOM PHOTO STUDIO.WWW.ZOOMPHOTOSTUDIO.COM.
Click here for a mobile friendly reading experience
| Parting Shot |
erlin-based designers Studio 7.5 collaborated with Parisian 3D printing experts XtreeE to create a series of continuously printed concrete benches with a woven pattern.
Woven concrete benches.
WOVEN CONCRETE The three outdoor benches were printed using XtreeE’s technology and equipment, which includes a six-axis 3D-printing robot that can print concrete and clay with extreme precision. The concrete is printed in alternate layers by the robot head, moving in a continuous oscillating wave and slowly building up the layers. This movement creates the woven pattern. The bench is also much lighter than it could have been in solid concrete, and the pattern plays an important role in the aesthetic of the bench. According to the designers, the woven pattern was developed specifically for the benches, and hasn’t been used before. Since the launch of the bench, the material has been employed by other artists and companies working with XtreeE. These benches form part of a collection of custom-made street furniture by Studio 7.5, best known for its longstanding relationship with the brand Herman Miller. The studio’s Cosm Chair for Herman Miller has been long-listed for the inaugural Dezeen Design Awards. In the Netherlands a bridge has been fabricated from 3D-printed concrete, and the Eindhoven University of Technology is creating a series of concrete houses that they will 3D print and make available to rent. Studio 7.5 make GmbH. Franklinstr. 15a. 10587 Berlin, Germany.
Click here for a mobile
friendly reading experience 90 | NOVEMBER 2018 | www.hearthandhome.com
PHOTOS COURTESY: ©2018 WOVEN-CONCRETE-BENCHES ©STUDIO 7.5 CONCRETE-PRINTING ©XTREEE.
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The voice of the Hearth, Barbecue, and Patio industries. Hearth & Home is a trade journal serving the hearth, barbecue and patio furnishings...
Published on Nov 1, 2018
The voice of the Hearth, Barbecue, and Patio industries. Hearth & Home is a trade journal serving the hearth, barbecue and patio furnishings...