By Jessica Goldbogen Harlan
As the season for swimming pools and parties on the patio kicks into high gear, retailers of outdoor furniture are ready to serve with well-stocked stores, good deals, and plenty of decorating ideas.
The Summer Classics showroom in Roswell, Ga., for instance, boasts a beautifully merchandised sales floor and a wide range of high-end deep seating pieces, dining sets and decorative accessories.
With the exception of the neat but sparsely decorated floor sample area in the rear of the store, all the furniture collections within the Summer Classics showroom are arranged in vignettes throughout the store, complete with rugs underneath, lamps and decorative accessories. Partial walls were painted to coordinate with the furniture, and many walls even had faux windows or fireplaces to convey a homelike setting.
The assortment on a recent visit was predominantly cast aluminum or synthetic all-season wicker over an aluminum frame. According to a salesperson, cushions are available in four grades of fabric, including the company’s Dream Cushion collection, which has a woven, water-resistant jacket and a pillow-top feature for a softer feel.
Wood options are scarce on the sales floor, but some of the metal furniture is designed to mimic wood’s look, such as the Croquet aluminum collection, which has a brushed finish that looks like wood grain and a simple, plank-like design. A dining set was offered with a variety of seating options, including a long bench, armchairs and armless side chairs, ranging from $369 to $449.
One of the most striking pieces on the Summer Classics sales floor was the Sedona Daybed, a modular loveseat and ottoman that pushes together to form a large, circular daybed. Made of resin wicker, it was priced at $2,569.
Deals could be had with the floor models and discontinued lines; a wood and resin wicker 36-inch square table and chair set was priced at $799, down from $1,796, and some of the discontinued collections were as much as 50 percent off. For instance, the Aqua collection, which had natural-looking woven synthetic wicker set into a metal frame, had prices like $2,399 for a sofa (down from $3,442).
Many of the pieces available from Summer Classics have an aesthetic that would be right at home in a formal living room. Case in point, the Equestrian collection has woven resin leather and cast-aluminum details that resemble bridle or stirrup hardware, and was merchandised with accent pillows with an equestrian motif. And the Romance collection had an ornate vine pattern and cabriole legs in cast aluminum, merchandised with pink and light beige upholstery.
Meanwhile, at Frontgate, in the tony Phipps Plaza shopping mall in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood, well-accessorized displays, mixed materials and innovative features characterized the outdoor offerings. The floor space of this home furnishings store is dominated by its outdoor offerings throughout the spring and summer. Skylights in the center of the store let in plenty of natural light to showcase the pieces in a sunny setting, and a balcony in the rear of the store housed a number of additional vignettes so they could be seen in an actual outdoor setting.
As with Summer Classics, the various collections of outdoor furniture were arranged in vignettes that incorporated rugs, lighting and decorative accessories. Coffee tables displayed acrylic stemware or tabletop items, lighting or candle holders were arranged on side tables, while oversized umbrellas covered the displays. Many of the deep seating arrangements had monogrammed throw pillows displayed on them. Shelving along the store’s perimeter displayed beach towels, pool accessories and other summertime goods.
Interesting features and lots of flexibility characterize Frontgate’s furniture offerings. The deep seating collections are typically modular, enabling them to be arranged in different configurations. For instance, the Baleares five-piece lounger set is made up of a loveseat, two curved benches and an ottoman that together make a circle (similar to the Sedona Daybed from Summer Classics), but separately, offer seating for a crowd. During a recent visit it was on sale for $1,995, marked down from $2,995. The Cabrillo Daybed offered another variation on the design; it included a wide sofa with chairs and an ottoman that could be used separately or pushed together to form one large lounging piece.
Other interesting pieces included a stone coffee table with a top that concealed a drinks cooler, and several different nesting coffee table and end pieces. A convertible chaise adjusted from a lounge chair to a reclining chaise with a footrest that pulled out from beneath the seat.
Within the dining assortments, there was a wide range of synthetic wicker dining sets, as well as cast metal dining sets with details that resembled carved wood, such as turned legs or ornate chair backs. For both dining tables and deep seating collections, purchasing the collections as a multipiece set offered a savings, with an offering of an additional 20 percent off for additional pieces purchased along with the set.
At the other end of the outdoor-furnishings options in Atlanta, Garden Ridge is big on price and variety, but not so big on display. During a visit to the Stockbridge, Ga., location, nearly half of the store is given over to outdoor furniture, particularly cushions. The store has a mix-and-match approach; the furniture and cushions are sold separately so shoppers can create the looks they want. Aisles and aisles of indoor/outdoor cushions in a rainbow of colors and patterns, from solids to stripes to tropical florals, are available, ranging from $15 to $40. Shapes were available for chaises, loveseats, dining chairs, or foam floor cushions.
The furniture itself was stacked in the center aisles of the store, much of it still in its shipping packaging. Options include resin wicker furniture with prices like $80 for an armchair and $100 for a rocking chair. A chaise with adjustable back was $150 and a loveseat was priced at $130.
In another part of the store were dozens of options in dining chairs, including metal with a cast look and sling-style, and counter height options. There were even a handful of molded plastic and sling-style children’s chairs. Despite the huge selection of dining chairs, there were only a few tables, in a range of sizes and shapes. Most had pebbled clear plastic tops and ranged in price from $40 to $80.
Colorful table umbrellas lined the back of the store, with display models open to show the size and color or pattern. A small selection of wooden Adirondack furniture rounded out Garden Ridge’s selection; chairs and rockers were around $80 while a chaise was $130. Wooden Adirondack-style gliders were $80.