What will 2021 hold? Casual industry leaders weigh in

Note: This story appeared first in Casual News Now, HNN’s sister website and newsletter for the casual home furnishings industry launched Thursday. Click here to see more and subscribe.

After a year like 2020, many in the casual industry are approaching 2021 with an air of cautious optimism. Will the retail boom continue? Will inventory shortages and shipping delays dissipate? How will the COVID-19 vaccine and a new presidential administration affect business? We asked several retailers and manufacturers to peer into their crystal ball and share what they expect for the coming year.

Benjamin Ma

“We believe the casual business will continue to be very strong throughout 2021. COVID virus restrictions have resulted in customers staying home and investing in their home environments, both inside and out. As widespread travel will not resume for a while, consumers will continue to convert vacation dollars into creating their own safe escape in their backyards. Businesses will also rely on our shade product to support their outdoor spaces such as outdoor dining and retail. Umbrellas are a key component to any outdoor environment providing much needed shade, style and comfort. Treasure Garden is well positioned to flow product out to our dealer base throughout the year and look forward to another terrific season.”  – Benjamin Ma, Treasure Garden

Every time I look at my inbox it’s another email about fabric shortages, shipping delays, labor issues, product defects due to the issues above, or people in quarantine, which amplifies everything above. IF product can be produced, delivered to us, and we have staff to show up to work, it could be a pretty good year again. IF being the key word. —Brad Schweig, Sunnyland Outdoor Living

Leisa McCollister

Even though undoubtedly 2020 has been a challenging year, the silver lining has been demand for outdoor products has been astounding, and I think that will continue in 2021. I predict folks will still be weary of travel, especially internationally, in the summer of 2021 and the real estate market will stay strong, fueled by historically low interest rates and the new trend of reverse-urbanization. All this means more discretionary income and demand for outdoor furniture. —Leisa McCollister, OW Lee

We’re expecting the outdoor living boom to continue in 2021, as people embrace their outside spaces as an essential part of daily life and not just for occasional entertaining or downtime.  Unfortunately, the surge in demand has and will continue to disrupt the supply chain both domestically and abroad. —Jess Flanders, Lloyd Flanders

Doug Sanicola

We’re going through all the stuff in Washington, and we have a new president, and I don’t know if the 1% and 2% will spend the same money they did over the last four years. Our year was insane last year—I would say up 25%—and this year we started with a bang, but we have to ride the train and see how it all plays out. I think the overall stay at home, hang out and enjoy your backyard trend is going to continue for a while through 2021. The thing is getting inventory—the manufacturers are struggling to get inventory. —Doug Sanicola, Outdoor Elegance

We enter 2021 grateful after the most successful new product launch we have had in decades. Our new Marconi and Muirlands collections, along with our Linea and Arazzo tables and fire pits, have been very well received. We are excited to work with our retail partners to meet the increased consumer demand we all expect this season. —Frank Verna, Tropitone

Without a crystal ball, one has to reflect on the past in order to ponder the future. 2020 has been the most challenging year that I have been fortunate enough to live and work through. The past year included both significant disruptions and surprising silver linings. Confronted with the challenges of 2020, the team here at Sunset did a fantastic job as they pulled together and cut through the chop at a respectable clip, and I couldn’t be more proud. So looking towards 2021, I expect the challenges and disruptions to continue during the first half, and we will navigate through steadfastly as we have done the past 12 months. I believe that the home furnishings business will continue to be a consumer focus and with that, business should be brisk. I am also looking forward to discovering the new silver linings that 2021 will surely present. —Wes Stewart, Sunset West

For this coming year, our position is we’re loading up on inventory, should we have to overcome the issues we had last year with shortages. For instance, the lead times on hot tubs are out months. Last year, if customers were going to drop $10,000 on a trip to Europe, instead they decided to buy a hot tub or furniture, and it’s been a boon to our business. I feel very grateful and thankful to be where I’m at and be healthy. —Dave Citorino, Offenbachers Home Escapes/Great Gatherings

Doug Peppler

Our business actually saw a healthy increase for this coming season. People who stayed at home for work, school or safety began to adapt to the “new normal” by making their homes more comfortable. Our orders for this year indicate that trend will continue in 2021. Having said that, we know that there are still some choppy waters in front of us. COVID will continue to be a major influence in our customers’ lives, as well as the economy. Challenges facing our industry continue to be things such as container shortages, tariffs and exchange rate issues, fabric shortages, increasing labor costs, etc. However, because of the experience of 2020 and lessons learned, I think this year we’re better prepared to navigate those choppy seas. —Doug Peppler, Agio

Jennifer Bringle

Jennifer Bringle is the executive editor of Casual News Now. She has served as editor-in-chief of Casual Living, the leading trade publication covering the outdoor furnishings and accessories industry. She also served as managing editor of Designers Today, a trade publication focused on the interior design community. Prior to that, she served as editor-in-chief of Kids Today magazine, the leading trade publication of the infant and juvenile home furnishings and accessories industry. Jennifer also has been featured on Good Morning America, The Plum and the Associated Press.  Jennifer is a 2001 graduate of North Carolina State University with a B.A. in mass communication with a minor in journalism.

View all posts by Jennifer Bringle →

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