Patio furniture company focuses on hot tub dealerships
It’s 9 a.m. in southern california, Tony Rodriguez has several hours of driving in L.A. traffic ahead of him. He sounds like he’s had three cups of coffee.
“Everybody asks what I take for energy,” Rodriguez says. “I’m always like this. I don’t know where it comes from.”
In 2003, after a 20-year career as a United States Marine, Rodriguez began looking for work outside government. He bought into some outdoor-living retail stores and developed a passion for the products. But there was a hole in the marketplace.
“There wasn’t a company offering all those items under one roof where you can get good-quality products for a reasonable price,” Rodriguez says. “Everything at that time seemed to be either high end or low end, but there was nothing in the middle.”
He helped found Summerset Casual, which sells patio furniture, as well as umbrellas and fire tables. “We design furniture lines that work, that are what people are looking for,” says Rodriguez, who is CEO. “We partnered with factories overseas, and we also developed our cushion factory to help make all the cushions in the United States.”
Summerset sells cast-aluminum and woven furniture, with fire tables and accessories to match. Rodriguez says his products are built to last in both extreme heat and cold.
The pool and hot tub industries are Summerset Casual’s main channel. Rodriguez says pool and spa dealers are the first to get into a customer’s backyard, giving them the chance to capture all of it.
“They’re the first ones to have a relationship with the customers,” Rodriguez says. “And they’re the first ones to have the opportunity to not only sell the spa and landscape and everything they’re doing in the backyard, but to also sell all the things to go along with it.”
Rodriguez says that with a combination of training, commitment and buying right, hot tub retailers can
compete in patio furniture and do very well with it — with one caveat.
“If your supplier or manufacturer is not educating you on how to compete with big box, you’re not going to be able to do it,” Rodriguez says. His company works with its dealers to find the right products and programs to suit their businesses and customers. He encourages dealers to really know their market and demographics before making an initial buy in patio furniture. But the base of his success triangle, he says, is commitment.
“I’ve found a lot of pool and spa dealers have offered to sell outdoor living [products], but there’s no passion in it,” Rodriguez says. “If you ask them to sell a pool, there’s a lot of passion. You ask them to sell patio furniture, there’s no passion.” If you just want to make a few bucks, he says, a customer will read right through it. “They’re not going to commit to you until you commit to them,” he says, “and you’re committed to selling the product you’re representing.”
Rodriguez says a lack of retail and warehouse space shouldn’t deter hot tub retailers from the patio furniture business. “Those are poor excuses for not attempting to promote the outdoor living products,” he says. “There are manufacturers who will support you from a drop-ship perspective, like us. That’s who you want to team up with.”
Drop shipping is just one option Summerset offers its dealers. It also will private label in certain circumstances. “We’re not a black-and-white company,” Rodriguez says. “We listen to individual dealers, and we develop or already have a program for your specific needs.”