Tips for selling outdoor furniture
By Jim Raposa
Patio furniture can be a tough category for hot tub retailers. Many retailers are so concerned with losing the spa sale that they overlook the opportunity to show a customer how patio furniture can add more enjoyment to the backyard, says Tony Rodriguez of Summerset Casual outdoor furnishings. “If a store has a dozen or so spas on display, some very similar to each other and only two sets of patio furniture on the floor, the consumer sees the retailer is really in the spa business, not the patio furniture business,” he says. “As a result, that customer is going somewhere else for patio furniture if they don’t see a commitment from you in that product line.”
At Rapid Spas in Rapid City, South Dakota, co-owner Chris Hurd is a believer in going big. “You must have the necessary commitment,” Hurd says. In his case, that meant dedicating 2,000 square feet of Rapid Spas’ showroom space, along with the financial commitment to stocking the product. He has over 20 patio sets on his showroom floor. “When you have more to offer, you sell more,” he says. “The hot tub stores that dabble in patio furniture are usually the ones who struggle to sell anything from their outdoor furniture line.”
At his store, Hurd uses each product category as a cross-sell platform. “It’s so easy to just look at patio furniture solely as an additional revenue stream and stay focused on hot tubs,” he says. “Tunnel vision is an easy trap to fall into. We use outdoor furniture as a means to introduce spa buyers to the furniture line and furniture buyers to our spa line. It goes both ways. As a result, the revenue we see from patio furniture equals our spa sales.”
If floor space is an issue, Rodriguez suggests having four to six furniture displays in your showroom. “That’ll give you the different groupings customers seek most: chat, dining and deep seating,” Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez suggests creativity in marketing as well, such as borrowing a page from the pool industry. “There are a lot of pool builders who sell pools without a display,” he says. “Many of these enterprising individuals use their own backyards as the display. I have many pool builder clients who give their customer a great deal on the furniture and use their customers’ backyards as a display to sell the furniture as part of a pool install.” There’s nothing stopping a spa retailer from doing the same thing. Take it further with an in-store video showing before and after shots along with customer testimonials.
Use those same testimonials in your TV, radio, print and online advertising. Use it in your printed sales collateral. Post the video to your web page and social media pages. A little marketing creativity can help overcome retail space limitations.
While patio furniture is not a good choice for every retailer, Rodriguez suggests stores that are considering it take clues from stores that have triumphed in this area. “First, passionately commit to the product line,” Rodriguez says. “Second, apply the same fundamentals of selling patio furniture as you do spas. The stores doing this properly understand their furniture line and learn to connect the product to their customer’s needs. Third, be honest. If you can’t commit properly, you might reconsider.”