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Looking at the comments made by Mitre 10 Marketing Manager Dave Elliot about the success of the company’s nationwide furniture expo that was held across Mitre 10 MEGA stores in September (see sidebar on pg 76), it really seems that the outdoor areas of Kiwi homes are more important, and seen as more of a destination area of the home, than ever.
When speaking to suppliers for this article, one general impression that was received is that the aesthetics of these areas is fast becoming the focus of the outside room.
Entertaining at home is programmed into the minds of Kiwis and from last year’s coverage of this area, the outside room is the area for entertaining during the (hopefully) long, luxuriously hot summer.
OFFERING SOMETHING FOR THE NEW BUILDS
The increase in new home builds, as has been covered in the pages of this publication many times in the last couple of years, is a source of excitement and potential revenue for suppliers and retailers alike. With many new builds on the horizon, one selling point in these new homes will be the outside area.
This trend with regards new homes is something that PSP’s Mel Jackson has noticed and he feels this is an area the company can look to profit from: “What you notice with a lot of these new builds is that decks are extremely popular, everyone likes to have a nice deck outside their house.
“With those closed areas, single-skinned products don’t really give the result people are looking for because people like to look for covers for these decks and that’s where Suntuf and ClearVue come into effect: where people are looking for an affordable solution and that’s where we get a nice bit of the market.”
From roofs to floors. Justin Annerau over at Natural Paving, a company that specialises in pebble stabilising mats, says the company has noticed a big lift in interest when it comes to new building projects. Why are these products so popular?
Annerau explains that natural look and permeability are two reasons for the increased interest and it is not just homeowners that have shown intrigue, as he explains: “We are working with some architects, people who have a lot to do with town and area planning, so they’ve gotten to know the ins and outs of our product and have gotten to recommend it more for new sites and jobs. It’s not just limited to new builds – people are using it for their show homes too.”
FOR YOUR ENTERTAINMENT
Obviously, the garden area is perfect for home entertainment. In our sister magazine Wares’ recent coverage of food preparation products, many commentators pointed to the growth of the kitchen as a destination of the home and this certainly seems the case for the garden areas during the summer months. Taking advantage of this trend has been successful, but also complex, for many suppliers.
Masport’s New Zealand Sales Manager Steve Hawkes says that the BBQ market has become a tricky one – “harder to pick than a broken nose”, he says – so one area of difference is offering add-ons and accessories.
This, Hawkes says has been a nice point of difference for the company: “What we tend to do and what has been successful for us, is try to package everything: BBQ, cover, tool kit all your accessories, into the price so the consumer can see what they are getting for their money.”
It hasn’t all been down to the accessories but other changes that the company has made, Hawkes explains: “In the last few years we have gone towards a better quality stainless steel, 304 stainless is the best quality stainless you can get for building BBQs and we’ve run with that mainly because the lower grade stainless has had rusting issues.
“So we just said right, we’ll draw a line in the sand and use a better quality stainless and we’ll package it all up so the consumer gets everything they need in the one purchase. It’s been a real success story for us with BBQs.”
With quality often comes good looks. Back with Natural Paving, Justin Annerau says the company has had some success with its product range because of the aesthetic strengths of it, which further enhance the look of an outside area. And with a low-maintenance product such as this, Annerau says it allows consumers to concentrate on other aspects of the area.
“The feedback we get is first and foremost, the natural ambiance that can be created with a large variety of pebble. It’s very practical too in that you can drive on it, wear your high heels on it, and it’s low maintenance. People are going to spend a lot of time on their gardening, cleaning etc. so you don’t want to worry about your pathway or driveway.”
Kärcher’s National Sales Manager Home & Garden, Kere McBratney has seen increased sales for the company’s waterblasters and accessories in the last year, and feels that the maintenance of decking areas is a big reason behind this. The proliferation of increasing the living space in homes, McBratney says, has impacted strongly on consumer attitudes.
“International trends and ideas along with the desire to increase the effective “living space” in NZ homes are driving home owners to invest in developing outdoor areas. Whilst the levels invested in developing these outdoor living areas are becoming greater it is still a cheaper option than adding another indoor living area, so is an effective way of increasing living space and adding value to a property.”
“BOYS AND THEIR DECKS”
One thing that has been mentioned a lot in researching this article was the competitive nature of Kiwis, particularly Kiwi men. This applies to the garden/deck area more than other areas of the home it seems, as competition is rife between friends and family as to who has the best deck. It can’t help but bring the hilarious, but banned TV advert “Boys and their decks” (http://bit.ly/1cM4e1m) to mind.
Steve Hawkes over at Masport says that this trend towards entertaining at home has been the case across the ditch for several years now and has seen it really take off in the last couple of years here.
He feels that Kiwis are much more likely to entertain at home rather than going out. As a result of this, he feels the competitive nature of Kiwis shines through in the show-off side of home entertainment. Hawkes says that consumers are more concerned about what they can do with their BBQs.
“Consumers are entering into stores asking ‘show me what I can do, what I can cook, what I can do to make the best of the BBQ to impress my mates’. So we’ve gone from selling the sausage to selling the sizzle. You really have to talk about what you can do, from the inspirational aspect, because everyone knows what a BBQ can do.”
The general upkeep of these decking areas is of vital importance, no one can boast and show off if they have a filthy deck. Keeping this in mind, Kärcher’s Kere McBratneysays the decking area is viewed like any area of the host designed for entertainment, upkeep is important. McBratney says the company is well stocked with a variety of options available for this upkeep.
“Like any part of the home these areas require ongoing cleaning like an indoor living area, but also the seasonal “spring-clean” to really lift the habitability of the area prior to its traditional period of use over the summer months. Kärcher offers cleaning solutions appropriate for these areas, with wet & dry vacuums that are ideal for use in outdoor areas – avoiding the need to use the household vacuum, along with waterblasters and hard surface cleaner accessories that are designed for cleaning patios and timber decks.”
GOING BACK TO WHAT THEY KNOW
One issue that has plagued the channel in the past is that of parallel imports and no-name brands taking market share. This problem for suppliers, while still alive, has deteriorated somewhat. What factors are behind this? It would seem that when the market suffers as it did in recent years, consumers have shown a trend to move towards the tried and tested, established brands in the market.
Kere McBratney at Kärcher is one who has noticed this trend: “Consumers are increasingly returning to investing in quality and brands that they trust and know, and are showing an increasing desire to maintain the family home, which is generally the largest asset that they have.”
Another who has seen some prosperity because of consumers going back to what they know is Masport’s Steve Hawkes. Hawkes says that when someone is an established player in the game, with a trusted name and brand (as Masport has, having won his year’s Reader’s Digest Most Trusted brand award in the Gardening Equipment category) consumers will gravitate towards it with confidence in what they are getting.
“When the economy is a bit tight, people go back to brands they know and trust. We’ve been around a long time, people know we won’t run away, if they have a problem we’ll back them up.”
AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT
Traditionally, when we think of the outside room we think of BBQs and … BBQs. But that preconception seems to be shifting now and there are several factors behind this.
One factor is the greater variety and range of products available to consumers looking to branch out in their home entertainment areas outside the house. In last year’s coverage of this topic, one product that seemed to be growing in popularity is the outdoor pizza oven.
It seems consumers are looking for more options and greater variety in the products being used outdoors. Mel Jackson at PSP has also noticed this tendency amongst consumers looking for greater variety but in the coverage of their outside areas. Jackson points to the success of the company’s Suntuf Diffused as a point reference for consumers looking into more variety.
“People have been looking into newer things like grey to get rid of that real intense sunlight on their decks and Diffused gets rid of that so you get nice bright light but you don’t get any harsh effects visually, and you can use a laptop outside, which is really good. Diffused basically works like a frosted light bulb, so it makes better use of the light using the same power.”
Another that has noticed the change in consumer habits and looked to take advantage is Masport’s Steve Hawkes. Last year saw the company launch the aforementioned Interchangeable Cooking System, which offered consumers a variety in the tools used on their BBQs.
Hawkes says that the pizza stone included has generated particular interest, adding that consumers are looking for more ways to implement BBQs into their gardens, with standalone units increasing in popularity with people looking at different design aspects with the BBQs.
“Another thing we’ve seen growth in the last 12 months is the in-built BBQ so instead of the big cabinet and everything that goes with it, you just get the BBQ itself and everything is built around it. It lends itself to that outdoor kitchen aspect that is growing in popularity. There has been a real upsurge in those and there are a lot more people really getting into these outdoor areas.”
TEACHING OUTSIDE THE BOX
Products for the outside area are varied and versatile. And as with any category an informed salesperson, armed with product knowledge is the difference between not just making a sale but also seeing repeat business.
Justin Annerau of Natural Paving says the company has an ongoing training regime that it delivers to its stockists: “If staff members know, understand and relate well to a product they find it much easier to help the customer make an informed decision. It gives you credibility – if you can give a consumer a good answer that will help them solve their issues then they will be more confident and comfortable coming back to you again.”
Adapting to the needs and wants of consumers is something that Masport’s Steve Hawkes stresses. Feeling that this is one of the biggest changes he has noticed during his time in the industry, he says: “You used to go into stores and give consumers the minimal amount of information and get away with it. Now you go in and train the staff for an hour nearly now training them on exactly what they need to know, all the questions they’ll be asked. It’s great for our staff too because they’ll be asked plenty of questions so they’ll need to be ready! We still get a few curve balls thrown at us.”
PURPLE, WICKER AND PLASTIC THE HOTTEST PICKS FROM spoga+gafa
American magazine Hardware Retailing covered in depth the outdoor living products on show at this year’s spog+gafa, the world’s largest lawn, garden and outdoor living fair. The fair, which runs in Cologne, Germany, is a go-to source for new products and emerging trends in the outdoor room.
According to the magazine’s coverage, neutral colours remain popular and have their place in nearly any colour scheme, brighter colours also stood out among the displays, and the images found at the website. One colour that made an impression at the show was purple because of its versatility to offer an alternate neutral tone to a splash of bright colour.
Wicker and plastic were the two materials that generated the most interest, as was furniture that could multitask. Wicker, because it’s lightweight, durable and easy-to-clean and plastic because it is affordable and furniture made of aluminium is also popular because it is less likely to rust or fade.
JUDGING THE TRENDS OF THE LANDSCAPE
What’s hot outside and overseas? US magazine Country Living on its website looked at the results of the recently released 2014 Residential Landscape Architecture Trends Survey by the American Society of Landscape Architects.
Landscape architects who specialise in residential design across the US were asked to rate the expected popularity of a variety of residential outdoor design elements for the coming year. The findings showed that people are looking for low-maintenance design suited for entertaining and relaxing.
The top 10 outdoor living features and design elements that respondents rated as the most in-demand for 2014 were:
TRENDS AND PRODUCTS HEATING UP THE US
March of this year saw the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HBPA) unveil new products and trends at its HPBExpo, held in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Here is a look at some of the coming trends – what with the obvious flip of seasons it will be interesting to see if these trends are reflected here and when. Oh and can you spot the value-add prospects hidden among these trending items?