Being in the outdoor furniture business is not unlike being in real estate.
Location does, indeed, matter.
Bo Coconis, who is in the fourth generation of ownership for the Zanesville, Ohio, retailer Coconis Furniture & Mattress, says that one of the biggest challenges is that the outdoor season is not that long where he is.
“Recently, our biggest challenge has been just getting the products,” says Coconis. “Our season for outdoor sales is so short (March-July/August) that it is vital to have the product ready to start the season and the last two years have been a challenge to get it in time no matter how early we have bought it.”
Coconis says that the store, which began in 1927, has carried outdoor for seven or eight years, following a hiatus of several years before that. Each year since it was re-started, outdoor has increased in sales and works well to keep sales figures up during normally slow periods during the summers. In all, the store has four locations with two full-line including outdoor, overseen by Randy Coconis as president and his sons Chad and Bo running day-to-day operations.
To get the word out, Coconis uses a combination of TV and digital advertising buys to target customers for outdoor, along with billboards and direct mail, timed for spring and early summer months.
At the stores, they have outdoor front and center by the beginning of March, and at one location, it is on display year-round, where it generates some interest even in the colder months.
In terms of sales percentages, outdoor amounts for between five and 10 percent of the store’s sales, which helps during the slow summer selling season for indoor furniture.
“One of the benefits we offer is the amount of stock we have on the products we show and how we take care of our customers,” says Coconis. “Also, we offer long-term financing for our customers for up to six years, so when customers are investing in quality outdoor, they can choose to pay with one of our 0% interest-free options we offer.”
Coconis says that the store currently carries Ashley, Berlin Gardens, Hoosier Poly and Tropitone, and the store’s poly business continues to grow with both Berlin Gardens and Hoosier Poly, and with Ashley’s new additions into the category.
“I think it will continue to increase and it is a product that we want to sell as we have very little problems with it and it holds up very well,” says Coconis. “Tropitone offers us special order options and has allowed us to close some commercial deals.”
To compete with casualty specialty retailers, Coconis prices its products aggressively.
“We price our outdoor furniture a little sharper to compete with both larger outdoor furniture companies and online,” says Coconis. “We have more recently bought in more containers to lower our cost but feel with inventory and competitive pricing if a customer already buys from us, then we have a good chance to get them back. Also, with financing, if a customer is already approved with us then they are more likely to buy from us.
“We have continued to add more products every year and I think that trend will continue as more and more people are spending more time at home.”
Any advice for full-time retailers who are thinking of getting into outdoor?
“Ashley makes it so easy and is a great place to start and they are a category killer in the promotional to middle price points,” says Coconis. “Normally in order to be in the outdoor business, you need to buy containers but Ashley allows you to get started without having to. I also think that Poly Furniture like Berlin Gardens is necessary as well, as they provide a bunch of options and it can go outside if needed and not take up much if any floor space.”