Casual Living Staff -- Casual Living, April 19, 2012
SARASOTA, Fla. - The inaugural Casual Living Conference drew positive responses from the 160-plus retailers, manufacturers and designers who attended the Feb. 22-24 event held at the Ritz-Carlton here.
"This is very impressive and a wealth of information has been provided," said Lane Venture President Gary McCray. "I think retailers and manufacturers alike are going to walk away with a lot to think about and to implement."
Many of the attendees agreed with the comments of keynote speaker Robert Stevenson, who said the reason most attended the conference was to learn from the mistakes and successes of others.
He told the crowd that of the 100 companies deemed most valuable in 1985-2000, 91 have since been pushed off the list. "If you don't like change, you're going to hate extinction," he said.
Trend consultant Maxine Lauer continued the learning process by describing how consumers are changing within different demographics. Four of the nation's leading home furnishings retailers then discussed how they are responding to today's consumer to provide the outdoor lifestyle as it extends boundaries of the home.
"We're just now showing modest gains, but we are showing steady gains," furniture analyst Jerry Epperson said. He added that outdoor furniture sales have outgrown any other kind of furniture for the past six years.
"You guys have done a great job of getting people together and getting them excited about this category," said Suzy Roberts, VP business manager furniture fabrics, Sunbrella.
Robert M. Williams, who oversees Houston-based Gallery Furniture's successful social media efforts, said he appreciated the opportunity to work with Casual Living in the company's first conference. "I have organized, participated and presented at many conferences, and let me congratulate all of you," Williams said. "Without doubt, this one was not casual by any means, it was first class all the way!"
Glen Raven Custom Fabrics, manufacturer of its Sunbrella brand of outdoor fabrics, was honored as Supplier of the Year and Leader's Casual Furniture was named Retailer of the Year during the event's Awards Dinner.
Tami, Ashley and Tim Newton of Leader’s Casual Furniture (winners of the Casual
Living Retailer of the Year Award) with Lily Zhou of Gensun Leisure.