"Why Is Selling Outdoor Furniture Such a Hot Job Right Now?"
04/10/24 Edition Stephen Says Column

Dear Stephen,

I am in the contract furniture world but wondering if I am in the wrong genre because there is so much buzz surrounding outdoor furniture. I am seeing a lot of activity and a migration of talent in the outdoor sector. A sales leader from #Kvadrat went to #Summit, a California based outdoor line owned by #LandscapeForms. Then Richmond, VA based #McKinnonHarris poached a senior executive from #Liagre. A while back a bunch of people were poached from #Allsteel to go to #BrownJordan. And then friends of mine went to this Australian company that operates from the West Coast of the US called #HarbourOutdoor. I understand they make a lot of the outdoor furniture for RH.

What is driving this exodus towards the great outdoors? Wherever I look, I see people transitioning to the outdoor furniture sector! From what I can see, outdoor furniture practically takes center stage in #RH store locations. And #RestorationHardware sets the bar for what consumers/customers perceive as a luxury trend, even though the real luxury brands refuse to admit it.

So, Stephen, what’s the deal? Am I missing the outdoor ‘boat’ here? Every time I turn around it seems a private equity firm is snapping up one of these brands or a major contract furniture manufacturer is. Looking back, Haworth’s acquisition of Janus et Cie years ago was very smart, and forward thinking! So many of my colleagues from contract furniture, textiles, or flooring are leaving their jobs and entering the outdoor genre. My question is - why is this sector so hot? Should I be looking for a new job in the outdoor space? What is your advice?

The Great Outdoors
Dear Great Outdoors,

First, to answer your question, during the pandemic there was a monumental shift in behavior with many people investing in home improvements, particularly their outdoor spaces. Pardon the wordplay but outdoor caught “on fire.” This “nesting” phenomenon led to a surge in demand for outdoor furniture. People wanted to be outside, and they wanted to create comfortable and inviting outdoor environments. Plus, there have been so many advancements in materials, like waterproof fabrics and innovative designs, and cool new products like Cabanas, which have further propelled the growth of the outdoor furniture market.

Here is a little outdoor glossary for you and our readers. Outdoor furniture is widely categorized into different sectors: Residential/Patio catering to homeowners for personal use; Hospitality, which is contract grade, specified for hotels, cruise lines and restaurants where durability and style are paramount; And then there is Luxury Outdoors, high end brands known for their exquisite designs and premium quality, which is very expensive, as you may have guessed.

Another category of outdoor furniture, call it a “cousin,” is Site Furniture, which is typically specified by landscape architects for public spaces such as downtown areas, parks, playgrounds, rooftops, school campuses, bus stops, zoos, or even outdoor workspaces at HQ. Leading brands in this category are #Vestre, #LandscapeForms and #FormsandSurfaces.

“Luxury outdoor,” brands like #McKinnonandHarris, #Cassina, #BBItalia and even #MillerKnoll’s The Schultz Collection are all beautifully designed and have strong positions in the market. Now, there are a slew of new brands coming into the market from Europe, Australia, South America… let’s hope this won’t oversaturate the outdoor market with more product than is needed.

If it was me trying to jump into a new job in the outdoor space, I would go to a well-known, reputable brand whose designs resonate with my personal aesthetics and values. Outdoor furniture is a great market. It is rarely returned by a customer once it is delivered.  And you never hear about outdoor furniture not fitting in an elevator or room – it’s delivered and enjoyed outdoors!

As you explore opportunities, ask about the company’s warehousing capabilities and ability to meet customer demands promptly - before accepting a job. Outdoor furniture typically requires a lot of showroom space and warehousing, because long lead times can be a deal breaker with the customer. Timeliness is a critical factor in satisfying customer expectations, whether its pool season, or buyers just moved to a sunny climate, customers want their outdoor furniture, and fast! No one is interested in waiting for a container from Belgium, Australia, France, or Asia, to come in. Stocking furniture and displaying it requires a showroom and a lot of cash, do your due diligence – would the company you’d be working for be able to afford that huge cost?  Interview with a top global brand like Janus et Cie, it is a gigantic brand, with huge market share in every segment of the market, then compare the rest.

I hope this helps. The bottom line is, sometimes in sales it is good to switch things up. If you’re bored with what you are selling and want out, and if you are looking for a new product line to sell and have an established customer base that would follow you and specify outdoor, it is a great option. Outdoor seems to be the flavor of the month when it comes to furniture today, you have that right. From a recruiting point of view it seems like the fastest growing category, everyone is hiring in that space.


Stephen Viscusi is the CEO of www.viscusigroup.com, an executive search firm that specializes in the interior furnishings industry. Hires made through The Viscusi Group are guaranteed a one-year free replacement. Please share your story or comment on this article and send your workplace questions to stephen@viscusigroup.com
Or give us a call at (212) 979-5700 ext. 101.

#Kvadrat #Summit #LandscapeForms #McKinnonHarris #Liaigre #Allsteel #BrownJordan #HarbourOutdoors #RH 
#RestorationHardware #LifestyleDesign #JanusetCie #Vestre #LandscapeForms #FormsandSurfaces #Cassina
#BBItalia #MillerKnoll #RalphLaurenHome #DesignHoldings #InvestIndustrial