With the travel industry crushed by the coronavirus pandemic, it’s more than likely that people will be staying close to home this summer.
Furniture and home goods retailers are reporting huge spikes in sales of outdoor furniture along with pool, grill and gardening items, as consumers look to make their staycations as fun and relaxing as possible.
“People are finding that the more time they spend in their home, the more time they want to have those things that make it more meaningful, more beneficial,” said Ron Hilton, chief sourcing and operations officer for Overstock.com.
The online retailer initially saw an uptick in outdoor furniture in March, but since then, demand has “exploded,” according to Hilton.
While Overstock usually sees increases in outdoor item sales around springtime, the huge spike this year has been driven by the pandemic as people stay home more, Hilton said. He noted that there were noticeable sales boosts around the time when the first wave of government stimulus checks were sent out, a surge he compared to when consumers receive tax refunds.
In addition to selling rising numbers of larger products like outdoor sectionals, fire pits and chaise lounges, Overstock has experienced growing interest in furniture pieces designed for compact spaces.
“We’re also seeing small, little outdoor cafe sets that people can put on their balcony if they’re in a small New York apartment or something like that,” Hilton said.
The company has been selling large numbers of higher-priced items like hot tubs and above-ground pools, as well as children’s items like trampolines and playground sets.
“I think it’s important that the more time families are spending together that they find a variety of activities to do,” Hilton said.
Like Overstock, home goods retailer Bed Bath & Beyond has seen sales increase for outdoor furniture. Other accessories like cooking, outdoor lighting and gardening items, have also experienced boosts in demand, according to Joe Hartsig, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer at the home goods retailer.
“Customers want to get outside and embrace the outdoor spaces they have in every way possible,” said Hartsig. “This is consistent with customer behavior we’re hearing throughout the industry.”
As shoppers look to convert their yards into more functional spaces, the company’s top-growing categories have been outdoor seating, outdoor pillows and cushions, outdoor rugs, outdoor lighting, grilling tools and gardening items, according to Hartsig. Blow-up pools, floats and beach chairs have also been big sellers.
However, in order to handle sales amid store closures mandated by state stay-at-home orders, Bed Bath & Beyond adapted its marketing practices to encourage customers to shop online, according to Hartsig. He said the retailer also converted 25% of its stores into regional fulfillment centers, allowing the company to meet the 85% increase in online orders it experienced in April.
“As the warmer weather and Memorial Day are approaching, we know our customers are gearing up to spend even more time outdoors, especially this summer,” Hartsig said.
Furniture retailer Frontgate said the anticipation of warm weather is always a factor in driving up outdoor furniture sales at this time of year. However, the spike in demand currently experienced by the company is due in part to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Lindsay Foster, senior director of merchandising for the company.
“While people are under stay-at-home orders, there is an increased interest in and focus on improving and enjoying their homes,” Foster said.
The retailer has seen demand shoot up for items like chaises, fire pits, umbrellas and outdoor storage and organizational items. Sales of pool floats have been up over 100%, according to the company.
With interest growing in outdoor items as consumers stay at home, Frontgate has changed its usual marketing tactics.
“We’ve made some adjustments away from a gathering and entertaining focus and have shifted more towards ways to make outdoor living spaces more like interior spaces,” Foster said.
Customers are now viewing their backyards as havens that can provide joy and comfort during a stressful time.
“Your pool and patio are places to relax and have fun,” Foster said. “More and more, people are seeing their outdoor spaces as a true extension of their home.”