Poor summer hits furniture sales

Some garden accessories firms are selling-off excess stock following a summer of variable weather.

Garden furniture company Firman Leisure saw orders cancelled and needs to sell a large amount of stock to make way for 2008 range. Chief executive Paul Vivian said: “The summer’s been atrocious. I think there must be a lot of people sat on a lot of stock.” He added: “We had some of our major clients cancelling on us. We supply some of the largest garden centres and well-known retailers and they were also hit by this.” Vivian said business had improved this autumn. “Luckily, we have a very successful wooden furniture range that sells year round and we are already taking a lot of orders for next year.” But barbecue and patio heater importer Outback found that, while the weather had an effect on sales, it still sold all of its stock. Outback online retail manager Rob Sherratt said: “It could be because we are predominantly an online trader and people have shopped around and found us a better buy.” Sherratt said sales of barbecues had been hit by the weather but heater sales had been high, possibly because of the smoking ban. Garden Industry Manufacturers’ Association director Neil Gow said suppliers were pinning retailers down to definite rather than indicative orders, leading to overstocking: “I’ve seen more stock sold at cost plus VAT in retail outlets.” Leisure & Outdoor Furniture Association secretary Richard Plowman said the general consensus was that manufacturers had “come out OK over the year”. He said: “We had an excellent April. Everyone thought at the end of April it would be ‘the year’. Then the weather in May, June and July was pretty awful. There were a few sales in September. The compensation has been seen in the contract market. Because of the smoking ban, sales of patio heaters increased.” Plowman noted regional variations such as floods in central England. “Come next year, people in the Midlands may need to replace garden furniture and barbecues. The long-term prospects look good.”

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