Solex sees new garden furniture and barbecue launches

Outdoor living is focusing on moving upmarket with products that can work in conservatories as well as outside.

Solex 2016
Solex 2016

Solex, held at Birmingham NEC on 5-7 July, is organised by the Leisure and Outdoor Furniture Association (LOFA) with around 70 outdoor living product suppliers exhibiting to products to garden centre buyers.

LOFA chairman Paul Bevington said "casual dining" was prominent, with his company Kettler extending its wicker ranges to include painted acacia wood and mixes of wicker and acacia in corner and sofa sets.

He said: "Evidence from the marketplace and LOFA research is that the customer is looking for new looks."

Bevington said patchy weather in 2016 meant that products that can be used indoors, including in conservatories, as well as out had sold best.

Exhibitors also discussed price uncertainty, caused by Brexit's impact on exchange rates.

The Solex BBQ Retailer of the Year was awarded to the BBQ Barn, from Sidcup in Kent, while the Furniture Retailer of the Year went to Webbs of Wychbold. 

Kettler launched the RHS collection, a licensed range including the Harlow two-seater, Rosemoor acacia bench, companion set and teak bench.

La Hacienda director Simon Goodwin said electric heaters, bigger and better quality firepits in the £100-£120 range and camping stoves were new products buyers were looking for.

Supremo Leisure showed Resysta no wood, waterproof, low maintenance, weather and UV resistant furniture.

LeisureBench exhibited new Talix Style tables and high chairs, suitable for outdoor or indoor use, made from galvanised extra thick steel plate.

Woodlodge had Heritage Garden and Rustic Garden ranges on show, including firepits.

Lifestyle Garden had new contemporary aluminium dining furniture and an expanded weave range on show.

LOFA/Shopcentric research showed among those who bought outdoor living in 2015, more than eight in 10 own some sort of barbecue/cooking product and almost 60 per cent intend to buy something else over the next 12 months.

Charcoal and gas barbecues are equally popular, but more unusual outdoor cooking options such as chimineas, firepits and pizza ovens are growing in favour, the figures show.

Parasols, cushions and covers were the other big category, with waterproof cushions and tough plastic covers for outdoor furniture and barbecues high on the list of wanted items.

Storage boxes showed high levels of interest for the future. Outdoor entertainment systems and shade products are of growing interest, as are outdoor clocks, mirrors, lights, rugs and even bars and cinemas.

While gas barbecue buys were equally likely to be first-time or replacements, charcoal barbecues are slightly more likely to be replacements. Firepits and chimineas were relatively new on the market so most are bought as first-time purchases.

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