For maximum exposure, all Help Wanted Ads will appear in MMQB (Monday Morning Quarterback) weekly issues and on the Website. Ads also appear on the website of (Contract Furnishings News) and in the twice weekly edition of CFN's The Working Space Newsletter.


Why Is Outdoor Furniture So Hot Right Now?

Dear Stephen,

I am in the contract furniture world but am wondering if I am in the wrong genre, given the considerable buzz surrounding outdoor furniture. I've noticed a significant amount of activity and a migration of talent to the outdoor sector. For example, a sales leader from Kvadrat moved to Summit, a California-based outdoor line owned by LandscapeForms. Richmond, VA-based McKinnon Harris poached a senior executive from Liagre. Previously, several individuals were poached from Allsteel to join Brown Jordan. Additionally, friends of mine joined an Australian company operating from the West Coast of the US called Harbour Outdoor, known for making a lot of the outdoor furniture for RH.

What is driving this exodus toward the great outdoors? Everywhere I look, I see people transitioning to the outdoor furniture sector! From my observations, outdoor furniture takes practically center stage in RH store locations. And Restoration Hardware sets the bar for what consumers 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? It seems that every time I turn around, a private equity firm is snapping up one of these brands, or a major contract furniture manufacturer is doing so. Looking back, Haworth’s acquisition of Janus et Cie years ago was very smart and forward-thinking! Many of my colleagues from contract furniture, textiles, or flooring are leaving their jobs to enter 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, there was a monumental shift in behavior during the pandemic, 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 sought 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, as you may have guessed, is very expensive.

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 headquarters. Leading brands in this category are Vestre, LandscapeForms, and FormsandSurfaces.

Luxury outdoor brands like McKinnon and Harris, Cassina, B&B Italia, and even Miller Knoll’s The Schultz Collection are all beautifully designed and have strong positions in the market. Now, a slew of new brands is 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 were 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 dealbreaker for the customer. Timeliness is a critical factor in satisfying customer expectations, whether it's 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 a 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.