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Emerging as a new segment in lawn and garden retailing a few years back was outdoor living--an evolution of the market for patio furniture and grills that piggybacked on home decor trends. However, many weren't sure outdoor living had staying power once consumers shifted focus from the home to traveling again in the post-Sept. 11 world. But the idea of creating an outside room for retreat or entertaining keeps getting stronger, resulting in a robust market for a widening assortment of outdoor living products.
One firm, Unity Marketing, estimates the outdoor living market at $15.7 billion, or about 37% of the $42.3 billion U.S. market for consumer lawn and garden products. The outdoor living market grew 4.9% in 2004 and is projected to keep rising in the future.
"I'm seeing the outdoors as the new indoors. People have spent so much money in the last 20 years redecorating their homes that there's now a major move to the outdoors," said Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing.
Trends in outdoor living have taken an interesting turn in that just about anything goes now. Patio furniture has become increasingly stylish and similar to the plush-cushioned groupings found indoors, with weatherproof sofas, chairs and coffee tables increasingly popular as an alterative to the traditional aluminum or wrought iron patio sets with umbrellas. Also hot this year are gazebos and accents such as outdoor rugs and lamps.
"The biggest trend for us, and we're seeing it more and more, is taking the indoors outdoors. Everybody wants to create a true living environment outside. They want dining tables, lounge seating and bars.... People are really doing a lot more entertaining outside, so they want the full setup," said Hillary Blumbert, vp and design …