The concept of outdoor living as a lifestyle is more than just marketing. Consumers are truly enthusiastic about taking their indoor activities - such as lounging, cooking, dining, and entertaining friends and family – outside. And they’re serious enough about these activities to furnish their porches and patios almost as they would their living rooms and kitchens – with plush seating, high-end appliances, and heating components, to name a few.
The outdoor living market is expanding steadily, with manufacturer-level sales of outdoor furniture, grills, and patio heating products expected to grow 5.0% per year on average through 2021. In part, this is due simply to an improving economy and rising consumer spending in general. However, the Great Recession also reoriented consumer spending somewhat by encouraging staycations and reminding many homeowners of the value of their own back yards.
Here are four products expected for fare particularly well going forward.
1. Upscale Outdoor Furniture
As the most common outdoor living activities – including dining, lounging, and entertaining – typically require several pieces of furniture, sales of dining sets, chaise lounges, sofas, and chat groups will greatly benefit from the concept. Not only are consumers buying more of these products, but they’re also spending more per piece. As outdoor entertaining becomes more common, consumers will increasingly specify high-quality furniture in line with current styles.
Among the most popular materials for high-end outdoor furniture, aluminum, wicker, and wood types will fare best as consumers upgrade their outdoor living spaces. Aluminum is favored for its durability, low maintenance requirements, and the wide variety of designs available. Wicker is popular in deep seating, which is increasingly in demand as a consumers seek to bring indoor comforts outside. Wood has always been common in outdoor furniture, with styles ranging from rustic to finely finished.
Wicker’s great growth potential is due in large part to the increasing use of all-weather wicker, which is actually a woven resin product that imitates the natural fibers traditionally used. Similarly, resin-based substitutes and composite materials are more and more common in wood types such as POLYWOOD patio furniture. Offering improved durability, less maintenance, and low environmental impact, these innovations are driving new sales for wicker and wooden outdoor furniture.
2. Specialty Grills
One of the fastest growing segments of the outdoor living market is specialty grills, including pellet grills, kamado grills, and smokers. Grillers are increasingly interested in artisanal techniques, with a focus on flavor enhancement and high-performance products. Charcoal will certainly benefit from this trend, but as many grillers already use a standard charcoal grill, these products won’t see as much growth as others.
Pellet grills, kamado grills, and smokers have gained popularity among grillers looking to infuse their food with a lot of flavor. Even among those who already own a grill, many are eager to invest in a second one in order to add the flavor profiles these products offer. Often, grillers like to have a gas grill for quick, convenient meals but also want something that packs a more flavorful punch for when they have more time.
The leading brand of pellet grills is Traeger, while Big Green Egg leads in sales of kamado grills. Most grill suppliers also offer smokers – including the two just mentioned – but Weber and Oklahoma Joe’s lead the product segment.
3. Natural Gas Grills
Many homeowners see the outdoor kitchen as a central part of outdoor living. An outdoor kitchen makes outdoor cooking, dining, and cleanup easy, and for the purpose of outdoor entertaining it’s bound to impress friends and family. Since grilling is practically synonymous with outdoor cooking, most outdoor kitchens include a built-in grill rather than an indoor-style range.
As outdoor kitchens become more common, homeowners will adapt their setups to their individual tastes and preferences. For example, those who want an outdoor kitchen but aren’t into grilling will likely install the same type of range outdoors that they use indoors. And hardcore flavor buffs might insist their outdoor kitchen feature a charcoal or pellet grill instead of gas.
However, most homeowners will probably prefer the convenience of a built-in gas grill connected to their home’s natural gas line. Even among flavor buffs, it’s increasingly common to own multiple grills for different purposes – to turn to gas for quick everyday meals, for example, and save the more flavorful, more time-intensive methods for the weekend. Surely, many grillers will be eager to use natural gas instead of having to switch out propane tanks.
4. Patio Heating Products
Patio heating products like fire pits and radiant heaters are also gaining in demand as outdoor living grows in popularity. Both homeowners and businesses want to make the most of their outdoor spaces, which means extending the outdoor living season into colder parts of the year as well as nighttime.
Fire pits are nothing new to the back yard, but more and more homeowners are upgrading theirs to suit new outdoor living lifestyles. A fire pit is often the centerpiece of a chat group or conversation set, offering not only warmth but ambience for a comfortable outdoor entertainment space as well. Many patio furniture suppliers include a fire pit in their chat group furniture sets.
Commonly offering outdoor seating, restaurants and bars also want to get as much use out of their outdoor spaces as possible, especially since this significantly boosts seating capacity and potential sales. Many businesses have already invested in patio heating products, since indoor smoking bans created a need to accommodate smokers outside or risk losing their patronage. Electric or gas-fueled radiant heaters are most common in commercial applications, since they tend to be more powerful, but fire pits and fireplaces are popular for a homier ambience.
Want to Learn More?
For more insight into the state of the outdoor living market, see Outdoor Furniture & Grill Market in the US, by The Freedonia Group. This comprehensive report provides the following:
- historical demand data and forecasts
- market environment factors
- industry structure
- company market share
About the Author
Matt Breuer is an industry analyst at The Freedonia Group, where he writes industry studies focused on the US consumer goods markets.