I’m writing this while experiencing one of the warmest winters on record in New Jersey, one with 60-degree temps in December and January (unheard of in the Northeast). My neighbors were outside barbecuing, their kids were riding their bikes in shorts and t-shirts, and many were enjoying outdoor entertaining under gazebo tents and with patio furniture they hadn’t needed to cover for the winter yet.

Whether you want to point the finger at El Nin~o or global warming, this behavior of year-round outdoor entertaining – even in colder climates such as Minnesota – has been taking hold for several years and shows no signs of stopping.  In November, a newspaper in Laramie, Wyo., addressed the growing popularity nationwide of the outdoor living trend by suggesting homeowners install fireplaces or firepits in their backyards for cold weather entertaining as well as planting fall perennials that bloom and thrive during cold months. 

The idea of the outdoor living room really doesn’t have as much to do with the weather outside as you might think it would. It’s really more about the desire to prolong the casual, laid-back vibe we all experience in the summertime months.

In the beginning of the trend, there were the predictable products to choose from — cheap-looking patio and poolside furniture mostly. Nowadays, however, manufacturers have stepped up to offer luxurious rugs in inviting colors, patterns, and thicknesses that can stand up to Mother Nature. The same goes for table lamps, wall sconces, furniture, and decorative accessories. This year there are more ceiling fan companies and lighting fixture manufacturers offering decorative products that are UL-listed for wet locations. These designs don’t scream “I’m made of plastic & go outside.” Instead, they look just as stylish as higher-end items for indoor use, and in many cases you can’t tell that they are meant to be used outside.

This trend for Outdoor Living is not expected to diminish. It will remain in demand through this year and beyond, so make sure your store has high-style products that meet this need. In this issue, you’ll see exactly the types of items that customers are looking for, so take the plunge and bolster your selection!

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