Mark Osborne, Chairman of LOFA, said: “The big comment has been the amount of newness here this year, genuine innovation, genuine trends that people have acted on, and then brought new and innovative products to the marketplace.”
So, we asked exhibitors and buyers. is this the tipping point from weave to contemporary garden lounge furniture?
Richard Searle, Kettler, who were showing the Jati & Gabon, top end contemporary garden lounge furniture and already have one stockist who is doing well over half a million with it, said: “I think weave is still growing. Where a lot of the traditional dining has died away, the market has opened up for more contemporary aluminium furniture.”
At Hartman, Paul Facey said: “There’s obviously a bigger representation of modern contemporary furniture than has been in the past but there is still this dilemma from weave still dominating sales at the moment. It will probably be flattening out now rather than growing. I would say that it’s not the tipping point this year but it could well be next year.”
Jodie Grimmer at LeisureGrow added: “It’s refreshing to see less weave, but weave is still a good 85 percent of sales on the shop floor. It’s a balance between putting over something which looks nice, whether it’s a rope set, a big aluminium deep-seated lounge set. It’s still got to justify that shop floor space. I think that’s the nervousness. But it’s coming.”
Hugo Douglas Pennant and Martin Bell, the directors of Bramblecrest, said: “There is definitely a shift towards aluminium, but calling it a tipping point is too much. There is plenty of mileage left in weave furniture. Five years ago we sold a lot more dining sets compared to sofa sets. Now the dining sets are definitely on the decline with a trend towards sofa sets, although wealthy customers may have both.”
However at Norfolk Leisure, Debbie Waudby said: “I would say 100 percent for Norfolk, it’s contemporary aluminium. With our aluminium it’s the design, the practicality, the brand.”
On the garden centre side, Justin Williams of Fron Goch, told GTN: “That is the million dollar question! We might say it’s when not if. We can see contemporary style taking hold throughout Europe, but we know from our recent politics we dare not use Europe as a guide!
“Customer’s love new and will always be attracted to it but for our customers it must deliver comfort and practicality and it will need to fit in with their property and building materials. In today’s climate customers will price-check and compare value for money too.
“For us I think this will be a slower transition, even with all the new products at Solex I suspect 70-8 percent of sales nationally may still be through weave in the coming year. New products drive our industry, so hopefully I am wrong. I often am!”
Tammy Woodhouse of Millbrook Garden Centre said: “It was great to see some more variety from the brown weave but I’m not sure we have quite reached tipping point yet.”
Edward Boult, of Grovewell Garden Centres, commented: "We are based in a somewhat traditional area and I'm not convinced the change to contemporary will be that quick down here in Kent so the core of our displays will be predominantly weave. But we are looking at showing a few more modern aluminium frame sets, partly to see and test the response, and also, as we think it will freshen up our shop floors with a slightly different look. We do have concerns that everything is very grey at present and are also trying to combat that with our range selection."
David Yardley, Chief Executive of Klondyke Garden Centres, said: "SOLEX is a good show that gives you the time to focus on the range just at the right time of year. There was lots of interesting product and with a combination of supplier visits and SOLEX our buyer has selected the range for next year. It's not quite at the tipping point for us but there will be some contemporary non-weave product in the range for next year although weave will still feature prominently."
Matthew Bent told us: "Wwave has been the mainstay for the last x number of years and still appeals to both the traditional and contemporary customer. It seems to fit in what ever the style. The new contemporary styes are great but only appeal to certain people who can fit that look into their garden. So there could well be a shift for some away from weave but I think it will still be the dominant material for garden furniture for the time being."
And our final word on Solex 2019 goes to Alan Roper, of Blue Diamond, who have just bought another six centres from Wyevale: “I have never seen such an eclectic mix of furniture. Everyone is predicting the demise of weave but no one really knows the direction of travel that future garden furniture will take. I don’t believe that any one type of furniture will dominate as it has before, plastic, wood, weave etc. The modern metal look will grow over time but I’m not sure it will completely dominate. Variety will be the watch-word.”