At Patio World in California, customers are treated like friends and family

At Patio World in California, customers are treated like friends and family

The best advice in the outdoor furniture space is to use what works.

What’s worked for Wayne Romain, owner and manager of Patio World in Riverside, California, for more than 40 years, is to treat customers as though they were visitors in his home.

Romain came to the patio business after serving in the U.S. Army in the 1960s. He and his wife, Rose Ann, decided to leave the chilly Midwest behind for sunny California. After working in the manufacturing housing industry, he and his wife began looking for a new opportunity to support themselves and their two small children.

They discovered that the owner of a small patio store was retiring and wanted to sell. So they took the opportunity and since then, Patio World, with stores in Riverside and Temecula, has grown and become Southern California’s go-to for outdoor furniture, barbecues and accessories. Romain attributes his store’s success to establishing a close relationship with customers, offering the best selection at the best prices and service after the sale.

The marketplace in 2024

The Romain family

When asked what would be most important for retailers in 2024 — whether it would be merchandising or product assortment or lead times — Romain says it would be all of the above.

“It’s going to be a grind, a lot of competition in a saturated market, because everyone wants a piece of the outdoor pie,” he says.

Romain said it appears that there will be a slowdown, which he plans to handle proactively.

“I will watch inventories, advertising budgets and pricing,” he says. “You have to be nimble and quick and take advantage of any possible opportunities.”

Further, Romain says he is trying new ways to advertise to the outdoor customer and has made himself available for customer inquiries by phone, text and email — so much so that he feels like a physician, on call 24 hours a day

To choose what will be sold on the floor, Romain relies on several factors.

“It’s quality, pricing and personality/culture/honesty of the people inside the organization and their reps, just to name a few,” he says.

Answer to competition from full-line and online: Pick your battles

The answer to what works in marketing and dealing with both the competition from full-line furniture stores and online retailers rests in one thing: It’s best to pick your battles — and then fight hard.

“It is a very saturated market,” says Romain. “Competing with everyone is impossible. You have to find what works for you, your bread and butter, and maximize its potential. All the while, trying new sources of revenue here and there. It’s a juggling act. You cannot just throw furniture on the floor and expect it to move. The game has changed big time.”

Any advice for struggling casual retailers?

“You have to be on top of everything,” says Romain. “You’ve got to know what is going on. You’ve got to be in the store. Get out of your office and be on the sales floor. Be involved in it and work the system.”

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