Report: consumers prefer entertaining outdoors

If the weather permits, eight out of 10 consumers prefer outdoor entertaining to indoor entertaining, according to a survey from consumer research firm NPD Group. The finding bodes well for categories such as gazebos and outdoor fireplaces.

Separately, the survey on the outdoor entertaining habits of consumers found that 84 percent of respondents said they generally enjoy entertaining outdoors. Of this group, three-fourths agreed that outdoor entertaining “feels more laid back than formal entertaining.”

These numbers, according to NPD’s Mark Delaney, director of home improvement, indicate the broad appeal of casual entertaining. “But they still want to make their outdoor space more formal by giving it an added sense of ambiance and comfort,” he said.

Respondents displayed a preference for outdoor entertaining products, with 23 percent saying they owned a fire pit or outdoor fireplace and 14 percent saying they plan to purchase one. Additionally, nearly one-third of consumers reported owning or planning to buy a gazebo or canopy, while another 14 percent either own or plan to buy an outdoor refrigerator.

“These results are significant given the widespread merchandising of gazebos only really began in the past year or two, while outdoor refrigerators may have gotten a boost in sales as wine coolers gained popularity,” said Delaney.

The majority of consumers rated retailers from good to fair when asked for overall efforts to provide a good selection of outdoor entertaining products.

“This may indicate retailers’ product selection is not entirely what they’re looking for and spells opportunity for retailers and manufacturers,” said Delaney.

The report is based on information from a survey of 966 members of the online consumer panel who purchased home improvement products from February to April 2007. The survey data was supplemented by consumer data from the NPD home improvement tracking service and POS data from the housewares tracking service.