House and Leisure asked Bloc Outdoor for some advice about shopping for outdoor furniture. The following is a list of important factors to bear in mind, including industry trends and prospects for the future… What constitutes good value? What constitutes good value in purchasing outdoor furniture is by deciding that once you have made your purchase, you have achieved complete customer satisfaction. This customer satisfaction can only be achieved by satisfying the following needs: design, comfort, practicality, longevity, sustainability and price. The design always needs to be pleasing to the eye, simple yet elegant and the less complicated the better. To attain comfort, one needs to make sure the furniture is stable and firm, but also soft and inviting. The practicality of the furniture needs to be suitable for its function and needs to blend into its environment. The longevity needs to be manufactured from a material that may age with time, but will mature and become more distinguished. The sustainability needs to be that reassurance that the furniture you are purchasing, is from renewable resources and that eventually is bio-degradable. Lastly, the price needs to suit your budget, but always remember that paying a little extra for quality means with a little care it will always last that much longer. What are the latest directions in the local outdoor furniture market? Various retailers are experimenting with different materials and colours in their production of outdoor furniture. Where the norm has always been to be conservative in the choice of your outdoor furniture, there has been a growing demand from the homeowner to make use of furniture which would be suitable for both the indoors and the outdoors. With this in mind, there are more designed outdoor pieces of furniture becoming available which look similar to their indoor companions. Customers are experimenting with colour and are choosing to take colour outdoors in the form of cushions and accessories. Also, customers are increasingly looking for longevity and sustainability in their search for outdoor furniture. This is the reason why the local market is offering better quality, sustainably sourced, outdoor furniture. Customers are realising that the natural attractiveness of timber outdoor furniture is the most desirable material on the local market today. The fact that good quality timber will outlast all modern day contemporary materials, along with the fact that timber may be purchased from sustainable plantations, gives the customer peace of mind once they have bought their furniture. Local versus European market Europe is shifting away from its traditional thinking of having its furniture manufactured in the East. With the East monopolising on the manufacturing of European designed furniture, their prices are no longer competitive. Europe is once again looking at producing furniture in its own backyard. South Africa has realised that producing furniture is not only economically viable, but also sustainable. It creates jobs, builds a strong community and good general work ethic. Because of this South African customers are becoming more aware of what they are buying and have become more inclined to purchase furniture that is designed and manufactured locally. Global trends in outdoor furniture Europe continues to break new boundaries by experimenting with various materials and finishes in the design and production of their outdoor furniture. With the trend moving towards outdoor furniture mimicking indoor furniture in design and finish, companies are making use of various production methods to combat the exposure of the furniture to the elements. As a result, many traditionally indoor furniture manufacturers are experimenting with outdoor ranges to capitalise on the change in trend. The way forward and the future The future for outdoor furniture is that it will become more and more like indoor furniture in design and detail, mimicking its comfort and sophistication. Customers are demanding that outdoor furniture companies make use of various sophisticated production methods discovered in research and development to combat the adverse effects that exposure to the elements has on outdoor pieces. As a result of this indoor moving outdoor trend, many traditionally indoor furniture manufacturers are experimenting with outdoor ranges to capitalise on the change in the market. To view their full range or for further information visit outdoorfurniturestore.co.za.