Staycation: It’s the new Orlando

Outdoor entertaining is a major feature of the staycation. Pictured is the Weber Summit S-620 gas grill.

The home channel is waking up to “staycations”—a term for people’s habit of spending more weekends and vacations at home, rather than traditional vacations. High prices and an overall weak economy are prompting a rising number of staycations, and in many cases using the vacation funds to make purchases for the backyard.

Manufacturers and retailers have taken action.

“All you have to do is take one look at rollercoaster financial markets, tightening consumer credit and mounting credit card debt to understand that consumers are becoming more and more value-focused,” said Rob Schwing, senior director, brand marketing at Char-Broil, a leading producer of gas grills. “There is greater value and enjoyment gained over time when you invest in your backyard versus taking the traditional one- or two-week trip.”

Char-Broil showed its dedication to the concept by announcing that it will anchor the new “StayCation Marketing Center” at the National Hardware Show next May. This space within the show’s lawn and garden area will target consumers who choose to spend their vacations at home, showcasing hands-on testing and education about the latest in grills, outdoor furnishings, accessories, storage and coverings.

“People are going out to dinner less of ten. They’re going to the amusement park less of ten. They’re spending more time at home and investing in the home to make it more comfortable,” said Ed Several, group vp and show manager of the National Hardware Show. “This offers us a tremendous platform for the Hardware Show to be able to take current and new products and share best practices with retailers looking to capitalize on the staycation trend.”

At Do it Best’s fall market last month in Indianapolis, CEO Bob Taylor said that with Americans staying closer to home these days, they’re making more of an investment in their backyards in an attempt to “take the inside outside.” Thus, the co-op’s special outdoor living exhibit area was designed to give members ideas of how they can take advantage of this trend. Similarly, True Value devoted 12,000 square feet to a “Patio Courtyard” at its recent market in Atlanta, with senior vp and chief merchandising officer Mike Clark commenting: “People are spending more vacation time at home, which is energizing the category.”

Weber-Stephen released a statement in June saying that according to its own research, 15 percent of respondents recognize the term “staycation” as a “determined amount of leisure time people spend at or near home instead of a traditional vacation away from home.” Once having the term explained to them, more than half (51 percent) said they planned to take one or more staycations this summer, including 24 percent who had changed their plans to include “stay at home time” this year.

The Weber study also found outdoor entertaining is big for staycationers—24 percent said they planned to host more barbecues than normal; 34 percent of staycationers said they planned to improve their outdoor room or area; 21 percent said they planned to spend more money on grilling than during a “typical” summer; and 13 percent planned to purchase a new outdoor grill.

Sherry Bale, a spokeswoman for Weber-Stephen, called staycation a huge trend, one that will continue to grow. Even if gas prices decline, staycations are fueled by a weak economy, the high cost of food and airline tickets and the weak dollar. “We should also remember that the staycation term is really cocooning kicked up a notch, which we’ve all been talking about for years, particularly since 9/11,” she said.


What exactly got Americans thinking along the lines of, “I’ll stay home this year and spend the money on my backyard rather than a trip”?

According to a Weber GrillWatch Pulse poll conducted in mid-June, 40 percent of Americans who had planned on taking summer staycations said they “will grill outdoors more as part of their plans.” The Weber GrillWatch Pulse went on to ask American staycationers why they planned to spend their leisure time closer to home. Here are the top responses:

82% The high cost of gas

51% I’m trying to watch my pennies more this year overall

40% The high cost of food

40% The high cost of airfares

37% The weak dollar

31% There are plenty of interesting or fun things to do at or near home

Schwing agreed that the idea behind staycations is similar to the cocooning concept that became popular in the late ’80s and early ’90s—another time in when a tough economy got consumers thinking about taking their reduced disposable income and investing it in their homes—including backyards, patios and decks. He referred to the backyard as a place “where they can relax and enjoy their very limited leisure time with friends and family,” and pointed out that while a traditional vacation is over in a week or two, an investment in the backyard lasts much longer.

The staycation trend is also being picked up on by retailers—both big boxes and hardware stores. For example, Lowe’s is promoting staycations through its Creative Ideas Web site and other online tools. Beginning in June, the retailer began featuring hammocks, lounge chairs, flowers, tiki torches and other items meant to help create a “tropical paradise” in the backyard. The site also gives tips on how to create an “urban garden,” while promoting the “Garden Treasures” line of fire pits, trellises, lounge chairs and hammocks.

At the same time, the three major hardware co-ops and Orgill have stepped up their outdoor living offerings, importing more reasonably priced patio sets that mimic Smith & Hawken styling and producing high-grade catalogs that show the breadth of the product line—especially important for smaller stores with limited display space.

Schwing believes home channel retailers can further promote the staycation by clearly communicating a headquarters/destination position in their advertising and by building the assortment around strong brand names. He also says the retailer must commit to being in-stock on key items and having the inventory on hand when the consumer is ready to make the purchase.

Robert Hilliard, store manager at Hinton True Value in Hinton, Okla., a grees that it’s not enough to carry a small ensemble of outdoor products if you expect to be considered a destination in this category. Hinton True Value devotes about 400 square feet to outdoor living and tries to keep product in stock as much as possible.

“We have to compete with Lowe’s, and that means people want to take away product if they see something they like in the store,” he said. “They don’t want to order it; they want it now.”

Staycation can also mean an upscaling of the product mix, according to Gayle Massey, national sales manager for Artefx, a company that sells outdoor canvas art. Many people are extending their living area to the outdoors, adding hidefinition TVs, fireplaces, sofas, lounge chairs and other upscale items. “Anyone who wants that fine, decorative look indoors can extend that to the outdoors,” Massey said.

Along these lines, Steve Pfeifer, owner of McCoy True Value Hardware in Indianola, Iowa, said that while it was commonplace to sell $200 grills five years ago, people are upgrading their outdoor are as to the point that it’s fairly easy to steer customers into a higher price range.

“The days when the outdoor furniture department was a redwood picnic table and benches and some folded aluminum chairs are gone,” Pfeifer said. “Now we have several sets, all under an outdoor canopy. And it’s the kind of stuff you could put in an indoor dining area, and it wouldn’t look out of place.”

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