Outdoor Interiors is a locally run exterior furniture company. It is owned and managed by Tim and Kristin Cimaglio who founded the business over 12 years ago. Tim spoke to Living60010 about the past, present, and future of Outdoor Interiors.
Living60010: You started Outdoor Interiors with the intention to "re-invent an underserved niche" in the outdoor furniture market. What was the spark that led to the creation of Outdoor Interiors?
Tim Cimaglio: We began Outdoor Interiors in 2006 during one of the most challenging economic times in recent history. My prior company during the 90’s and early 2k’s was part of the China manufacturing boom. I joined my family’s Marketing & Rep business in '92 when The Home Depot came to the Midwest, and I began sourcing Outdoor products with their Import Department since we have the merchandising and service teams to fulfill and direct the flow in peak season.
During this period, we were doing over $100 million a year with Home Depot, Menards, Ace Hardware and other key retailers in the Midwest. It was also clear that nothing truly unique and innovative would come from the commodity side of the patio furniture industry especially after all domestic and European manufacturing moved to China. All the outdoor furniture at that time was made from steel, resin or sling, and was flooding the US and Canadian Markets literally by the boatload. Price points were historically low with 3pc to 5pc Patio Sets were selling at only $99 to $299. By the early 2k’s and despite all the retail growth, our customer’s were losing money and identity. All the outdoor manufacturers and factories were simply knocking each other off for market share. The Outdoor Furniture Category had become another commodity, and the consumer was equally confused since mass market retailers served primarily low cost, low-quality products at retail. If you were shopping for patio furniture and fortunate enough to buy from a Pool & Patio store or Garden Center stocking expensive furniture and brands, then you also found yourself in big trouble during this economy.
Outdoor Interiors began with the support of my wife and partner, Kristin. Together we needed to find a fresh source of inspiration and innovation, and if it wasn’t compelling then we didn’t go there. We parted ways with my Taiwanese sourcing & design partner and made a clean break from all of our China manufacturing. I met Alex Tran from Vietnam, who was young and hungry, and he was instrumental in starting our business. We quickly found quality manufacturing, unique design element with just enough simple styling to be dangerous.
By 2009 we established a loyal and lasting partnership with 10 factories. We carved out a niche with Mixed Materials starting with Brazilian Eucalyptus, Teak and Stone blended with all-weather woven wickers and Sling furniture. Our focus was to look high-end like Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel, Frontgate and Pottery Barn at half the price points showing similar quality and great value.
Moving forward, our scariest yet simplest strategy was to stop selling Big Box or Mass Merchants. We focused our Sales and Marketing dollars on the Garden Center Groups with other independent retailers looking for more unusual and niche manufacturers. Many new customers quickly fell in love with our product line since they were either stuck with poor quality products or very high price points with low volume.
Today, we are fortunate to have a diverse customer base with over 150 Dealers and Groups worldwide. We’ve enjoyed stints on TV with QVC, HSN, providing products to the San Diego Zoo, Biltmore Estate and other amazing customers. We also provide exclusive designs and collections for several retail groups with longtime partnerships. We enjoy strong online sales with the top 20 eCommerce retailers providing upwards of 50% of our sales revenue annually.
Living60010: Outdoor Interiors is now in its 12th year of business. What plans do you have for this year and what do you see in your business' future?
Tim Cimaglio: We introduce approximately 25-30 new items and sets per year. There is a temptation to break into other commodity categories, but staying true to who we are is what makes our organic growth more exciting. Our 2018 designs have been in production for nearly a year and are available in our current catalog.
We have big plans in 2019 to introduce more storage seating sets. These sets include armchairs and other pieces where the cushions and pillows can be stored within, making for quick and easy waterproof storage. We’ve also expanded our showroom space here in Lake Barrington. We’ll provide Wholesalers, Retailers, and Designers with more exciting new products for 2019 and beyond.
Living60010: What would you say are the core values of your business?
Tim Cimaglio: To bring style, solutions, and value to your patio and garden with as many sustainable products as possible. Our greatest core value is providing the ultimate customer experience from retailer to the end user. Today, we must exceed our customer’s expectations at every level that must go beyond simply a product warranty. We take great pride in every sale from Outdoor Interiors and it’s important that our customers know we’ll always be there for them. Providing new products many times throughout the key selling seasons is what keeps us relevant and in demand today.
Living60010: How has Outdoor Interiors expanded its reach within the North American market?
Tim Cimaglio: Our greatest advantage since 2006 has been providing domestic warehousing and distribution while being centrally located in the US. We purchased our 2 acre - 46,000 sq ft warehouse two years ago that has allowed us to expand our customer base and expand our product assortment. We exhibit at our key industry events at the Casual Furniture Market at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago each September, and the National Hardware Show in Las Vegas in May.
Living60010: You talk about using sustainable materials on your website. Can you talk a little bit about what materials you use and why, and what importance sustainability has in your business?
Tim Cimaglio: We source and fabricate only Teak and Eucalyptus solid hardwoods from a family owned plantation in Brazil. This partnership will provide us with years of sustainability. We also use many natural products found in Vietnam with our factory partners. We manufacture many stone Bistro Tables, Accent Tables and more in Vietnamese marble, slate, sandstone, terracotta, and concrete. We also provide and line of woven, natural Water Hyacinth and Seagrass woven baskets, trays and caddies to our largest brick & mortar retailer in California.
Living60010: Can you tell us about your relationship with Barrington Bank & Trust?
Tim Cimaglio: Barrington Bank & Trust provides our company with a traditional business line of credit. More importantly, we have a longtime friendship with many key members within the bank.
For more information, visit the company’s website at https://outdoorinteriors.com