"Despite the slowdown in new-home sales across the country and the unusually warm, early winter weather in some regions, the hearth, patio, and barbecue industry still is enjoying solid sales - with nearly 3 million hearth units shipped last year," says Jack Goldman, president of the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association (HPBA) based in Arlington, Va.
Hearth appliances shipments were down 11 percent in 2006 compared to 2005. The segment of the market that saw the decreases was the gas appliances - fireplaces, inserts, stoves, and gas logs - no doubt affected by the rise in natural gas prices.
But the industry had some bright spots. The Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo itself has grown in recent years, and this year there are almost 200 new exhibitors. Clean-burning and efficient, pellet-fueled stoves and inserts increased 12 percent over 2005 shipments, while wood stoves and wood stove inserts increased 7 percent. Electric fireplaces had the largest percentage growth with shipments up 20 percent from 2005.
The other high point in the industry is the cooking segment. According to HPBA, an unbelievable 372,000 outdoor kitchens will be built in 2007. This continues a trend that has been happening for some time. People want to increase the living spaces of their homes, so they are taking it outside. As evidence of that, grill shipments in 2006 increased 15 percent.
Don't expect the same explosive growth in the near future, however. "The correction in the housing market is going to bring the hearth industry shipments back to more traditional growth levels," Goldman says.
Here are a few more of the products being previewed at this year's show:
The mod-looking Urban Fire unit looks like a table, but in fact, it is a freestanding gas fireplace with tempered-glass rocks instead of a log set. Made from stainless steel, the unit measures 3 feet by 3 feet. It can be used with a tank or installed with a built-in gas line.
The Berlin freestanding EPA-approved wood stove allows users to rotate the product to direct heat where it is needed. Made from powder-coated steel, it measures 78.7 inches high and can be rear or top vented. The unit will heat up to 1,500 square feet.
Evolution Trade Group
Florenz is a multipurpose freestanding EPA-approved woodstove. The product features a baking oven on top, a fireplace in the middle, and a wood, storage compartment below. A variety of optional ceramic tiles can be attached to the side. It measure 67.7 inches high and 21.5 inches wide and can heat 1,500 square feet.
Evolution Trade Group
Because fireplaces need dressing, the Eloise fireplace mantel is made from a solid Asian hardwood called choi and solid hardwood veneers. Shown here in a fruitwood finish, it is also available in dark cherry, mission oak, distressed oak, and French country.
Outdoor cooking products are hot - literally and figuratively speaking. This outdoor unit, for instance, is a warming drawer that can operate as low as 100 degrees, but it can also function as a slow-cooking oven that goes as high 250 degrees. The all stainless steel unit measures 24 inches wide.
No, this is not a traditional outdoor wood-burning fireplace - it's an electric appliance. Covered in a faux-stone shell, the 36-inch Scottsdale unit comes with a CD player, AM/FM radio, speakers, and an MP3 player and input jack. The product is fully weatherproof, the manufacturer says.
Dimplex North America
Have a Hearth: Day 1 at the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Expo