A major player in the distribution of furniture in France, RBC celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2022. Later this year, the company will celebrate the tenth anniversary of its Design Center in Montpellier, with a dedicated exhibition featuring a dozen designers. In the meantime, François Basilien, deputy director, looks back at the evolution of the outdoor furniture market.
How have you seen the outdoor market evolve over the last ten years ?
The installation of a terrace in the office, or even the installation of offices in a terrace, is part of a global approach of the company in order to enhance the cohesion of the teams and the integration of new recruits. The office terrace is a promise of relaxation and well-being. If for a while they were neglected, today they are integrated into the company strategy. An additional asset in terms of employability criteria. In terms of design, a terrace must integrate different kinds of furniture but also outdoor games that can withstand the vagaries of the weather.
On closer inspection, the purpose of these terraces is twofold. It is also designed to offer informal meeting spaces, allowing employees to continue their exchanges, outside, in a different and more friendly setting. In this way, outdoor furniture is gaining ground in terms of office space design. In the Flex Office movement, and in the same way as “indoor” conviviality spaces, the terraced office responds to this logic of creating favorable conditions for professional activity outside. This postulate applies to the tertiary sector, but also to the hotel and restaurant industry.
Have new segments appeared ?
The concept of “outdoor living” continues to grow. The desire to treat the outdoor space as an extension of the living space has become a constant that the health crisis has accelerated. Many publishers have expanded some of their collections to include outdoor living, such as MDF Italia. Today, there is a reverse trend, where outdoor collections can find their place indoors. Until a few years ago, the outdoor furniture offer was very limited and selective. It was really a specific know-how, even a niche offer.
Today, just like the indoor furniture offer, we have never had so many outdoor furniture proposals. Outdoor furniture is part of the logic and strategy of any brand. Even more blatantly, in a context of increased telecommuting, we are seeing the emergence of outdoor residential offices. This echoes a certain mutation of commerce. Bridges are being built between the trades and the formal worlds. Today, a distributor like RBC has its place in a global development project, insofar as it responds to an overall project. It is clear that the exterior, in the same way that the kitchen is no longer considered as a room in itself, is part of a global development project. Another observation is that the use of outdoor furniture, initially intended for residential use, is taking place in the urban landscape. This is the case, for example, of Bla Station, which offers an Oppo Betong collection, by Stefan Borselius, for public spaces.
How do you perceive consumers’ expectations ?
In the private sector, we are seeing a change in mentality regarding the choice of materials and procurement. We are going to favor eco-responsible, recyclable, transformable and reusable materials and above all, we favor short circuits. Exotic woods are no longer as popular. The manufacturing processes of certain editors and manufacturers are also largely impacted, such as the low temperature lacquering of steel (widely used for outdoor furniture). A low temperature firing allows for a shorter firing time, and therefore less energy consumption. Matière Grise is a French publisher and a pioneer in this field.
In terms of industry players ?
New players are emerging in the sector. For example, the Segneré Group, an industrial player specializing in aeronautics, has launched the development and manufacture of a collection of aluminum outdoor furniture: S Collection, which embodies the alliance of design and the aeronautics industry.
How have you been impacted by Covid ?
Longer lead times each year, but a wider range of products. We stock the goods to be able to meet the demand. And this, from the month of January.
How do you see the sector evolving in the next ten years ?
Outdoor furniture must take into account several criteria. As with indoor furniture, seating comfort and modularity are important criteria, both when sitting and standing. Provide secure positioning systems for the computer, as well as protection from the weather. Consider shelters, or even special acoustic booths for outdoor use to protect from the sun, rain and create confidential spaces, with a natural cooling effect.
Terraces and outdoor spaces have become elements of distinction in their own right, especially for hotels and restaurants. Mama Shelter has launched the concept of creating specific spaces to engage and retain customers. The outdoor space is a signature of each location, of each architectural project with its own specificities. For the Brach hotel project, we selected eclectic outdoor furniture in wood, echoing the vegetable garden on the terrace.