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From Home Furnishing Business


By Bob George

Excuse any confusion which may be detected in this letter.  For the past month, I have been submerged in the detail research of the furniture buying process of the multi-generations which the industry is attempting to serve.

When the much-discussed Baby Boomers started their household formation phase in the late 60s, we had turmoil as they began to reject the traditional styles which drove brands, such as Ethan Allen and Thomasville, to acceptance toward upstarts, such as Scan Design, Storehouse, and Crate & Barrel.  Yes, with every generation, retailers and manufacturers must adapt their merchandise, value statement, and retail experience. 

However, today the industry is in transition, reluctantly bidding goodbye to the Baby Boomers and also with reluctance greeting the Millennials. 

This ambivalence is creating a lost opportunity – Generation X.  While not as significant in terms of households (27.5%), Gen X represents as much of a force with furniture purchases (34%), as the Baby Boomers.  Unlike the Baby Boomers, they will continue to increase in terms of percentage of furniture sold.

First, let’s find some reassurance that the Millennials are not that much different from all generations.  Specifically, their home furnishings must communicate who they are and a sense of style.

Yes, there is a difference in what defines style in terms of product, but this is always the case, as society moves forward.

However, the industry must master how they want to communicate in terms of media and their dependence on the internet, as their first shopping stop.  For now, they are focused on the non-traditional channels, but are willing to consider these channels, as well.  It will be a challenge, but nothing the industry can’t overcome.

But, what the most immediate concern should be is Generation X.  They are here now and they are purchasing 33% of all furniture/bedding and are growing.  We need to concentrate on this forgotten generation.  What makes them different from their parents?

The attitude toward furniture is the same, as is the reasons for purchasing.  However, while depending upon the Internet, they are very much into magazines (10.8%), in fact, 5X greater than their parents.

The input of friends is more important, which accounts for the increased influence of social media.

Generation X is buying form the regional chains, moving from independents which the Baby Boomers prefer.  However, they have embraced the mass merchants as well.  They are still satisfied with their buying experience, but not as much as their parents.

The challenge is this generation.  The retailers can focus on the Millennials later.  For the next decade, this generation will determine our success.

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