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From Home Furnishing Business

Editors Letter: Changes Moving Forward

By Bob George,

Our focus this issue is the emerging generation. Those individuals that have distinguished themselves and are expected to provide the leadership as the industry moves into a transition period.

The World War II returning created the Baby Boomer Generation rearing their offspring in an environment where home and environment was the center of their life. As the Baby Boomers in the sixties began to establish households, the home and its furnishings were a focal point to communicate their sense of style and their prosperity. Yes, there were the exceptions with the “hippie movement” with the Volkswagen micro buses and communes. However, for the most part it was couples with starter homes dreaming of the next home in the suburbs to be furnished with Ethan Allen’s “style specific” furniture.

The sons and daughters of the World War II generation took their parents single stores and launched, in many cases, significant multistore retailers, selling to consumers that were for the most part people like themselves.

As was expected, the new managers had new ideas and more tolerance for risk and more important, a desire to do more than to take care of their families – often multiple families. However, there was still a significant loyalty to the older generation. As a consultant serving these new managers, a common comment was, “My father did it that way as did his father,” which was the barrier to making changes.

The next generation (Generation X), the offspring of the Baby Boomers, are not as homogenous as their parents. They don’t share the same priorities. Travel and communication devices have become more important than creating a beautiful home. When the latest phone costs more, almost twice the cost than the average price for a new sofa, that is a challenge.

And the next generation (Millennials) appear to want to lease their furniture to maximize their flexibility to move. And to make it worse, they are delaying this purchase to what was the age of when their grandparents were moving into the second home and buying their first real furniture from Ethan Allen.            

This is a necessary part of living. With these changes there will be opportunities and yes, there will be failures. It is time for the next generation of leadership. We can only hope there will be some input sought form the older generation. History can provide an important perspective.

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