Changes ahead for furnishing focus


Changes ahead for furnishing focus


Knight Ridder Newspapers

Sunday, February 17, 2002

The average American household is expected to look significantly different in 2012 than it does today.

There will be more married couple households who never had children or whose children are grown than those with kids, said Karol DeWulf-Nickell, editor-in-chief of Better Homes & Gardens magazine.

The biggest population levels at that time will be Baby Boomers in the 45-54 age range and their children in the 15-25 age range.

That means home furnishings manufacturers and retailers will have to rethink their marketing and design strategies in order to stay current with the marketplace, she said.

“The lessons from the past will not be applicable for the families of 2012,” she told an audience of American Furniture Manufacturers Association representatives at High Point, N.C.

DeWulf-Nickell offered several examples to back up her viewpoint.

— More people of affluence ($70,000 or higher households) are living in the suburbs, at a rate of three moving out of cities for each moving in. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, seven out of every 10 jobs created in 1998-99 were established in a suburban or rural area.

— More minorities are moving to the suburbs.

“At least 40% of American children will be minorities by 2012,” she said. “Their families may not be a primary furniture customer now, but they certainly will be in the future.”

— Furniture manufacturers will have to romance their product with marketing before it ever hits the retail floor.

“You’ve got to make an emotional connection with consumers with your furniture, as well as understand their changing lifestyles,” she said. “Spirituality is playing a larger role in the design and feel of the home as well.”

From surveys of her magazine’s readership, DeWulf-Nickell said she had seen plenty of evidence of Americans finding refuge in their homes.

“If home and family were the core before Sept. 11, it has since become the epicenter,” she said.

But she added that doesn’t assure the industry will be the biggest benefactor of homeward purchases and that it will have to market its products against appliances and electronic devices.

A survey found the average married couple spends about $47,000 a year.

Considering there are 56 million married couple households in the United States, that equals $2.2 trillion in spending power.

“The key to the furniture industry is to make and market and sell product that appeals to that $2.2 trillion in buying power,” she said. “People also are less mobile in terms of moving than 10 years ago, and that trend is expected to continue. The opportunity is there for the furniture industry to convince the consumer they are a true advocate for them, and that means putting words into actions for the consumer.”

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