Editor's View - March 2013

On Household & Housing Trends
By Wanda Jankowski, Editor-in-Chief

In “Industry Views” to the right of this column, Jill Sands, publisher of “The Trend Forecaster,” sheds light on generational changes that are affecting home fashions design and sales. But there are other factors to consider when seeking to “crystal ball” what the future might bring for the industry. It seems that “downsizing” may turn out to be the mantra of both Boomer and Millennial generations.

As Sands writes in the Winter 2013 edition of her newsletter, “The economic debacle of 2008 created a reality check for everyone. Boomers (age 49-67) are downsizing and often are selling both their first and second homes for one that fits today’s reality. Millennials are living within their means. Both demographic groups want scaled down, yet stylish environs tailored to fit their personal definitions of luxury.

“There’s been a strong decline in marriage rates in recent years with only 51 percent of adults married. This compares to 72 percent in 1960. The greatest decline was among less-educated Americans; only 23 percent married in 2012. Though 55 percent with bachelor’s degrees married in 2012, that was a 10 percent decline from 2008,” writes Sands.

“What does this say? Today there are more singles and more people living together. Though still setting up households, these households will be smaller and simpler,” she concludes.

Experts are fond of citing single-family home buying trends when it comes to indicating the health of the economy. But although single-home sales seem to be on the rise, the level of purchase isn’t anywhere near what it was before the recession. Where are all those people living who can’t afford homes? In multi-family rental units.

Keat Foong, executive editor of Multi-Housing News, reveals, “Definitely, renters moving into multi-family housing also need to stock their homes with home furnishings. The multi-family market started recovering three years ago, and has already recovered as we speak. For the past two years, vacancies have continued to fall and landlords have been able to consistently increase rents. There is something of a national apartment shortage, to the extent that developers are now starting to build new multi-family housing again to meet the demand.

“The multi-family market is generally expected to continue enjoying a relatively high level of demand because the Echo Boomers—the children of the Baby Boomers—are entering their peak renting years of 20 to 34,” Foong explains.

“Apartment living, especially if it is in urban centers, is in fashion. And, as the economy improves, even if marginally, there will be some poeple who have previously been staying with their parents or roommates who now choose to start renting their own apartments. Also, people who are putting off home buying for whatever reason have to rent as an alternative,” concludes Foong.

Targeting urban renters as key customers and offering more fashion-forward, clean-lined designs are ways to respond to recent shifts in demographics. Whatever your strategy, it’s essential that you have one. Times are changing fast and it’s important for you to keep assortments in line with your customers’ mindsets and lifestyles.


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