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Millennials Rising

The new generation of consumers has arrived. Now, it’s time to bring them into your store.

Millennials are the largest group of consumers in the US. For this reason, just about everyone wants to know what they wear, eat, download, and believe. Marketing consultants are busily conducting research to determine how to get their attention and maintain their brand loyalty. The home furnishings industry is no exception. From Home Furnishing Business’ November cover story “Millennial Mania” to Fall Market seminars on topics like “Millennials and E-Retailing: Connecting to America’s Largest Shopping Audience” it is clear manufacturers, retailers, and designers are strongly focused on this powerful generation.

“Millennials comprise the highest percentage of buying households at traditional, manufacturer-branded, lifestyle furniture stores."

Sherry Sheely, president of Sheely’s Furniture and Appliance, the largest retailer of its type in Ohio and Pennsylvania, planned her Fall Market appointments to make selections attractive to key 18- to 34-year old customers. “We’re well aware of the buying habits of this group. We do generational sales training and cater to their interest in eclectic styles, aversion to ‘matchy match’, and the appeal of transitional and more ornate pieces.” Sheely added that she makes different buying decisions with Millennial shoppers in mind. “We recently featured a striking teal blue sofa in our store, and sure enough, the first one was purchased by a 20-something. If a Millennial shopper sees something they like, they will buy it immediately, and as with any generation, cost is not a concern for some.”

The panel at the Fall Market E-retailing seminar, hosted by Jenny Heinzen York, Editor-in-Chief of Home Accents Today, included Anna Brockway, Co-founder and President of Chairish, Shane Reilly, Co-founder of Guildery and Josh Stellin, Co-founder of Joybird Furniture. They provided an eye-opening overview of Millennial’s online home furnishings shopping behavior. In addition to e-retail, Millennials comprise the highest percentage of buying households at traditional, manufacturer-branded, lifestyle furniture stores, and discount department stores, with 37% of them planning to spend a total of $27 billion on furniture and mattresses in the next year.

According to the panel members, whether the final purchase is made online or from a traditional store, this group starts their research and gets their inspiration online from resources like Houzz and Pinterest. They aren’t afraid to spend and are confident in their decisions because they have already read online reviews, texted photos and received positive feedback from their peers.

“This is the generation that designed their Nike sneakers online ... they grew up creating their own products."
- Josh Stellin, Co-founder, Joybird Furniture

Not surprisingly, once Millennial furniture shoppers have made a decision, they will not tolerate traditional lead times, preferring products that are readily available. According to HOM Furniture CEO Rodney Johansen, this is a request his 15 retail stores in the northern Midwest work hard to meet. “We are putting a lot of energy into satisfying these first-time buyers. We rebranded our clearance center as the Bargain Shop to provide the immediate gratification they desire at a price point that works well for many of them.”

Customization is also important to Millennials. As Stellin of Joybird reminded the audience, “This is the generation that designed their Nike sneakers online to their own specs. They grew up creating their own products.” According to Reilly at Guildery, that is a big draw for her 20-something customers. “Sending swatches is our most expensive marketing cost. We try to get something in their hands very quickly if they request them after viewing hundreds of designs on our website. When it helps them finalize their decision and makes the sale, we consider it well worth the investment in custom sample printing.”

The Millennials’ commitment to the environment impacts many of their consumer choices, including their home furnishings purchasing behavior. A recent survey of Millennial small business owners conducted by the Business Journals indicated that they are less concerned than their Boomer peers about eight key aspects of running a business, with the exception of their concern about the world environment and global warming. The report showed that while Boomers respect ‘green’ businesses, Millennials believe sustainability should be an integral part of any business.

Perhaps the most inspiring characteristic of Millennials is that they are highly optimistic about the US economy. The small business owners surveyed are also confident about their future personal wealth and are investing at a rate 29% higher than Boomers. As they age into their prime home buying years of 25 to 45, moving from rentals or their parents’ homes, marrying at an average of 30 years old, and then having children, their influence as furniture buying consumers will only continue to grow. As our expert retailers are already demonstrating, now is the time to start making your store their must-shop destination.