Tips & Insights

Boomers Mean Big Business for Furniture Retailers

Top Tips for selling to America’s wealthiest demographic

By Mitzi Beach, ASID CAPS, Mitzi Beach Interiors (2014 Style Spotter Alumna)

Boomers are big business for furniture retailers today. According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), and the Economic Policy Institute, the 55+ age group controls more than three-fourths of America’s wealth and has three times the net worth of younger generations. Most importantly, Boomers outspend other generations by $400 billion each year on consumer goods and services, according to the U.S. Government Consumer Spending Survey.

“If I were a manufacturer, designer, buyer, or anyone in our industry, I would be focusing squarely on this powerful, huge, and lucrative Boomer Market!”

These are very exciting times to be selling and designing home furnishings as we continue to see positive growth in rebounding from the devastating effects of the 2008 recession. Even better news is that the majority of the 78 million boomers need to remodel their homes or will be moving due to being in transitional life stages. Transitional in this case, meaning downsizing from the family home, but not yet ready for retirement.

“By 2025, one-fifth of the US population will be 65+. And surprisingly, Boomers outspend younger adults online 2:1 on a per capita basis.”
- Forrester Research

So how can we sell to America’s wealthiest demographic? What will they buy and why? How can manufacturers, retailers and designers profit by this huge Boomer market seeking not only furniture and accessories but luxury items as well?

This customer is seeking to buy the furniture that will better position them for the comfortable, stress free, yet still chic and luxurious lifestyle they want to experience in their homes after many years of hard work.

My research totally agrees with this Nebraska Furniture Mart article from June 22, 2014:

As Baby Boomers retire, their spending habits are not changing. Current statistics show that the fifty-plus age group … is in control of more than seven trillion dollars of wealth. Born between 1946 and 1964, boomers make up the largest overall percentage of the population.

Expect to see:

  • Continued, and even increased, spending on material comforts including lush living spaces and magnificent five-piece baths.
  • Boomers “spoiling” their children and grandchildren, lavishing them with products noted for style and safety.
  • A population that will invest money in beauty with practicality – boomers will buy brand name items that provide both quality and style.
  • A nostalgic return to mid-century décor and fashion, representing the years that Baby Boomers hold dear.

How can retailers profit? Here are my 5 top suggestions for the types of products you should source for the 50+ buyer:

1. Make it Custom
Boomers want, will pay, and will wait for customized, high quality investment pieces that work precisely for their wants and needs. Seek products that allow for high levels of customization. Boomers still want to spend wisely not only for products that last, but products that could be handed down to their children and grandchildren.

2. Think Multifunctional
Since many 50+ adults are in, or will be in, life transition, seek out multi-purpose, multi-functional furniture that can travel from one home to another or can be used for multiple tasks. Think buffets that can also be used for a home office, or a writing desk that could convert to a sofa table or an entry piece.

3. Keep it Chic
Seek furniture and accessories that are chic, glamorous, and exude understated luxury. Look for pieces incorporating beautiful crystal or metal hardware, unusual finishes like verre eglomise mirrors (glass gilded), and beautifully designed dimmable lighting.

4. Comfy Cushions Count
Cushions. Look for manufacturers that offer a variety of cushion upgrades. Your ability as a retailer to offer a customized, personalized luxury seating experience, based on cushion comfort, is important to the boomer buyer.

5. More Arms = More Sales
Arm Styles. Look for upholstery vendors offering a variety of arm styles, so when your boomer customer finds a sofa style they like, they will also be able to find an arm style and height, customized for them, that works for their needs and those of their family members and guests.

One final thought: Boomers often do not know where they will live, or who will be living with them as multi-generational housing continues to be on the rise. Conversations that explain how well-scaled furniture pieces can meet their present and future needs, increase the sale factor when Boomers’ future plans may still be indefinite. Buy with flexibility and quality in mind, and reap great profits for years to come.