25441 Mon, 07/02/2012 - 11:24am
The home furnishings business is full of surprises. Just when you think you’ve got something all figured out—well, think again.
Retailers and vendors responding to consumer trends know that it’s incredibly difficult to predict the next big thing. And it may be even more difficult to forecast or recognize when a trend has ended.
Remember cocooning? If I remember correctly, we stopped retreating into our homes, then started back up again. Are we cocooning now?
When the economic downturn first began, it was assumed that more wealthy consumers could be counted on to continue spending. I met with plenty of suppliers at trade shows who excitedly introduced more expensive collections to cater to the well-off clientele. Slumping retail sales from upscale stores eventually discounted this supposed trend.
Much of the unpredictability of trendspotting can be blamed on the human element. You never know what people—consumers—are thinking.
The Wall Street Journal recently identified a didn’t-see-it-coming trend that could have a huge effect on the home furnishings business. To my surprise, according to the report, American homes are getting bigger.
The United States Census Bureaus said that the average newly built home last year was 2,480 square feet, up 3.7 percent from 2010. The Wall Street Journal attributed record-low interest rates for allowing home buyers to move up to larger homes.
One home builder was quoted in the story, saying that this year the hot sellers are “large colonials clustered in parklike settings.”
Can you say “McMansions?”
This seems to go against every home trend we’ve studied for the last half decade. We’ve been told that penny-pinching Americans are downsizing; the cost to heat those humongous houses was supposed to be the death knell for oversized abodes; and apartments and townhouses, helped by the Empty Nester demographic, are on the rise.
Bigger new homes provide a great opportunity for home furnishings retailers and vendors. It takes a lot of furniture, rugs and decorative items to fill a huge house. Imagine the small appliances that can fit on the extra counter space. Formal dining rooms, complete with upstairs dinnerware and silverware, are the norm in larger homes. Extra guest rooms must be outfitted with sheets and pillowcases.
Maybe the return of McMansions shouldn’t be such a surprise. The era of giant SUVs—Hummers and Cadillac Escalades—followed the well-received introduction of Toyotas and Hondas in the ’80s.
It reminds me of the classic proverb about love: The heart wants what the heart wants. Apparently American consumers want BIG.
Thank goodness some things remain stable and predictable. Take the economy for instance.
That’s something we can all agree on, right?