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Ray Allegrezza

Target market harder to hit

Ray AllegrezzaRay Allegrezza
Selling the consumer, especially since the Great Recession, has been like trying to hit an erratically moving target.
     Not to be the bearer of bad news, but when it comes to taking aim at the middle class, and if a recent study by the Pew Research Center is on the money, your target just got a little harder to hit.
     According to the report, "the middle class is struggling to survive and shrinking before our eyes."
     That should probably not come as a big surprise, especially considering the uphill climb the middle class has had economically for the past five or six years.
     The Pew report, which surveyed about 2,500 consumers who identified themselves as middle class, said these people were finding it more difficult now than it was 10 years ago to maintain their standard of living.
     The study also concluded that the middle class, long perceived as a significant consumer for home furnishings, is shrinking and is now a much smaller part of the overall population.
     Even more troubling is the fact that middle-class Americans have also fallen backwards in terms of wealth and income. The Pew report found that the mean net worth of middle-class families tanked 28% to $93,150 in 2010, down from $129,582 in 2001.
     To add insult to injury, the middle class also took it on the chin - actually in their wallets - with regards to their pay. Although incomes dipped across all class levels for the first time since World War II, the middle class realized the biggest decline.
     Not surprisingly, less than 25% of those responding to the survey indicated they were "very confident" that they would have enough money to get through their retirements.
     The report concluded, "Middle class Americans look to the economic future - their own, their children's and the nation's - with a mix of apprehension and muted optimism."
     When I went back and looked at Furniture/Today's 2011 Consumer Buying Trends Survey, it showed that households with incomes between $50,000 and $99,999 accounted for 40% of all buyers of furniture/bedding.
     That's a big chunk of the market that may be sitting on the sidelines.
     The smart money says it could be well worth the effort to get them back into the game.

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