• Kyra Gemberling

Millennial lifestyle patterns may alter youth category

Legacy ClassicLegacy Classic Kids’ new mid-range price point Academy collection comes in three finishes — white, molasses and cinnamon — with panel or bunk beds in twin and full sizes, plus basic cases.
HIGH POINT — Birth rates are a key driver of nursery and youth furniture sales, and the emerging lifestyle patterns of the Millennial generation could have significant effects on the business for years to come.

According to the latest data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the largest increase in birth rates over the past 10 years, at 13%, was in women ages 35 to 39. Conversely, the birth rate for mothers 20 to 24 decreased 20.6%, and for those 25 to 29, dropped 9%.

So why are women waiting longer to have children? Marsha Everton, principal corporate director and advisor at AIMsights, a market research firm specializing in generational marketing, said the change is the result of a shift in Millennial attitudes toward education and marriage.

“Marriage used to be what we called a cornerstone activity,” Everton said. “People got married and they would work together to build their future. Now, marriage has really shifted to be more of a capstone, where people want to make sure that they are able to afford a marriage, that they’re financially stable and that they will be a good economic partner.”

Everton said that 90% of college educated women are married before having their first child, according to AIMsights research. This indicates that more women are not only waiting to get married and have children, they’re ensuring their potential for higher earnings.

“Those married couples who both have a college education have greater income. They’ve really become the new elite,” she said.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median weekly earnings of mothers with a bachelor’s degree or higher is $1,043. Mothers with some college or an associate degree earn $657, those with a high school diploma earn $573 and those with less than a high school diploma earn $400. Since mothers who are better educated usually have more disposable income, this could bode well for nursery and youth home furnishings suppliers.

Earl Wang, president of youth case goods source LC Kids, said he believes older Millennial mothers with more money to spare would be in the market for higher-quality furniture.

“If she’s had a career and had the opportunity to earn some money, she’s probably had more experience and exposure to various aspects of the world,” he said. “She’s not necessarily looking for the cheapest thing. She’s probably thinking, ‘I get what I pay for, so I’m going to get something a little more durable and long-lasting.’”

Wang added that along with more experience comes the understanding that children go through stages, and their furniture must adapt as the child grows, making convertible furniture a popular choice among Millennial moms.

According to Kids Today and Mom Central Consulting’s 2014 Children’s Decorating Survey, 75% of moms under 30 have bought or want to buy a convertible crib, followed by 71% of moms ages 30 to 34 and 62% of moms ages 35 to 39. The survey also revealed that 71% of moms will spend more on a convertible crib, with 34% willing to spend an extra $100 to $199.

Allison Emerita, head of youth product development for In-Room Designs, said her team is consistently focused on producing designs that serve more than one purpose for children.

“We have a small chest in one collection that adapts to a desk or craft table, but stows back to a chest when not in use so as to not take up floor space,” she said. “We have bunk beds that accommodate twin-over-twin for small children and twin-over-full for occasional sleepovers and bigger children. These different configurations accommodate the growing needs of kids.”

Today’s Millennial moms are also more Internet savvy when it comes to making purchases. While the Children’s Decorating Survey reveals only 35% of moms under age 35 want to shop online for youth furniture, many moms peruse their options online first in order to have a solid idea of what they’re looking for when they come into the store.

“With (the nursery segment) in particular, new mothers have their phones in their hands all the time,” said David Biauce, general manager at Detroit-based retailer House of Bedroom Kids, which he said serves an age range from 25 to 45. “They’re constantly comparing what they see and any trends that they like. We have 45 cribs on the floor, and a lot of the time, (the mothers) already have a preconceived notion of what they want. Then they come in here and they may or may not change direction.”

Everton added that Millennial women are information seekers, so a successful marketing model should let them know what makes this furniture special and what added value they’re receiving by investing in it.

“This generation of mothers is so practical,” she said. “They are all about value. They will pay a good price for your product, but they want to know that it’s worth it.”

Kyra GemberlingKyra Gemberling | Copy Editor/Assistant Editor
kgemberling@furnituretoday.com

Kyra Gemberling works for Progressive Business Media as Copy Layout Editor of Furniture/Today and Assistant Editor of Kids Today. Please feel free to email or call Kyra with all of your news about the furniture and/or infant & juvenile industry, as well as anything else you would like to see covered in either publication. Contact Kyra directly at kgemberling@furnituretoday.com or 336-605-1125.