• Thomas Russell

Everton discusses ‘New American Family’

multigenerationalMarsha Everton led the audience through 12 key trends in household development.
NAPLES, Fla. — Retailers looking to successfully tailor their product assortment and merchandising to today’s consumers may want to consider the following: the American family looks a lot different than it did in years past.

That was a key message in a presentation by market research expert Marsha Everton, whose discussion of “The New American Family” showed how changing dynamics in American households will impact consumers’ furniture buying patterns.

Focusing on 12 key trends in household development, Everton noted that couples who are married with and without children are still a key part of the demographic. In 2010, they represented 20% and 48% of U.S. households, respectively, which is good news for furniture stores that cater to both demographics.

But other groups also have emerged, including the singleperson household. Today, the family of one, she said, accounts for 31 million, or 27% of households in the U.S. in 2010, up from 7 million in 1960, or 13% of the total households. While the overall number of households has slightly more than doubled in that 50 years, the number of single-person households has more than quadrupled.

In that time period, she added, the median age people are getting married also is rising. In 1960, she noted, the median age for males was 23 and females 20. In 2010, it was 28 for males and 26 for females.

Fewer women, she added, are becoming mothers, with 24 births per 1,000 women in 1960 compared to 13 in 2010. Careers, in particular, are impacting women’s’ decisions to get married and have children.

“Women with income see marriage as a choice, and it is sometimes a choice they don’t take,” she said, adding, “The choice to have a child is being considered much more seriously and particularly by career-driven women. They consider themselves child-free versus childless.”

In addition, more women are breadwinners, with 11% holding that role in 1960 compared to 40% in 2011.

“Her increased economic power means she has more influence over buying decisions,” Everton said.

Couples also are tending to be more educated before getting married. According to a 2012 report, the percentage married with master’s degrees or higher is 63%, compared with 58% with a bachelor’s degree and 42% having some college. Those with only high school diplomas only represented 39% of married couples.

A higher number of women, she noted, are better educated, with 23% of moms having more education than dad in 2010 compared with 7% in 1960.

And while there is a decline in divorce rates, she said, women also are tending to initiate them more, with an estimated twothirds of divorces initiated by women.

“When she decides to get divorced, she takes control of her life,” Everton said. “That sounds like a real opportunity for the furniture industry.”

Other trends she highlighted in her presentation include the increase in gay and lesbian households and marriages, growth in both Hispanic and Asian populations and growth in multi-generational families. In 2012, 25-to 34-year-old males represented the largest segment living in a multigenerational household, followed by 55 to 64 year old moms and grandparents over 85.

She even identified the concept of pets as family as evidenced by the population of pets in the U.S. In 2012, for example, nearly 70% of households had a pet. The overall pet population also totaled 396 million, compared to 314 million people.

For retailers, she said, the opportunity lies not just in product development, but even more importantly, how you can tailor your marketing efforts in a marketplace that is significantly different than it was 50 years ago.

Thomas RussellThomas Russell | Associate Editor, Furniture Today

I'm Tom Russell and have worked at Furniture/Today since August 2003. Since then, I have covered the international side of the business from a logistics and sourcing standpoint. Since then, I also have visited several furniture trade shows and manufacturing plants in Asia, which has helped me gain perspective about the industry in that part of the world. As I continue covering the import side of the business, I look forward to building on that knowledge base through conversations with industry officials and future overseas plant tours. From time to time, I will file news and other industry perspectives online and, as always, welcome your response to these Web postings.


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