Look at who is talking about home design online and in the media today and you’ll see an interesting trend. Among bloggers, online magazines, and those-in-the-know, the real trendsetting news is that it’s no longer about just the home—it’s about a lifestyle.
The focus is squarely on finding your own style, and expressing it through every facet of your life, including home, clothing, food, travel, and design. In fact, there is a stronger appreciation for design as a whole, and for custom looks. Whether it’s the specialty shops in Target, brick-and-mortar stores like Anthropologie, or online lifestyle retailers like Gilt, Fab, and One Kings Lane, retailing is reinventing itself to fit today’s consumer needs. It’s curated and it’s personal, offering the idea of discovery, of something new, and with a strong focus on fashion.
Millennials Are in Fashion
What is pushing this new emphasis on lifestyle and fashion? It’s the largest consumer generation in history. No, not the baby boomers, but the millennials. Born between 1977 and 1994, and nearly 80 million strong in the United States alone, millennials are projected to spend more than $200 billion each year starting in 2017, and will spend $10 trillion in their lifetimes.
And as with past generations, these young up-and-comers are influencing their parents and grandparents when it comes to how they shop and how they consume information. One example of that influence is that the millennials were the first on Facebook, but now their grandparents are the fastest-growing demographic on that social media site.
The millennials are very sophisticated shoppers and, according to AdAge, 84 percent of that demographic said social opinions influence their purchasing decisions. They want to express themselves through every single purchase, and they want those purchases to truly reflect who they are and how the world perceives them. That focuses their attention on design, on uniqueness, and on fashion.
Josh Allen Dykstra, founder of the consulting firm Strengths Doctors and a millennial himself, says that his generation will definitely buy things because of what having those things says about them. That isn’t necessarily a new concept, but the idea that every aspect of their lives must be fashionable, creative, and “designed” is a new way of looking at an old idea.
Macy’s has decided to implement a three-year plan to get ready for this demographic and its huge spending power, and they are looking squarely at lifestyle retailing, which includes curation of a complete fashion look, no matter what the product is.
Like many lifestyle retailers, that means quick hits of collections that are here today and gone tomorrow, capturing the concept of fashion’s ever-changing and on-trend runway looks. Yes, that means being faster on the draw with what is on offer in stores, but that also translates into smaller inventories and the idea that one’s home should change fashions as quickly as one’s closet does.
That idea that furniture follows fashion is a good thing—creating a “want” among consumers and leading them away from thinking of home furnishings as just a utilitarian commodity. That is the idea behind the latest marketing campaign for the High Point Market.
Fashion Week for Home Furnishings
The High Point Market really is the home fashion industry’s version of Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, and the Market’s new campaign, Fashion Focus, highlights the close relationship between home and fashion.
Home decor has always found inspiration on the fashion runways, from color trends to fabrics to construction. The link between fashion design and home design is strong, and the High Point Market’s new Fashion Focus campaign is designed to highlight that close relationship, and to showcase the High Point Market’s role as the most exciting fashion event in home furnishings. It’s also meant to highlight the amazing designs offered at the Market, and the curated looks featured in many of its showrooms.
At the April High Point Market, fashion shoots with models were held in showrooms and locations throughout Market to develop the creative for the new campaign, which is making its debut in the Oct. 13-18 Market promotions. The images for the campaign feature a full clothing collection called Pretty Birdie by Stephanie Teague, a Greensboro, N.C.-based fashion designer who has shown her line at New York’s Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week.
The integrated Fashion Focus campaign—including social media, print, direct mail, and other targeted communications vehicles—is designed to promote the Market to the retail and design communities, but to also capture that lifestyle trend.
Focusing on fashion and curation is key to reaching those millennials and capturing their purchasing power, but it’s also a fresh approach for other generations as well.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So where will the fashionable millennials lead us, and how can we best respond to their needs? According to research by Gilt, mass customization and personalization will be important to this group in the future. They will expect choices and opportunities to fine-tune products to fit their own look or style, and that includes furniture.
According to the latest research, this is only the start. In the past, people would have a desire to purchase and would browse and research the purchase. Then they would buy it. Today, steps are being skipped as customers expect instant gratification. Don’t expect them to order—or to wait. They want it now.
Category expansion will also be a strong trend to follow, which means looking outside the box for new categories to complement home furnishings. That can be anything from clothing to jewelry to books, as long as it fits a viewpoint and/or the store’s audience. A quirky and fun example of that is Fleet Plummer in Greensboro, N.C., a retailer that found its niche by offering greeting cards and clothing next to the upholstery and lamps.
Millennials are very loyal when they find what they like. Retailers can help promote that loyalty through events and through social media. That demographic is also mobile, so be sure you have an online presence, and that you offer online shopping. They also respond well to social shopping, another step in the curation process where they receive offers and coupons for referring friends to the retailer. It’s called share-to-buy and it’s gaining in popularity.
Finally, keep in mind that millennials are always looking for new sources of curation. They are looking for tastemakers, not necessarily someone who knows furniture, but someone who knows style. Be sure you’re in front of those tastemakers, and that they know your brand. And be sure you’re keeping up with the latest trends in fashion. After all, millennials want to take those looks right off the runway and into their homes.
Cheminne Taylor-Smith is the VP of Marketing for the High Point Market Authority, organizers of the largest home furnishings trade show in the world. Find the High Point Market online at highpointmarket.org, or using the tag #hpmkt.