Zeroing in on Gen Z


Is it too soon to think about Gen Z and their furniture buying preferences?

According to a recent Furniture Today Strategic Insights Survey, no. That survey, conducted earlier this year, found that 84% of Gen Z respondents said decorating their home was important to them. In addition, 49% of those consumers polled said they planned to buy an individual piece of furniture within the next 12 months, and 47% planned to buy decorative accessories.

Although the leading edge of this consumer demographic, typically defined as anyone born between 1997 and 2012 (and thus between the ages of 10 and 25), has only just reached independent adulthood, they are interested in making home-related purchases.

Hooker Furniture is one home furnishings company that has taken notice.

“Definitive efforts on our part to give greater attention to the Gen Z generation is in its early stages,” said Johne Albanese, chief marketing officer and president of global e-commerce for Hooker Furniture. “As the oldest of this group is just now reaching 25, we believe it’s time to start thinking about how their buying power and overall generational influence will impact our industry.”

Gen Z is looking for a curated, well-edited lifestyle product assortment that offers them inspiration, recommendations and ways to tell their story, which they typically share with peers online, said Leigh Ann Schwarzkopf, principal of Project Partners Network.

Project Partners Network, together with Springboard Futures and The Trend Curve, recently produced the 2022 Value Equation Index, which examines generational purchasing decisions. It found that 85% of Gen Z said they rely on the reputation of a brand — whether a manufacturing brand, a retail brand or a direct-to-consumer brand — when considering a purchase. “Gen Z wants trusted experts,” which ties into social media and reviews, said Springboard founder Tom Mirabile.

Gen Z also values product reliability and durability considerably more than other generations do, and more than other value attributes like safety, ease of use, material composition and even design aesthetic. This preference for functional attributes over design aspects reflects this generation’s concern with longevity of use and products that will not be quickly relegated to the landfill, said Mirabile. “We always associate them with being trendy, but that is not the case,” he said. However, “good design is expected, no matter what.”

Hooker expects that because the oldest of this generation is just starting out in their adult life, their initial purchases of home furnishings will center around the starting price points and just above that. “There are always exceptions, but the lion’s share will likely live within that target space,” Albanese said.

Schwarzkopf and Mirabile concurred. Although a lot of Gen Z’s initial purchasing decisions will be dictated by price, they still want choices within that price range, Schwarzkopf and Mirabile said. “The language of better products is mixed materials,” Mirabile added.

Gen Z, which will likely become one of the most financially conservative and cautious generations as it matures, according to Mirabile, has additional proclivities when it comes to price.

According to the Value Equation Index, almost half of the Gen Z respondents (46%) said they wait for promotions before purchasing an item. They expect brands to reach out to them on social media with those promotions and product updates, rather than seek them out themselves.

That being said, 39% of Gen Z agreed that “if the price seems fair, I’m going to buy it now.”
Peer opinion is critical to this group. “Gen Z shops for something and imagines how others will see it in their room as much as how they will see it in their room,” said Mirabile.

“The largest difference we see is that this is the first digitally native generation, never knowing a time without smart phones, social media or broadband,” said Hooker’s Albanese. “We know they are not TV watchers and prefer to focus their attention on online channels. They are also much more likely to be influenced by their peers so marketing to them means a communications strategy that leverages Gen Z influencers.”

“From a style standpoint, we believe that Gen Z consumers are likely to gravitate to casual styling with a bit more of a contemporary flair, so our merchandising directions for product targeting this group will tend to lean in that direction,” he added.

At High Point Market this month, the company’s Accentrics Home division, which includes a collection curated by “Property Brothers” Drew and Jonathan Scott, will unveil product geared towards this demographic. One example is the Wilshire Bar Cabinet from Scott Living.

According to Furniture Today’s survey, Gen Z, not surprisingly, is comfortable shopping online —58% said they have bought home accents online and nearly the same percentage said they have purchased a large piece of furniture online. But they are not averse to shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. More than half of them (55%) agreed with the statement “I enjoy the process of purchasing home accents in a store,” and slightly less than half (45%) felt that way about purchasing furniture in a physical store.

The Value Equation Index, which surveyed 1,100 respondents in a 70%/30% female to male ratio, showed similar results. The physical in-store experience is part of the value equation for Gen Z, Mirabile said. For retailers, this presents as much of an opportunity as buy-online-pickup-in-store. “You’re getting them into the store,” he said, and then asked rhetorically, “What are you going to do with them once you’ve got them?”


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