A big part of a showroom designer’s job is to know his or her customers and anticipate upcoming market trends. One change that’s coming to a boiling point is the emergence of Generation Y – as many as 87 million young consumers ranging from their upper teens to their early 30s. This new generation of shoppers is now entering the market for big-ticket items such as homes – and kitchens.
Having been raised in an era where technology changes daily, the next dominant generation of kitchen consumers isn’t about to settle for yesterday’s traditions: They’re not looking for their mother’s kitchen.
In sheer market power, the number of Generation Y births topped their Generation X and Baby Boomer predecessors, arguably giving them more market clout than their parents’ generation.
And they’re just now beginning to flex their muscles.
Nikki Trivisonno, CKD, sales designer at Somrak Kitchens, in Bedford Heights, OH, says almost one-third of Somrak’s customers are now in their 30s.
“In the past I worked mostly with customers in their 50s, 60s and 70s,” Trivisonno points out. “Over the last two or three years, we’re seeing a much younger customer.”
Defining Generation Y
Generation Y is defined by immediacy. They want it now – and with advances in digital communication, they can have it.
Their parents were awed by the convenience of being able to check their answering machines for messages when they returned home. Generation Y doesn’t wait to get home and check their messages. They’re in touch with friends, family and business partners via email, texting and social media – all accessible through mobile phones.
Because Generation Y demands instant information, we have to provide it while they peruse our showrooms. While inspecting the faucet in one of your displays, the Generation Y consumer may be simultaneously price shopping it on the Web from their iPhone.
Many Generation Y consumers are buying homes as early as 26 years old. For them, convenience and low maintenance are key.
“Previous generations were willing to wait for what they wanted,” Trivisonno says. “Generation Y wants it now. They may not be able to afford the really expensive products, so they’re price shopping so they can get it now, but at a price they can afford. We deal with this through the design and ordering processes. We call it value engineering – custom engineering their kitchen based on the product line to fit their budget.”
Clean and Simple
One of the hallmarks of Generation Y is an attraction to clean, simple design that contrasts earlier generations’ fondness for intricate detail. Showrooms around the U.S. are adding new displays with cleaner lines and a transitional approach.
“We’ve been continually adapting our showroom to that generation,” Trivisonno says. “They’re looking for a straightforward, no-frills look that trades a fancy appearance for the practicality of easy maintenance and easy cleanup. They want products that won’t easily show damage. They don’t want things that they have to be careful around because, in life, things happen. We’re trying to bring in more displays like that.”
Generally, Generation Y consumers aren’t looking for ultra contemporary styles, but rather a more transitional look.
“They’re not looking for styles with a lot of detail that brings the price up,” Trivisonno says. “They don’t want all those details and moldings.”
Kitchen and bath product manufacturers are well aware of Generation Y and are designing products to appeal to them.
“We’re seeing manufacturers who have been very traditional, with a lot of carvings and moldings, start to swing over to designs with a more transitional to modern look,” Trivisonno says. “They’re making an effort to appeal to the younger market, but at the same time they don’t want to lose their older market.”
With Trivisonno’s observations in mind, I say you make sure at least 20 to 30 percent of your display items have a transitional feel as opposed to the customary 10 percent.