Looking Outside the Box for Clients

Today’s homeowners, like the kitchen and bath industry itself, are changing in ways that strongly suggest that yesterday’s customers are not necessarily tomorrow’s – or even today’s – prime prospects.

That much is clear as 2009 gets underway in the face of a recession-ravaged housing market and demographic data signaling both challenges and opportunities for kitchen/bath design firms.

According to newly released figures, married couples with the proverbial 2.5 children – the traditional heart and soul of the kitchen/bath customer base – are shrinking significantly as a share of total American households.

That’s certainly a challenge for dealers and designers.

In contrast, however, “non-traditional” households – specifically those headed by minorities, immigrants, unmarried individuals and single older adults – will be the fastest-growing household categories over the coming decade, according to projections.

And that’s certainly an opportunity.

The latest U.S. household data, in many ways, is illuminating. Consider, for example, the following:

  • The number of minority households in America is projected to rise by 40% over the next decade, while the number of non-family households will increase by 20%. Minorities currently account for 29% of U.S. households, up from 17% in 1980, and are projected to account for 35% by 2020. Minority home-owners, at the same time, are projected to account for nearly one-quarter of all home-improvement spending by 2015, up from 18% just three years ago.
  • Delayed marriages, high divorce rates and greater acceptance of unmarried partners living together have resulted in married couples becoming far less dominant among American households. In fact, non-family households (unmarried-partner, single-parent and single-person) now total some 37 million in all, and will account for some 17% of home-improvement spending by 2015.
  • By 2030, there will be some 70 million Americans who are 65 and older, more than twice as many as today. And three-quarters of the more-than-5.3-million projected increase in single-person households over the next decade will be among individuals aged 65 and older – a group that has demonstrated a decided preference for remaining in their current home rather than moving, while remodeling to improve accessibility, safety and convenience.

All of this data communicates several important messages for kitchen and bath professionals striving to target potential new clients.

For one thing, the data suggests that, with their growing presence, minority and non-family households will represent an increasingly important source of business for kitchen/bath design firms. These are homeowners who will help fuel future growth and, obviously, cannot be overlooked when it comes to developing business strategies and marketing plans.

Also underlined by the data is the fact that there’s a need for dealers and designers to think “outside the box” – and look beyond traditional customer profiles – when trying to identify today’s prospects.

The clients of yesteryear are clearly no longer the only prospects eligible for, and willing to purchase, kitchen and bath design services.

Dealers and designers need to seek these potential new customers out. They must market their products and services to them. They must offer design solutions that accommodate far different lifestyles and living arrangements than in the past.

Most importantly, kitchen/bath pros must make an honest and insightful effort at consumer discovery. They must get inside the hearts and minds of the new wave of non-traditional homeowners, identify their hot buttons, understand what they need – and then deliver the goods.