'Generation X' Termed Key Market Force Over Next 20 Years

'Generation X' Termed Key Market Force Over Next 20 Years

Even as its vanguard slips into retirement, the "Baby Boom Generation" born between 1946 and 1964 remains the nation's most potent demographic force, with an impact that will continue rolling through the U.S. economy for another quarter-century.

However, the eldest children of the 76 million baby boomers those born from 1965 through 1975 and widely known as "Generation X" are also a rapidly emerging demographic power to be reckoned with.

That's the view of Chris Marshall, president of Hansgrohe USA, the Alpharetta, GA-based manufacturer of decorative faucets, showerheads and related products for the bath and kitchen under three separate brand names: Hansgrohe Interaktiv, Pharo integrated shower solutions and Axor bath collections.

Marshall addressed the topic of Generation X and its expected impact on the housing industry at the recent International Builders Show in Las Vegas.

Now in their mid- to late-20s and early 30s, Generation Xers are currently in the market for their first homes, or an initial move-up, Marshall observed. Their tastes vary markedly from those of their parents, noting that remodelers and kitchen/bath specialists looking to capitalize on this increasingly important group "will need to adjust their offerings accordingly."

"The typical Gen Xer has an image of what family life should be, and that includes a beautiful, comfortable, well-appointed home," Marshall said. "Even though they must often work within tighter budgets than their parents, they still want all the amenities right now."

Whether they are singles, couples or the heads of young families, the 47 million members of Generation X are buying new and existing homes at a record pace, thanks in no small part to record-low interest rates, according to Marshall. This trend to home ownership is not only likely to continue, but also to expand over the next decade or more, he added.

Total households headed by adults aged 25 to 34 rose to approximately 6.6 million in 2000, according to Census Bureau figures. By 2010, the number of households for this same demographic will have more than doubled. By 2020, when members of this group will be entering their prime earning years of 45 to 54, the number of households will have increased to a projected 17.1 million. "These largely college-educated, Internet-savvy buyers represent a substantial opportunity for home builders [and remodelers] around the country," Marshall said. "Winning the allegiance of these Gen Xers while they're young will enable a marketer to reap the rewards of brand loyalty as they accrue buying power over the next two decades."

Of course, the same can be said for the next demographic cohort, the Echo Boomers, born between 1976 and 1994, Marshall suggests.

"The Gen Xers, along with the Echo Boomers, are going to drive home building as well as the sales of all of those products that go into a new home for the next 20 years," Marshall noted. "Anyone who fails to focus on these groups will miss out on two of the leading drivers of business development and growth in the home building industry."

Members of Generation X typically must operate on a budget, Marshall noted, which means they like their homes to be as functional as they are informal. They tend not to like, for example, large bathrooms with lots of empty space in between the fixtures. Instead, they prefer a more efficient approach that makes practical use of every inch.

"Big kitchens are a plus with this group," said Marshall, "with the additional space devoted to a breakfast nook or other informal eating area as opposed to a separate, formal dining room."

As for plumbing products, better-than-average quality, minimal maintenance and high functionality are the priorities, Marshall commented, adding that energy and water conservation, as well as other "green" values, are also plus.

"Pull-out faucets have become a major asset in the modern kitchen," Marshall said. "It's good-looking, yet highly functional and can be purchased at a relatively low cost."

Members of Generation X are split almost evenly on their preferences for traditional versus contemporary stylings in bath and kitchen products. But the faucet designs that are popular with many Generation X homeowners are actually more transitional, Marshall says.

"Gen Xers tend to prefer styles that feature sleeker lines and more rounded and smoother contours," Marshall said. "These younger buyers have little interest in heavily decorative designs with a lot of fussy ornamentation."