For years, builders and remodelers have eyed baby boomers as the generation with the most interest in updating the home and the most money to spend doing it. Lately, more manufacturers are refocusing their attention on the next group of up-and-coming remodeling consumers:
Generation X. “Generation X has a lot going on right now,” says Jack Suvak, director of marketing research for Moen, of the 28-to-41 age group. “Many are forming families, some are onto their second or third jobs, and they're moving into new homes. Right now the group is at about 55% to 60% homeownership, but we anticipate that to increase to 80% by 2010.”
Bath fixture company Ginger is targeting Gen Xers with its Motiv brand. Though baby boomers have overshadowed this younger consumer group, brand manager Elizabeth Nugent says its purchasing power shouldn't be discredited. “These are up-and-coming individuals who are getting raises and are ready to create the spaces they feel most comfortable in,” she says. “They're movers and doers, always on the go, and that's exactly what our brand is trying to capture.” Seeing the most growth in urban areas such as New York and Los Angeles, Nugent says Motiv's unit sales have increased 15% over last year.
Along with a new consumer group come new purchasing practices. Suvak says that Moen's in-depth research into Generation X has shown an interesting set of buying habits. “Generation X consumers seem to go through five phases for a project: dream, plan, select, buy, install,” he says. “But because this group does a tremendous amount of product research —particularly online — we see a lot of looping between the plan-select phases and the select-buy phases. For instance, they may research and plan their remodel, head to the nearest home improvement store and see the number of options they have from finishes to styles to price structure, and then head home to do more planning before they actually make a final selection.”
In addition to these patterns, Suvak says remodelers working with Generation X buyers should prepare for more electronic communication than baby boomers expect, and should also be sensitive to Gen Xers' desire to control their environments.
With regard to product selection, Nugent notes that while Gen Xers are brand conscious, brand names are often of secondary importance to aesthetics and functionality. Steve Kleber, a National Remodeling Foundation board member, agrees. He suggests some design ideas for this on-the-go group, including closet organization systems that include suitcase-sized islands for packing and storage. Point-of-use laundry care units in the master bath area are also appealing, he says, as are less-than-traditional paint colors.