Nov 10 2020

Quo vadis customer? Furniture industry and demographic change

We are getting older, fewer and more international. This is the short version of the demographic situation in Germany. The economy is becoming more digital, the generations are living more mobile and are demanding more individual customer services. What does this mean in concrete terms for the furniture industry and its retail structures? A 360-degree view of today's requirements and the opportunities for the future. 

A generation shift full of challenges 

The demographic changes and their consequences have been felt in almost all areas of life in Germany for many years. Their causes are mainly the continuously increasing life expectancy, the permanently low birth rate and the growing national and international mobility. This is what it says on the Federal Government's homepage on the subject of demography. 

What concrete effects does this all have on us? How and where will we live and work? And with regard to the furniture industry - how will we consume? A personal short trip through the living, working and shopping worlds of the future. 

I am part of the baby boomer generation, my children belong to the Millennials and Generation Z. Three generations that have grown up and been shaped differently? We have different, but also changing attitudes to these issues. Let's take a closer look.

Living - Cocooning, Hygge & Co. 

The current situation is forcing everyone to become more involved with "being at home". The home is becoming a real retreat, an oasis of well-being. One result of this is that this year, purchases for furnishings have perhaps been brought forward more quickly than planned. We just want it to be as cosy as possible. But that won't happen every year - for various reasons. 

The generations of the Millennium and, in future, Generation Z will have to continue to be more mobile and they also want to live more individually. The classic home is one option, but "temporary living" and in communities such as co-living also play a role. In addition, housing will continue to be insufficiently available and affordable, at least in the big cities.  

This is a challenge for the generations, property providers and also for the furniture industry. Models like Micro-Apartments, Tiny-Houses or manufactured furnished rental flats are an attempt to provide answers and offers to this problem. If you think further ahead, a trend is discernible - the need for temporary ownership and possibilities for a flexible exchange of furniture.

In times of the Corona pandemic, Germans spend more money on a cosy home. © Canva

Back to general cosiness. With Hygge a Scandinavian attitude to life came to us, which quickly developed from a trend into a statement in our everyday life. Also here a thesis with a view to the future. Anyone who enjoys decorating and redesigning might want to do the same with their furniture. Perhaps not in change with the seasons. Or would you? 

Back again to the baby boomers. We are getting older and are considered a growing megatrend with the "Silver Society" category. While furniture stores are currently focusing more on younger consumers, this target group should definitely be given more attention again.

Here, there are already changed ideas for variety. And perhaps some of us would like to use this as a starting point for furnishing a new home for the elderly. Options for home furnishings according to the stages of life are welcome. Baby boomers are getting older, but they are not old-fashioned.

From "Hoffice", coworking and what else may follow 

The changes in office environments are often the focus of discussion today and will leave a lasting impression. Mrs Oona Horx-Strathern has summed up in an interesting way how much the structures merge together in the term "Hoffice"

A changing world of work: attractive coworking spaces and office space with a contemporary design are more in demand than ever. © Canva

The choice of working from home, the additional option of a working atmosphere with social exchange in the coworking space and contemporary office space in companies - these are the demands the furniture industry has to face.

This means rethinking own business models and realigning them to these needs. Vitra is currently testing this path for a hybrid business approach with its offer "Home Office Rental by Vitra" for business customers in Germany until the end of the year. 

How does the future of modern office worlds within companies look like? 

One example of this is provided by Office Inspiration with a tour of the newly designed Business Intelligence department on the OTTO Group campus in Hamburg-Bramfeld.

Times are changing, and with them the demands on the furniture industry and its trading partners, driven by demographic change and its characteristics, changing needs and also different usage patterns in consumption through the generations. These examples show that the signs of the times have been recognised. Implementation is crucial if present and future customers are to be (re-)won over. The furniture industry has it in its hands. 

Rental business - lived practice. A look at other industries and "across the pond" on the subject of Furniture as a Service. More details will be available here soon.

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Andre Hempel standard.toggle-bookmark Senior Management
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