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Get your shift on: Millennials and the future of furnishings

 7 May 2018     David Coletto 

OTTAWA – There’s a huge shift happening in the furniture, major appliance, and mattress markets in Canada. A massive new market of consumers is changing the ways retailers and producers need to think about the consumer journey and preferences of the market today.

For the almost all 10 million members of Canada’s millennial generation – those born between 1980 and 2000 – purchasing that new sofa, bed, or fridge is a first-time experience. These digital natives will likely start their consumer journey on their mobile devices, will compare prices and reviews with their friends and broader social networks, and look for brands that inspire, engage, and deliver value.

Over the next five years, the Canadian Housing & Mortgage Corporation estimates than over 270,000 new millennial households will be formed in Canada. That’s 1.35 million new households who will be looking to furnish their new homes over the next five years. That’s 2.7 million consumers browsing web sites, visiting retail locations and making decisions about brands and designs will end up in their homes.

If you aren’t thinking about the impact of generational change on your business today, it’s time you did.

It’s this immense change that sparked my market research firm – Abacus Data – and Home Goods Online to conduct Canada’s first national study of the preferences and consumer behaviour of Millennials when it comes to furniture, major appliances, and mattresses. We interviewed a representative sample of 1,025 Canadians aged 22 to 36 – from every province and region across the country, including Quebec – over the summer months of 2017, concentrating on those who are forming their first households and beginning to become active consumers of furniture, mattresses and appliances. We then wrote a detailed report on the findings that is now available for purchase.

This study finds that 38% of millennials (about three million) plan to purchase a piece of furniture, a mattress or a major appliance over the next 12 months. And another 35% (about 2.8 million) say they will do so in the next 36 months. There’s a massive market about to develop in the sector and competition is intensive.

But the report goes much deeper into understanding the consumer journey for larger purchases like furniture, mattresses, and major appliances. While Amazon dominates the journey for most products, we found that a majority will shop in no more than two stores before making a purchase and the idea that millennials will only seek out local and independent retailers isn’t always true. Only 40% of Millennials express a preference for an independent furniture, mattress and major appliance retailer.

Brand matters for most Millennial consumers and our study goes into some depth understanding the dynamics of brand and the likelihood to purchase from retailers.

Despite being the digital first generation, three quarters of millennials say they prefer to buy furniture in a physical (brick and mortar) store and 77% prefer to buy major appliances in a physical store. While they may do extensive research online – the vast majority will visit a store’s web site before shopping its floor comparing brands, prices, and reviews – the size and scope of the purchase means most of them will still likely step through a door to learn more and purchase furniture, major appliances, or a mattress.

The one thing that most impressed us after going through the results is this: Millennials are not unknowable consumers who don’t care about creating a comfortable home. Their attitudes and thought processes are somewhat different (but not that different) from that of their parents and grandparents.

The key to success for furniture, mattress and major appliance manufacturers, distributors, merchandisers, and retailers is to learn what those differences are and apply them to not just to their marketing and merchandising plans, but to their product development strategies as well.

Entitled The Millennial Consumer: The future of furniture and major appliance retailing through the eyes of Canada’s largest consumer group, the report is now available for purchase and includes detailed results by region, category, and demographics. It also gives an in-depth and comprehensive look at the market and what it means for every business in the furniture industry from manufacturers and distributors to retailers.

For more information about how to purchase the report, contact Michael Knell, publisher of Home Goods Online by e-mail at [email protected] or by telephone at (613) 475-4704.

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This HGO article was written by:
David Coletto
David Coletto

David Coletto is the chief executive officer and founding partner of Abacus Data, a full-service market research firm based in Ottawa. David is one of Canada’s leading experts on Millennials and generational change and operates the website

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Home Goods and its accompanying newsletter - HGO This Week - covers the furniture, bedding, appliances, consumer electronics, accessories, lamps and lighting and floor coverings product sectors of the big ticket home goods market in Canada. HGO is also a forum for the dissemination of market research and hard-hitting articles on best practices for Canadian retailers.

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