Demand for made to order furniture is on the rise around the world
Furniture customization, which used to be a luxury, is now standard. Today’s consumers, regardless of nationality and age group, consider that their home decor and their furniture must reflect their personalities.
In other words, furniture is no longer seen as a long-term investment but as a style statement. As a result, the lifespan of furniture has dropped. In 1985, a couch could expect to stay in its buyers’ household for more than 14 years on average. Thirty years later, the same couch would be far less confident. According to a 2016 Furniture Today survey, 36% of American consumers expect to keep a newly purchased sofa for only 5 to 9 years.
This change of mindset is set to last. Numerous studies worldwide attest to it. More than 40% of British adults expressed an interest in personalized furniture in the 2015 Deloitte consumer survey. According to a 2017 IPEA study, more than 70% of French buyers would like to customize the colors or dimensions of their furniture. In China, the proportion of middle-class consumers who have bought custom-made furniture rose from 11% to 52% between 2013 and 2017, according to HKTDC Research.
This growing appetite for furniture customization has created significant challenges for manufacturers: current manufacturing models are questioned, margins are being trimmed, and customer loyalty is at stake.
To understand how furniture manufacturers are adapting to this new context, we teamed up with the Centre for Industrial Studies (CSIL) to conduct a global survey. From February to April 2018, we interviewed 200 upholstered furniture manufacturing professionals from Asia, Europe and North America.
In this first lite paper dedicated to customization in the upholstered furniture industry, we will explore the findings of this comprehensive study. We will begin by examining the two market segments propelling companies’ furniture customization strategies: millennials and contract clients. We will also assess the depth of furniture manufacturers’ current customization offer.
What is driving the rise in demand for furniture customization?
The appetite for customized products is growing among all generations but Millennials are the ones with the highest expectations in this regard. In China and North America, Millennials are literally reshaping the marketplace. At 75 million strong, they comprise almost a quarter of the American population. China’s 415 million millennials – more than 30% of the country’ population – represent an even stronger force to be reckoned with Older millennial consumers in both countries have now entered the phase in their life where they are marrying, buying a house and beginning to look for higher quality furniture. Contrary to the myth that home ownership is dead for Millennials, a recent HSBC study showed that 70% of Chinese Millennials and 35% of American Millennials own their own home. Moreover, most of those who don’t own their house yet aspire to it: 91% of Chinese millennials and 80% of young Americans intend to buy a home in the next five years. Though creating a home interior that reflects one’s personality and aesthetic tastes is a common desire among furniture buyers of all ages, millennials are unique in the extent of their desire for selfexpression. They have spent years building their personal brand on social media, and when looking for furniture to outfit their home, they look for pieces that feature their personal taste.