Much is made of millennials and how they differ from previous generations. Discussions centre around their markedly different demands, priorities and shopping habits, and companies are increasingly benefitting from targeting this segment.

The home and furniture market is no exception, and as millennials start to increase their spend in this sector, both operators and investors need to broaden their understanding to fully to capitalise on the potential of this audience.

With over 50% of under 35s in the UK renting privately, consumers have very different furnishing requirements compared to those of 20 years ago. With less home ownership, large renovations are uncommon, but renting millennials still want to personalise their home, choosing to add decorative touches with homewares that can be easily transported once the tenancy ends.

Even those in unfurnished properties are not looking for something to last, instead opting for cheaper, temporary alternative options rather than investment pieces. Additionally, decorating habits are changing; statistics show that only 38% now choose to update an entire room in one go, compared to 69% in 2008. These factors are contributing to the strong growth of a particular area of the market – home décor – as millennial consumers choose cushions, throws and lighting to refresh a room.

As average house sizes have reduced, functional considerations are increasingly important for the millennial consumer. Space-saving, modular and multi-purpose items are popular and with more people living in flats than ever before, flat-pack furniture has an added appeal. For some time, IKEA has profited from this trend, demonstrating in its stores how consumers can maximise storage, even in the smallest of spaces. In 2016, John Lewis reported that sales of mini sofas and smaller beds rose by +12% and +53% YoY respectively.

It’s impossible to talk about the millennial consumer without highlighting the influence of social media, and this is no different for the home sector. Sites such as Instagram and Pinterest are full of decorative inspiration, both from professionals and amateurs, and are seen to be a driver of the re-invigoration of the market as consumer interest in home decoration has swelled. One could argue that the role of social media in a millennial’s purchase journey has driven homewares towards mirroring the fashion market, with short-lived trends, must-have looks and an increasing desire for distinctive design aesthetics.

As millennials become the largest segment in the market, smart operators are capitalising on this opportunity. Made.com and Urban Outfitters use social media to engage with their target audience, using sharing websites and Instagram hashtags to showcase how customers style their products in their homes. Traditional furniture brands and retailers now need to tailor their propositions and marketing strategies to capture share of the millennial spend.

Caroline Pollard