Are aspirational home furnishings still relevant to consumers?

Imagine this – you’re walking through any given department store, home furnishings retailer (or even supermarket these days) when you see the most beautiful sofa table in green marble and you decide to splash out and go for it. It then turns out upon delivery that your new fancy sofa table is actually bigger than your living room, and you end up feeling pretty disappointed.

The way we’re living is changing and an increasing number of us no longer have the space required for the aspirational items. Of course we all want a massive dining room table that accommodates all of our relatives and some of our neighbours, along with a daybed in crushed velvet in every corner - but this is not the reality. In fact it is far from it and our living space is actually decreasing.

Decreasing living space
In the UK the average size of a family home has shrunk by two square meters over the last decade*, which is the size of a small cloakroom. And with urbanization raging on, this decline in living space doesn’t seem to be slowing down. According to a GfK study conducted in 2015 one in three in the UK say they would like to improve “the overall size and layout/dimensions” of their home if they could.

Not surprisingly we tend to use rooms for several different functions. The same study showed that in the UK the living room is the most central space with everything from “doing laundry” (11 %) to “time with family” (84%) happening in this room; showing that indeed the living room needs to accommodate a variety of different activities. Gone are the days of the enormous leather corner sofas, as we now enter an era of the compact stackable module sofas (Google trends show the search term “compact sofa” has grown steadily every year since 2011).

Despite all this change most retailers still use the aspirational way of selling which is maybe because we still crave that inspirational dose. For example GfK’s Global cross media link shows that one in five of the UK online population has the Pinterest app. Even though our living space is limited, the state of our home is still important.  In fact in 2016 a third of UK population said “my home is a reflection of who I am and what I value” according to GfK Consumer Life report.

Relevance is increasingly important
So the conclusion is the aspirational needs to be a bit more realistic, or at least it needs to change into something that is achievable. The huge marble statement pieces need to evolve into something multi-functional that reflect our personal style and at the same time are tailored to our changing needs. Pressure is on for manufacturers and retailers and they need to find the correct balance between what’s aspirational and achievable in everything they do. If they can’t adapt to this change they risk promoting things that will tend to be off-putting for a majority of people. Relevance is increasingly important and retailer’s product offerings need to be positioned in a way that is relevant to people’s lives.

Sources: Roper Reports Worldwide Market Brief United Kingdom [2015], Roper Reports UK [2016], GFK Global cross media link [2016], Google Trends [2017], *Report from the financial services firm LV (2014)

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