In 1995, U.S. per capita disposable income reached $20.2 thousand. Personal consumption expenditures have been rising steadily since 1991, and reached a total of $4.6 trillion in 1995. American consumers have been gradually increasing the share of their total expenditures devoted to semi-durable housing furnishings, which include window coverings. In 1982, expenditures for these products accounted for 0.4 percent of total spending. In 1995, the last year for which these figures are available, 0.6 percent, or $28.8 million, was spent on semi-durable house furnishings.
Larger Target Market
Currently, there are more than 97 million households in the United States, and that number is expected to reach 103.2 million by the year 2000. The target audience for window coverings is consumers between the ages of 25 and 54, who account for 44 percent of the total U.S. population. Within that group, 40.4 million are between the ages of 25 and 34; 43.3 million are between the ages of 35 and 44; and 32.3 million are between the ages of 45 and 54-all prime ages for home buying and home decorating or redecorating.
Consumers between the ages of 45 and 54 are especially good targets for window coverings, as are those older than 54, because they are the most likely to have lived in their houses for long periods of time. As such, they are more likely to feel the need for a change, and most importantly, they are more likely to be able to afford to redecorate.
Consumers between the ages of 35 and 44 are the second-largest target group, despite the fact that they may not have as much disposable income and both spouses may work and thus not spend as much time in the house. This may change, however, as growing numbers of people now are working from their homes.
Finally, it also is important to capture the 25 to 34 age group. As first-time buyers, they may become lifelong customers.
When it comes to determining which regions of the country are the most worthy of advertising dollars, 61.8 million people resided in the North Central region in 1995 (Illinois, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana), representing 23.5 percent of the total U.S. population. The second most-populated area is the South Atlantic region, which includes the states of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland. In 1995, this region accounted for 17.9 percent of the population.
Households in the Northeast had the highest median family income in 1994 at $42,943, followed by the West, Midwest, and South.
In 1995, $470.2 billion worth of new construction (measured in constant 1992 dollars) was put in place, with private construction accounting for 73 percent of the total. Private construction of residential buildings totaled $208 billion. Private construction of non-residential buildings, such as hotels and motels, totaled $98.4 billion, and is expected to make a strong comeback after a 10-year slump.
In 1995, residential property owners spent nearly $120 billion on maintenance and repairs, additions and alterations, and major replacements. It is highly unlikely that windows have been ignored in the process. In 1995, consumers living in the South spent the most on improvements and repairs, followed by consumers in the Midwest, no doubt due to rising incomes, and perhaps a shifting age distribution. Most of these expenditures throughout the U.S. were made on homes that were built before 1960.
Hard Versus Soft
New decorating style trends also affect demand for window coverings. Beginning in 1994, a softer look began popping up at the window, as consumers tired of blinds and shades and began looking toward curtains and draperies once again. The year 1995 brought continuous increases in sales of curtains and draperies, and significant sales gains for the associated drapery hardware.
In 1994, average annual household expenditures for hard window coverings (not including curtains and draperies) totaled $13.52-the total cost of treatments averaged over all U.S. households. Average spending was highest in the West, followed by the South, although all regions exhibited declines in average spending in 1994. Urban residents spent more than rural consumers.
The big spenders on hard window coverings were those aged 55 to 64, who spent an average of $21.16 per household. Those aged 35 to 44, the largest age group in the U.S. population, spent about $20.70 per household. Married consumers with children spent an average of $15.68 on hard window coverings, with the biggest spenders being those whose children were over the age of 18.
Households with incomes of $70,000 or more spent about $49.24 each on hard window coverings in 1994, followed by households with incomes of less than $5,000, which spent an average of $17.84. Although this income group has not historically represented the second-largest spending group, this figure, though surprising, suggests that those with lower incomes may be choosing window coverings as opposed to other home furnishings to redecorate their homes.
In 1994, consumers in the U.S. spent an average of $18.55 on curtains and draperies. Consumers in the Northeast spent the most at $40.97, most likely due to the higher income in this region than in any other. Those in the Midwest spend about $16.47 per household.
The regions that spend the most on curtains and draperies spent the least on other window coverings, and vice versa. This can be attributed to decorating trends in different areas of the country, and prices of such items in those different areas as well.
In 1994, consumers aged 45 to 54 spend the most on curtains and draperies, followed by those aged 65 to 74. Older age groups seem to prefer curtains and draperies, as they are more traditional. Married consumers with children between the ages of 6 and 17 spent the most on curtains and draperies in 1994 ($51.53), surely to accommodate the greater number of windows in houses with more bedrooms. Those with no children spent only $36.23 per household. Finally, households with incomes of $70,000 or more spent the most on curtains and draperies in 1994.
In March 1996, the American Express Retail Index, which monitors consumer spending trends, took a nationwide poll of 1,000 Americans living in single-family homes as well as apartments. The survey found 40 percent were planning to improve their homes in some way that year. Of those surveyed, 38 percent were planning to alter the interiors of their dwellings.
The consumers polled cited personal taste as the No. 1 reason for home improvements. Only eight percent of those polled said they wanted to make such improvements to increase the resale value of their homes. Necessity was cited as a reason by 35 percent of the respondents.
Nearly half (45 percent) of the consumers surveyed were willing to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 on home improvements, while 38 percent said they would be willing to spend at least $1,000. Of those polled, 62 percent said they would do such improvements themselves.
The survey found 39 percent of respondents would shop in large national home centers for their home improvement needs, while 27 percent would remain loyal to their local hardware stores. Another 13 percent planned to try furnishings stores, such as those that are extensions of department stores.
Business Trend Analysts, Inc., is a Commack, NY-based research group serving business clients in the United States and abroad with a wide range of information services including on-shelf studies, multi-client projects and custom research reports. For more information on "The U.S. Market for Window Coverings," contact Melissa Krasnoff at (516) 462-5454.