Rise of the Millennial Client

by Tracy Hegg

For a kitchen and bath industry that’s forever in flux, the future is seemingly dawning at breakneck speed, with an entirely new generation of consumers steadily supplanting the clients who shaped the industry’s trajectory, and fueled its growth, for decades.

Stated more succinctly: Make way for the millennials.

Indeed, according to a 2022 Design Trends Forecast issued by the National Kitchen & Bath Association, millennial clients are becoming an increasingly significant buying force – signaling a gradual, yet palpable, shift in a kitchen and bath customer base that for decades has been driven primarily by baby boom and Gen X consumers.

While baby boom (aged 57-75) and Gen X (aged 41-56) consumers remain the industry’s predominant buying force, the NKBA reports, growth in business from millennials (aged 25-40) is increasingly impacting market share among surveyed dealers, designers, remodelers, manufacturers and related industry professionals. At the same time, the NKBA notes, this massive generational cohort is poised to significantly impact kitchen and bath design trends, product hot buttons and client buying patterns in the years to come.

All of which makes perfect sense.

In fact, according to demographic forecasts, there will be 6.4 million additional U.S. households formed by 2025, at the same time as this tidal wave of consumers moves into its peak homebuying and remodeling years.

Already, we’re seeing evidence of millennials’ growing impact on the market.

For example, according to the NKBA’s 2022 Design Trends Forecast, young, tech-savvy consumers – the first generation to grow up in the Internet Age – are among those leading the growing charge for mobile-friendly spaces and smart-home technology, including app-
controlled appliances, voice-activated lighting innovations and a plethora of charging/viewing stations for computers, mobile devices and tablets.

Heavily impacted, too, by the COVID-19 pandemic, millennials are also fueling demand for organic,
nature-inspired colors and designs, easy-to-clean surfaces, touchless faucets, products that promote health and wellness, and flexible, multi-functional kitchens that can serve simultaneously as food-prep areas, dining tables and work-from-home centers. They’re also turned on, like a growing number of consumers, by outdoor living spaces, steam cooking/air frying technology that’s integrated into ovens, and high-performance, low-E windows and doors that allow for increased natural light.

But equally consequential as these burgeoning design trends is the way in which millennials are likely to interact with kitchen and bath designers, subcontractors and others now and in the future.

According to the NKBA’s forecast, no longer will interaction be defined by the age-old practice of clients and prospects simply visiting showrooms and conducting face-to-face meetings at designers’ offices and jobsites. In contrast, kitchen and bath projects will increasingly be driven by a combination of in-person and virtual meetings. Designers will need to be more adept than ever at conducting video conferences and digital interactions with clients. Websites will need to be equipped with cutting-edge technology that makes designing more seamless, product selection less cumbersome, and buying a digital-first experience. Marketing campaigns will need to identify and focus on an entirely new set of priorities and values, as well as celebrity endorsements, and word of mouth. Popular social media platforms will need to be leveraged to the hilt. All the while, design firms, retailers, suppliers and others will be compelled to reconfigure their product mix, alter their sales approach, stay in tune with rapidly changing trends – and, in some cases, embrace entirely new business models.

A whole new generation of consumers will be driving the market’s growth and direction in the decades to come. Companies need to position themselves now if they want to profit from the continuing generational shift. ▪

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