So, full disclosure – I’m a millennial. I might be the millennial all the opinion pieces warned you about. An embarrassing percentage of my paycheck goes directly to Starbucks. I spend much of my day glued to my phone. I like poking fun at Baby Boomers on Twitter and I have a very complicated relationship with the entire concept of “professional attire.”
That said, I, like many members of my somewhat-maligned generation, am entering my 30s as a working professional and coming into real purchasing power. So, what does this influx of millennials as designers, coworkers and potential clients mean for the kitchen and bath industry? What are the current views of millennials in the workplace by other generation, and vice versa? What do millennial clients value in their kitchen and bath projects?
With these questions in mind, KBDN conducted a survey of kitchen and bath designers and dealers examining the general sentiment both toward and of millennials in the industry, as well as the experiences of industry pros working with millennial clients.
When asked to estimate what percentage of their business comes from millennials, about 40% of industry pros reported only about 0-10% millennial business, while 43% reported approximately 10-30% of their business is comprised of millennial clients. A smaller yet still substantial 13% reported 30-50% millennial business, while 4% claimed up to 50-75% millennial business (See graph 1).
It seems that, while millennials do not make up a majority of most designers’ client bases, they have become a considerable pool of potential business.
Interestingly, when asked what projects their millennial clients are most interested in pursuing, 70% of industry professionals indicated that kitchen remodels top millennials’ to-do lists, while only 13% reported baths as the most popular projects. A further 17% reported that millennials are more interested in other projects, such as entertainment rooms or whole-home remodels (See graph 2).
As far as what millennial clients value in a project and what they are like as clients, the general opinion seems to be that cost, aesthetic and ease of maintenance are high priorities. Many are also interested in incorporating smart technology into their projects. Several designers pointed to modern farmhouse as a much-desired style in kitchen remodels for millennial clients.
“Simple style, easy-to-clean surfaces, organizational products, smart features and little financial impact are most important to millennial remodels,” reports cabinet design specialist Carolyn Kelly of CO Lumber, Colorado Springs, CO.
Designer Patricia Davis Brown adds, “They are looking for a kitchen that is multifunctional, meaning a place to cook, gather and work. They want it to be functional and simplistic in style. They are technology savvy and expect the technology to work to ease their life and not be gimmicky.”
Ariana Lovato, owner of Honeycomb Home Design and a millennial herself, notes that millennials are designing for their future. “Our millennial clients love technology, high style and are usually very cost-conscious. They are usually thinking around their future family and want to plan around that. I have a few clients who really worked hard to make sure their home would ‘grow up well’ with their young children. We worked to create areas that could be closed off to the rest of the house for a den/study area. They love to entertain, so we do a lot of open concept kitchens and dining areas.”
In the industry
Unsurprisingly, when asked about their millennial colleagues, most industry professionals pointed to their tech-savviness as one of their greatest assets – although a certain reliance on technology and a reluctance to interact face-to-face with clients was noted by some.
Additionally, many designers and dealers indicated that their millennial colleagues (or they themselves) value a work atmosphere that fosters independence and allows for a certain amount of flexibility in terms of hours and location.
“They value learning and knowledge. They don’t want an ‘authoritarian’ manager, but one who’s willing to value their input and mentor them. They have a better understanding of today’s technologies than I do (I’m a boomer) and are willing to use that knowledge to help make us a better company,” says Tom Owen, owner of Lynnwood, WA-based Creative Kitchen & Bath.
Ebony Stephenson, herself a millennial and a business owner, says, “We are goal oriented and results driven. Millennials like to see constant and consistent progress. We are tech savvy because we were raised on using technology in every aspect of our daily lives. In the workplace we value team building and group projects for collaboration, but we also like our alone time. We like to snack while we work and listen to music to keep us motivated and productive. In our work environment we require natural elements like sunshine and foliage.”
Lovato also points to a collaborative environment as a millennial value, adding, “I love the feeling of collaboration. When our design team is in the office working together, we have the most fun. I know a lot of workplaces are moving toward this open office concept to allow for more collaboration and creativity.”
Overall, the responses to this survey included very strong opinions, ranging from extremely positive to extremely negative, with some being very vehement. Several respondents believe millennial employees are unreliable and anxious, and that millennial clients are unrealistic in their expectations and needy when it comes to the process.
Regardless of the validity of these claims, as this apparently polarizing generation becomes a greater presence in the industry as both clients and coworkers, it must be asked where certain points of disconnect between generations originate from, and how might they be overcome or at least worked around. Examining what millennials value and how they work, and seriously considering how this will impact the industry, is a start. Going forward, kitchen and bath firms may need to grow or adapt in order to remain relevant as this generation comes into its own. ▪