Where or where are these Boomers going to get the money? Despite the recent upturns in real estate, no one has been bold or foolish enough to predict that the overwhelming majority of homes will anytime soon get back to 2005-2006 levels, let alone go up from there. And for many Boomers, home equity represented their retirement nest egg. Getting back to Social Security, 75 percent of those claiming benefits are doing so early despite every warning to the contrary because they need the money.
The average post-recession Boomer is much more likely to move in with the kids, rent a double-wide outside of Tampa, buy a modest condo or home in a pre-planned and improvement restrictive community like Del Webb or simply stay in place than they are to start the building process anew. Sadly, many more will end up in assisted living and nursing homes where thoughts of motorized shades will be muddled with every other thought.
I think that [integrators], from owners to salespeople to installers, have a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that [Gen X and Millenials]—not that long ago collectively degraded as slackers—may now have enough coin to actually buy our stuff.
That isn’t to say that some of these Jewel Boxes won’t ever be built. And it is a proven fact that net worth has a positive impact on longevity. But will there be enough of them to anchor a business strategy? That’s unlikely at best. Anyone who feels otherwise knows something I don’t or is literally whistling past the graveyard.
Embrace Gen X/Gen Y
That brings to mind yet another question to be begged. Why don’t most custom integrators embrace Generation X? The oldest Xer will soon be 50, the youngest over 30 and approaching those coveted peak-earning years. I think that CIs, from owners to salespeople to installers, have a difficult time coming to grips with the fact that some of these folks—not that long ago collectively degraded as slackers—may now have enough coin to actually buy our stuff.
What do other durable goods industries know that we don’t? For years they have followed Gen X, studied their habits, their likes and dislikes and successfully proffered to this group as it grew in purchasing power. IKEA built a worldwide empire doing just that while Toyota built a brand, Scion, that rivals entire car companies in its success.
The major appliance people have been catering to Generation X for a long time now and doing so at a healthy profit. At least one major appliance brand is moving beyond. GE recently introduced a full series of appliances aimed squarely at Millennials, the generation behind Gen X and, in many cases, the not-even-30-yet grandchildren of Boomers. And GE hired a 28-year-old industrial designer to head up the project!
Here’s a thought: Get over any and all preconceived notions you might hold about those younger than yourself. Gen X and Millennial money spends just as well as Boomer money. Plus it’s a safe bet that a client from either generation will understand what you are trying to do for him more than someone born before Howdy Doody. Members of both groups have many years in front of them before they are likely to utter “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”
Chuck Schneider is a freelance writer with a long history in consumer electronics. He started and restarted his award-winning manufacturer’s representative firm - Value Added Marketing - and was also a vice president and general merchandise manager for a multi-regional CE chain, as well as a buyer for Lechmere’s (a division of Target). Today, he is a freelance writer.
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