Verdict sees slowdown in retailing of homewares

Designers have called for homewares retailers to offer greater relevance to customers in their store environments, after trends monitor Verdict this week suggested that the shine is starting to come off the market.

Consumer spending on homewares grew at a slower rate (5.2 per cent) in 2001 than total retail expenditure (6.2 per cent) for the first time in five years, says Verdict. During the past five years the sector has been a goldmine for retailers, following the decorating boom inspired by television ‘design makeover’ programmes such as Changing Rooms.

Greater competition is now squeezing middle-market players ‘just as the crucial 25to 34-year-old homemaking age group is about to decline in numbers’, claims the report. Department stores are pursuing younger customers at one end of the spectrum and price-led retailers are broadening their offers at the other, it adds.

Retail design group 20/20 creative partner Paul Bretherton says retailers need to respond to lifestyle issues, such as how individuals in the younger demographic use the various parts of their homes.

‘[Store design] needs to be more relevant to people’s lives. Retailers should set their offers up in ways that relate directly to the home, not like some standard department store [format],’ Bretherton maintains.

He continues, ‘At home, there’s a blurring of the boundaries between rooms and usages – offices in the bedroom, eating in the kitchen or garden as opposed to a formal dining room and so on. Retailers need to put these ideas in front of the customer in store.’

20/20 has worked on Alders’ flagship London store, which opened at Marble Arch in April. The retailer is among a group that Verdict identifies as ‘worth watching out for’ in terms of sector developments.

Another is Marks & Spencer. The retailer is planning to trial two 4645m2 home furnishing stores at out-of-town sites, described by Verdict as ‘potentially the most revolutionary move’ in the sector.

A spokeswoman for M&S says it is ‘too early to say’ how the design of this concept will be driven forward. However, she confirms the Metro shopping centre in Gateshead as the first location.

M&S sees potential for significant growth in the middle market. ‘We’ve been successful in closing [clothes sales] by segmenting according to lifestyle, with the Per Una range for younger, fashion-conscious consumers, classics for older people and the core range in the middle. We intend to take that approach into home furnishings,’ adds the spokeswoman.

FutureBrand creative partner Mark Staton, who is working with Argos and Tesco, believes that the homewares market will rebound as houses become more difficult to buy and people invest in ‘nesting’ at home.

He says the next wave of interior design will feature more patterns and layered use of colour. Retailers need ‘more edited stories’ to convince shoppers these items are ‘safe’ to buy, he adds.

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