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Home furnishings buyers attending Las Vegas Market had a chance to discover hot trends on the horizon through the generations from Maxine Lauer, president of Sphere Trending, a Marketing, Trend and Design firm dedicated to converting consumer insights into product innovation. Lauer spoke about happenings that cause consumers to shop, think and live differently, and how they will impact the future. With a background in trend merchandising that spans more than 20 years, Lauer has guided strategic planning for clients at her own company since 2000. Lauer led her audience through a fast-paced preview of consumer trends in furniture. She started with identifying different categories of buyers, separated by generation labels, including Digital from Birth, Generation Now, Generation X, Zoomers and Prime Timers, all complete with different styles and preferences. While trend appeals to consumers across the board, it is particularly tied into Gen X’s core values, a generation that is not afraid to mix and match. Lauer said to think more tailored then the traditional looks of the past, with clean lines and crisp styling. Generation Xers love to entertain, are entrepreneurial and blend work and home. They find appeal in items such as IKEA’s new Stockholm store, which features lines that are more expensive than the usual IKEA lines. Zoomers are fueling the luxury market and are buying second homes. They are “de-cluttering,” even using eBay to get rid of excess stuff. Zoomers are increasingly environmentally conscious, Lauer said. These consumers expect beautiful design merged with sustainable or recyclable materials, and the calming qualities of bringing natural elements into everyday environments. Lauer said 76 percent of the nation’s net worth is in the hands of Zoomers. “You have to be really compelling to get this group to buy,” she said. Of interest to the furniture industry is that second homes now represent 40 percent of all home transactions, and there is a rise of single households. Consumers are looking for ways to segment their homes into public and private spaces, and many consumers are living in small spaces but still want big style. Loft living is also on the rise as consumers look for ways to segment space. As a result, the market for smaller-scale products has been expanding at a rapid pace, as consumers begin to downsize and have a growing need for multi-tasking product. “It’s about how our homes feel that has become important,” Lauer said. She showed examples of shared offices for multiple family members where parents and kids can work together. While the kitchen has always been the heart of the home, technology is changing home design, with seating and technology being built into shared family spaces. Lauer showed photos of sofas on the backs of kitchen islands. Today’s consumers multi-task in their everyday lives and are beginning to expect and demand the same out of the product choices. “Consumers are saying, ‘Save me time. Does the chair turn into a shelf for my laptop?’ ” she said. “They are also craving relaxation and downtime in their homes. It’s all about the happy, healthy home—not just excess for the sake of excess.” In addition, there are also more and more multi-generational homes than ever before, and design for children is becoming more sophisticated. Kids today have many more choices than kids of previous generations, and there is no question that today’s teens expect more choices in technology, design and décor. Design keeps pace with teen’s high energy lifestyles as it becomes more sophisticated for a design-savvy youth. Advising retailers on how the look and feel of their stores influences prospective customers, Lauer said that drive- by and walk-by “editing” by consumers can make a big impact on choices of where they shop. “How does your store look from the outside in?” she asked attendees. “Is it fabulous?” She also pointed out the huge importance of well-designed bathrooms in retail stores. “As goes your bathroom, so goes your business,” she commented. Lauer spoke of what she termed “experience retailers” who host events in their stores, supporting causes and contributing time to the community. The semi-annual Las Vegas Market is the world’s fastest-growing trade show for home furnishings currently spanning 3.8 million square feet of showrooms/exhibits and featuring 1,300 companies and lines. World Market Center will soon boast the greatest depth and breadth of furniture-related products compared to any other market center and will be the world’s largest trade fair complex when fully built out to 12 million square feet in 2013. The Las Vegas Market continues through August 3, 2007 at World Market Center’s Buildings A and B, the Pavilions; the temporaries are featured at Sands Expo & Convention Center.

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