Millennials are Moving to Urban Centers, This is How Smart Retailers are Adapting


It used to be out of necessity – remember cooking ramen with your secret hot plate, precariously balanced on a laundry basket in your college dorm? But now, experts say, the trend toward small appliances reveals a major shift in consumers’ lifestyle choices… and the way cash flows in the market.

“The move chases two major shifts under way in U.S. households. More people are moving to smaller homes, especially as they migrate to city centers,” the the Wall Street Journal observes. “More people”, in this case, is mainly referring to millennials settling down into family life, and aging baby boomers down-sizing from their larger family homes.

“We see by 2050 [that] 70% of the world’s population will live in cities,” Ikea CEO Peter Agnefjall said in an interview with WSJ.

These two powerhouse generations – superior to others in both disposable income and sheer numbers –  account for enough of the market to create a shift in how products are designed. The housewares and appliance industry is full of potential if they can adapt to the needs of these eager shoppers. That is, products that fit into their differing lifestyles. Literally.

A market chasing its audience

The lifestyles of boomers and millennials do have one thing in common: less space for bulky furniture, and enough money to invest in new, smaller appliances. “Both groups are hitting those key life moments where you put in new items or refurbish to put in better ones,” says Joe Derochowski, a home-industry analyst for NPD Group. The result is a market chasing their audience and reacting to their needs.

Industry heavyweights like KitchenAid are hot on the heels of this sudden trend. “Particularly among Millennials, urban dwellers and empty-nesters, we saw a desire for a smaller mixer that provides the same overall features of our larger models,” said Derek Ernst, global marketing director for KitchenAid Small Appliances.

Mixers, toaster ovens, even washing machines are being offered in smaller versions by forward-thinking brands and retailers. The larger of the category like dishwashers are being offered at half the size so they can easily sit on a table; and the already small appliances like blenders and toaster ovens are being condensed further and made into multi-purpose machines to save that precious counter space.

“Just one of these units can replace two or three other small kitchen appliances and thus reduce the space required and unneeded clutter” says Bryna Kuhnreich, Senior Marketing Director for Sensio.

One thing that won’t be sacrificed in the name of a clutter-free countertop is quality. Consumers’ have made it clear that the manufacturing quality of the product and how it performs isn’t to be sacrificed, and they’re ready to put their money where their mouth is. The KitchenAid Mini mixer mentioned above, which is 20 percent smaller and 25 percent lighter, has a retail value of $349.99 – the same price as the full-sized classic version.

An industry has to do their best to forecast upcoming trends within their target market. The housewares industry is in a time of rapid transformation as their customer’s move from one stage of life to the next. What do you do to ensure your products are still relevant as these changes occur?