Will Gen Y Want Something Different in Windows & Doors?

John G. Swanson
August 7, 2012
THE TALK... | Markets & Trends

A Bloomberg.com recent article suggests Gen-Yers are opting for iPads over cars.  "Smartphones, laptops and tablet devices compete for their dollars and are higher priorities than vehicle purchases," one automotive consultant reports. Detroit is concerned that this trend may reduce annual vehicle sales for the long-term.

“It’s no longer a foregone conclusion that we will be able to sell cars to a large and emerging demographic,” a Ford executive is quoted as saying. “If we’re going to continue to grow as an industry and as a company, it’s really important we reach this consumer.”

The article points to other factors contributing to fewer car purchases by young buyers. There's the weak economy impacting their incomes and the growing popularity of urban lifestyles that is lessening the need. Still, it's surprising to think that something as ingrained into the American psyche as the love of cars and the freedom they bring is losing its power. 

Gen Yers are probably too young to be window and door buyers yet, but the article made me wonder if this generation of consumers could bring fundamental changes to our business.  That's our poll question of the week.  And, of course, I'd like to hear from you.  WIll Gen Y buyers want something new and different in windows? How about doors? Will the preference for "urban lifestyle" change our markets?  Post a comment and share your thoughts.

 

Survey Results as of 08/14/2012:

 

Will Gen-Y buyers bring change to window and door market?

Yes, they will demand product changes

  

 

37%

No

  

 

30%

Yes, but I'm not sure how

  

 

21%

Yes, because they will choose different places to live

  

 

13%

Most respondents expect the younger members of today's workforce and those coming into it to eventually bring change to the window and door market.  A good portion don't know where that change will be, but some see products changing and others see changes as a result of population shifts. 

Some of the product changes are easy to imagine. These tech-savvy buyers are much more likely to embrace internet-enabled products, and that could include programmable windows that shift from clear to a tint to let in sun or cut down on glare and heat build-up.  It could also include door locks that can be controlled from a smartphone. 

One place to get some insight on what these younger buyers may want is the website for the 2012 Builder Magazine Gen-Y Concept Home built for the most recent International Builders Show.  The site offers a white paper which highlights the following keys to this segment:

  • Affordability remains important to this demographic group.
  • They want gathering spaces, indoors or out, where they can entertain friends.
  • Multifunction spaces in smaller units is important
  • Gen Y is willing to experiment with different and contemporary architectural styles.
  • This wired generation expect their homes have to be as high tech as they are.
  • “Green” is a way of life for Gen Y.

Regarding population shifts likely to come with Gen Y, I wanted to respond to Steve specifically, by commenting on the growing popularity of "urban lifestyles."  Such choices are certainly not for all, but many in this younger generation are opting for apartments and homes in cities and towns where they have more opportunities to walk to stores and restaurants and perhaps even work. This is a concern for the automakers because these people want to rely less on a car.  This trend does not imply that those choosing rural and suburban homes are not tech savvy or less connected these days.

From a window and door industry perspective, the preference for urban living could mean a growing multi-family market. The single-family market may also change with more planned communities and in-fill projects. The replacement and remodeling business may also see more opportunities as row houses and other urban homes become more desirable and more nonresidential properties are converted into condos and apartments. 

 

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What is this preference for "urban lifestyle" that you speak of. Is it the desire by the federal government to force people back into urban areas by inflating the cost of gas and other transportation costs? Is it their desire to have the majority of people in large urban areas where they can be more easily monitored and controlled? I don't believe there is a desire for the "urban lifestyle", but rather an acceptance or surrender to the fact that you may have no other choice. Fortunately, I have been able to survive and be successful in a small rural community. I know many of my classmates that wish they could be hear with me. And just because we don't live in an urban area doesn't mean we aren't embracing technology. Almost everyone I know has iPads, smart phones and more than one computer. Technology isn't confined to urban borders and that is what makes it so successful.