Will furniture shoppers return to old habits when inflation abates? Maybe not, survey reveals

BOSTON — Inflation is continuing to impact shoppers’ attitudes toward the furniture and home furnishings category, including forcing spending cutbacks as prices rise.

But even when inflation abates, consumers may not return to their old shopping patterns within the home category, according to survey by LEK Consulting.

The survey of 2,500 Americans, taken in October across multiple generations and income levels, shows that 85% of U.S. respondents have experienced a moderate to significant impact on their day-to-day lives from inflation. Not surprising, the severity of the impact increases as income levels drop, with 60% of those making less than $50,000 a year suffering a significant impact.

“A huge group of Americans has felt an effect in their lives from inflation,” said Chris Randall, managing director of LEK, a global strategy consultancy. “This cuts across income levels and generations and is directly affecting how consumers are spending their money. Decision-makers across consumer-facing industries should keep this in mind as they plan for 2023,” he said.

The study, which examines behaviors across 17 categories, found inflation’s impact on the category covering furniture, furnishings and home improvement products was severely impacted for 33% of respondents, putting it at the mid-point among all categories and behind key sectors such as gasoline, food and beverage, restaurants, travel and household goods, but ahead of apparel, electronics and beauty, health and wellness and fitness.

Younger respondents, especially Gen Z, said inflation has impacted their purchases in the home category, while Baby Boomers were least affected.

Among all respondents, 14% said they had stopped purchasing home-related goods such as furniture and furnishings in the past 12 months because of inflation, while 44% are purchasing them less frequently. Other behaviors expressed included buying with the same frequency as before but paying more (15%); shopping stores and websites with cheaper prices (14%); and buying cheaper products at the same stores as before (8%).

One thing to note: These behaviors in response to inflation aren’t necessarily going to reverse to old habits, the study showed. Just about one-third (31%) of respondents said they’d go back to their preferred products and channels for home goods, with nearly as many (27%) saying they’ll continue to purchase from new sources.

And while inflation is underway, 39% said making cutback in their purchase of furniture, home furnishings and home improvement products was a first priority, putting it in a tie with leisure and entertainment as the No. 4 item they’d cut back on first among the 17 categories available.

Additionally, the home category was one of the last in which consumers would resume old purchasing habits when prices stabilize, focusing instead on necessities such as food, rent, household items and travel/transportation.

Millennials would be the generational group most likely to prioritize furniture and furnishing when prices stabilize, as would higher-income earners.

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