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Jennifer Marks

Big Spenders Crave Innovation

Last year, much was made of the first Baby Boomers' ageing transition into their 60s. But another generational milestone went largely overlooked: In 2005, the first batch of Gen-Xers turned 40. And this year, the final cohort of the Gen-X population turns 30.

These 30- and 40-somethings over the next 20 years will be the folks buying homes, building homes and upscaling homes — unlike we Boomers, the oldest segment of whom are now busily downscaling their living spaces.

No surprise then, was Unity Marketing's announcement last week that Gen-Xers now outpace Boomers in luxury spending — especially for the home, where what so many marketers still think of as “twentysomethings” spent 28% more on luxury home décor goods than Boomers. That's a nice chunk of change.

In 2005, luxury consumers of the Generation-X group (born from 1965 to 1976) spent 6.3% more in total on luxuries than their affluent Baby-Boomer counterparts, according to the Unity research. Although Boomers obviously still spend plenty of money on luxuries, the tide is turning.

Gen-Xer household incomes are also now higher on average — $52,781 — compared to Boomers' average of $49,672.

Research about Boomers in recent years points to them becoming less interested in possessions, more attuned to health, experiences and matters spiritual. Meanwhile, Gen-Xers are reaching what Unity president Pam Danzinger terms “a more materialistic life stage.”

They are the first true high-technology generation and the first Internet-shopping generation. It is now they, not Boomers, who drive the adoption of new products and create new trends.

There are two fronts on which home textiles product developers can best appeal to them: environmentally-friendly goods and technology. In terms of the former, the industry is showing some real progress. But there's a big lag on the technology side.

A few items are beginning to pop up that claim to employ nanotechnology in their fibers, but for the most part, there's no evidence how that technology improves the product in a significant and perceivable way.

So here are a few ideas for the truly ambitious. What about a comforter or a sheet that could change patterns? What about a reactive window panel that could help heat or cool a room? What about an area rug that could shift sizes? What about a bath towel that could warm itself up?

Time to put on your thinking caps. Gen-X is waiting.

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