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The Mind of the Consumer

Too often folks in the home furnishings world tend to fly blind when making decisions about what they think consumers would want — or how they want to buy.

Marketing is not one of the strengths of most home furnishings companies — even those with budgets specifically for this function.

So when a study comes out that gives detailed information about consumers buying plans — and what influences those plans — everyone should take a look.

Highlights from the latest Cotton Inc. Lifestyle Monitor are featured in this week's issue on page 10 — and if you can, the study is worth a thorough read through.

It can't be those folks in Minneapolis alone that are bringing the mass merchant retail channel on par with the department stores and chain stores as a preferred place to shop for apparel. The mass merchants have long been the leaders in terms of where consumers prefer to buy their home fashions, and their fashion prowess has often been denied.

The Monitor shows how times have changed.

Another shocker is how clothes have slipped, while still maintaining first place, as the number one type of item to shop for. The drop of eight percentage points to 49 percent from 1994 to 2004 is huge. Interestingly, groceries picked up six percentage points coming in second with 21 percent of the preferred items to shop for. This, despite all the hoopla about how this country has become a take-out food haven.

And while some of us talk about demographic differences in buying patterns, the study points out how much is missing from the marketing efforts to specific consumer groups.

And for those of us who bemoan the proliferating home textiles licensing programs that feature people who don't appear qualified, it is worthy to note that the influence of celebrities on purchasing decisions by those in the 16- to 24-year-old bracket is enormous. These are the folks with growing incomes, and the people who influence them at this age will probably influence them as they get older.

There's lots to learn from analyzing statistics.

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