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Specialty store buyers vs. big box buyers

How do households buying outdoor furniture at a specialty store differ from those purchasing at a big box retailer, such as a home improvement center or discount department store? What types of materials do big box buyers prefer? What are specialty store buyers looking for when choosing a retailer? These questions and more are answered here in Casual Living's exclusive 2007 Consumer Buying Trends Survey. All responding households are homeowners and have high incomes — $75,000 or more.

As with many other home furnishings products, Baby Boomers account for the majority of outdoor furniture buyers through all channels. Boomers (currently between the ages of 43 and 61) comprise nearly two-thirds of households buying at a specialty store. Another one-fifth of specialty-store buyers belong to either Generation X or Y, whose adult members are currently between the ages of 18 and 42. Generally speaking, big box stores have been doing better with younger households. For example, home improvement centers captured the largest percentage of Generation X households. Nearly 40% of home improvement store buyers belonged to Gen X, whose members are currently between the ages of 32 and 41.

Conventional wisdom says higher-income households buy at specialty stores. Indeed, 45% of specialty-store buyers had incomes of $150,000 or more; but so did 20% of discount-store buyers and 29% of home improvement store buyers. Looking at the figures another way, 78% of specialty store buyers had incomes of $100,000 or more; as did 61% of discount store buyers and a whopping 71% of home improvement store buyers.

The jury's still out on the warranty's importance. Data reveal that a dining set's warranty is more important to households buying at a specialty store. Two-thirds of specialty store buyers said the warranty is important to them, compared with half of discount buyers and half of home improvement buyers.

However, only one in four specialty store buyers researched the warranty online before making a purchase. And, when Casual Living asked buyers whether or not the set they bought had a warranty, nearly half of buyers through all three channels couldn't remember. About two out of five households buying a set at a specialty store said their set had a warranty, compared with one-third at a home improvement center and only 27% at a discount department store.

Bought outdoor furniture at a....
Consumer differences Specialty store Discount department store Home improvement center
Source: Casual Living Consumer Buying Trends Survey, 2007
Under 35 7% 20% 18%
35 – 44 20% 26% 39%
45 – 54 42% 31% 22%
55 – 64 22% 20% 18%
65 and over 9% 3% 3%
Northeast 25% 20% 20%
Midwest 26% 26% 23%
South 23% 30% 37%
West 26% 24% 20%
Household income
$75,000 – $99,999 22% 39% 29%
$100,000 – $124,999 14% 27% 23%
$125,000 – $149,999 19% 14% 19%
$150,000 or more 45% 20% 29%
High-speed Internet access at home 88% 81% 85%

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