Modern consumers unimpressed by run-of -the-mill designs

Home and furniture retailers are failing to address the needs and expectations of modern consumers, according to a report due to be released in January.

Younger consumers, who are used to high service levels, product and store environments in other sectors, are disappointed with the home sector, according to the Project Home report by consumer consultancy Allegra.

In a survey of 4,000 furniture shoppers, 31 per cent of under-30s said they were dissatisfied with delivery lead times and would pay more for faster delivery. In the 31- to 45-year-old group, 23 per cent said the same.

'The middle-market customer is much more assertive. The trend we are picking up is that people are becoming much more informed and more discerning,' said Allegra projects director Chris Garner.

The demographic change can also be seen in the desire for more fashionable styles.

Garner believes middle-market furniture retailers are not geared towards this because of inadequate supply chain models.

Of the customers aged under 45, almost half chose contemporary styles from a list that included traditional, country, minimal, Scandinavian, ethnic and glamour.

Only 24 per cent said they wanted traditional, rising to 50 per cent for 45- to 60-year-olds and 73 per cent for the 60-plus category.

'There is a big opportunity for retailers to push out to consumers what they really want. At the moment, consumers are left to do it for themselves,' he said. 'If these players want to survive, they need to focus on a specific consumer segment, so that consumer becomes a disciple of that brand. Earning£100 per sq ft (£9.30 per sq m) is just not going to be enough to survive,' he said.

Garner said in particular, the store environment in many furniture retailers is too male-oriented and fails to address the needs of women, who are key to the home market.

Garner said the furniture market is hamstrung by planning regulations that are intended to prevent the drain of trade from town centres.

He said a re-examination of legislation is needed to catalyse the still highly fragmented sector, where the bulky nature of goods is inappropriate for the high street.