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Understanding & Selling to the HENRYs

Let me introduce you to the HENRYs. You’ll want to meet them because they are going to be crucial to your business.


They aren’t affluent but they are working on it. Hence the moniker: High Earners Not Rich Yet. With incomes of $100,000-$249,999, HENRYs are in the top 20% of all U.S. households. Another reason to get to know them: they are 24 million households strong.


By comparison, there are only 3.3 million Ultra Affluents with incomes of $250,000 or more, about 2-3% of U.S. households.


Despite these numbers, HENRYs “are an often overlooked and not well understood segment of consumers,” according to Pam Danziger, president, Unity Marketing, a boutique marketing consulting firm that has defined and studied this market segment in depth.


“For home furnishings companies aiming at the high end, low end or in the middle of the market, the HENRYs are the segment that ultimately drives their businesses and are key to their growth,” Danziger says.


People’s incomes generally peak between the ages of 35 and 54. This is also the age range when spending on home furnishings is at its highest, Danziger points out.


The 35- to 44-year-olds are of more value to furnishings marketers because they consistently spend between 1.5 and two times more on higher-end home goods than households in the 45-54 age bracket, she notes.


“Home furnishings brands must start today to position for the future and that means getting up close and personal with young HENRYs on the road to affluence. Brands must understand that the next generation is not going to decorate and furnish their homes in the same ways as their parents’ or grandparents’ boomer generation, nor are they shopping for home furnishings in the same way. So brands must adapt to the millennials’ unique perspective on home,” Danziger writes in What Do HENRYs Want?


First, it’s not about contemporary styling. “Too many furniture brands think the way to appeal to younger consumers is through style alone, as if all young people gravitate toward sleek, sophisticated modern designs,” Danziger cautions. Rather, it’s about lifestyle and appealing to the values of HENRYs, she notes.


Key HENRY values include being inclusive yet individualistic, and being self-expressive but not self-absorbed or narcissistic. The old school was talking about exclusivity, status and indulgence. All of that is a total turnoff today. HENRYs are democratic, not elitist.


Notice the different tone of what Danziger calls “old luxury brands” versus “new luxury brands.” Mercedes Benz: “the best or nothing” versus Mini Cooper: “those who defy labels define themselves.” Rolex: “prestige” versus Timex Ironman: “made for adventure.”


Appeal to HENRYs’ desire for self-expression by underscoring the custom nature of your designs, and draw them into the process, rather than presenting them with a finalized plan for review. Make it clear that no two kitchens or baths you do are the same, regardless of the type of cabinetry being specified. MasterBrand addresses this desire effectively with its tagline: “Your Style, Your Life.”


HENRYs want furnishings that are made for them, not their parents’ or grandparents’ lifestyle, and they want designs and products that deliver unique and meaningful experiences.


Remember, you aren’t selling a product; you are selling a lifestyle. It sounds simple, but it is so easy to forget. Google kitchen cabinet companies and you would be surprised how many describe themselves first in terms of products, with some variation of “we manufacture high-end, or affordable, or premium or quality cabinets.” The same is true for appliance companies that primarily talk about quality and style.


What HENRYs care about is what your cabinets or appliances will do for them, their lifestyle and values. Homecrest does a good job with its promise to “transform your space into a happier more organized home.” As does Diamond with its offer to “bring innovation and order to your home.”


Sub-Zero talks about keeping food fresher longer. Wolf offers the enjoyment of a lifetime of adventurous, more satisfying cooking. These clearly are lifestyle benefits, not product attributes.


Do your showers or tubs offer the experience of relaxation and de-stressing for better health? Is the toilet intelligent and high-tech? Or does it offer the experience of better cleaning via a bidet?


How do you talk about your business? Danziger relates this cautionary tale: “At a recent retailers’ workshop, a fledgling retailer opening her first store asked me a question. In doing so, she described her business as a store that sells kitchen cabinets and countertops.


“I stopped her right there and told her that rather than focusing on the things she’s selling, she needs to focus on the experiences she is delivering to the customer.


“In other words, she needs to describe her store not as a place to buy kitchen cabinets and countertops, but as a destination for kitchen transformation, a place where customers can create a unique and special kitchen design customized to their special needs through fine cabinetry and long-lasting, high-quality countertops.


“That’s what people really want when they are looking for new cabinets or countertops. She needs to think beyond what she is selling [kitchen cabinets and countertops] to what people are buying [a full kitchen transformation].”


People are buying taco night and Thanksgiving dinner, and gathering spaces for birthday parties and Sunday brunches.


They are buying precious kiddy bath times with rubber duckies, or a well-earned moment of relaxation at the end of a hard day, not a bathtub.


HENRYs are also looking for a relevant experience when they shop.


According to Danziger, consumers today are bored with big box stores and instead prefer small, personalized local shopping with the emphasis on experiences.


With its in-store chefs, baristas and spa, Pirch is the industry poster child for reinventing the way people shop for appliances and bath fixtures, aiming to bring “joy and fun” to the experience.


You may not be able to go as far as Pirch has with its live experiences, and time will tell whether its business model is sustainable, but get creative and take a page from its playbook.


Can you team up with cooking pros, and health and beauty experts to make your place of business a regular destination for lifestyle fun and information?


That’s a good way to get to know your local HENRYs.


Leslie Hart, based in New York, NY, is a partner with O’Reilly/DePalma, a full-service marketing communications agency serving the kitchen, bath and building industries.

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