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The Washington Post reports this morning about how successful retailers are developing new formats to appeal to younger shoppers, “geared to price-and-design conscious customers in their twenties and thirties” who are the children of the baby boomers upon which they have built their traditional businesses.

Front and center in the discussion is CB2, a spinoff from Crate & Barrel “where the definition of home for the next generation of consumers is being refined.”

The Post reports, “Inside, the store pulses with techno-jazz and high-impact displays. An undulating metal wave stretches across the industrial ceiling, hardwood floors gleam underfoot, shelves are stacked with black mesh hampers, night lights that change color, lime-green bath mats and platform beds.”

In short, not your mother’s furniture and home furnishings store.

“The target CB2 shoppers are career professionals, more likely to live in an urban loft, apartment or townhouse than a sprawling place in the suburbs. The core demographic stretches from age 25 to 40, but the outer edges include college students as well as the over-40 set that appreciates industrial materials and slick design. They like merchandise that's trendy, but not too gimmicky. They gravitate to the cool and casual,” according to the Post.

While the folks at Crate & Barrel don’t embrace the comparison, the paper notes that it is hardly the first company to create a spinoff retailing experience designed to appeal to a new demographic. Gap’s Old Navy stores are one example. And Williams Sonoma has created, a catalog-and-online store with a furnishings bent.
KC's View:
One sobering note from the Post piece is that the CB2 folks have cut back on kitchenware because they found that their target demographic just doesn’t cook.

But the larger question that needs to be raised here, we think, is about who is thinking this way in the food industry?

There is no question that the children of baby boomers are vastly different from their parents, and that retailers in a variety of venues are working hard to figure out how to appeal to them. It isn’t an easy process; even highly successful companies like Gap have been known to lose their way in tracking the needs and desires of this demographic.

But where is the innovation on the food side? What retailers are creating new and different stores to appeal to this emerging economic force?

Somehow, the assumption seems to be that food shopping won’t change all that much, but we think this may be dreadfully misguided.

If the mainstream food retailing industry doesn’t develop a strategy for catering to these customers, then this particular demographic group will find other sources of food, whether it is restaurants that develop successful extensions of their businesses, or perhaps even c-stores that see this emerging customer base as a way to re-energize their businesses.

Focusing on this group is both challenge and opportunity. But it can’t be ignored.