It once was a man’s world, but not so much anymore

In his day, entertainer and soul man James Brown had a reputation as the hardest working man in show business who belted out hits including “It’s a man’s world.”

But that was then, this is now, and I submit it hasn’t been a man’s world for quite some time.

A quick look at some recent statistics shows that when it comes to buying power, females are the ones rocking the house and making cash registers sing all over the country.

Women make up more than half of the U.S. population, and control or influence 85% of consumer spending (Source: Forbes 2019).

The purchasing power of women in the U.S. ranges from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually (Source: Nielsen Consumer 2013).

Women control more than 60% of all personal wealth in the U.S. (Source: Federal Reserve, MassMutual Financial Group, BusinessWeek, Gallup).

Women purchase over 50% of traditional male products, including automobiles, home improvement products and consumer electronics (Source: Andrea Learned, “Don’t Think Pink”).

Approximately 40% of U.S. working women now out-earn their husbands (Source: U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics).

By the year 2028, women will own 75% of the discretionary spending (Source: Bankrate). 

Here are a few more stats I want to share that we all need to pay close attention to:

66% feel misunderstood by the health care market (Source: Greenfield Online for Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team).

74% feel misunderstood by automotive marketers (Source: Greenfield Online for Arnold’s Women’s Insight Team).

God forbid 1% feel this way about us.

But, truth be told, while this particular study did not have similar numbers for home furnishings, we’ve all heard stories of how female consumers often feel misunderstood by us.

And based on the statistics showing her buying power, we simply can’t afford not to understand her completely.

So, with that in mind, and as someone who has reported on our sector for decades, I was always a  bit mystified (and concerned) as to why we did not have a much larger ratio of females in executive positions.

When I first started reporting on home furnishings back in the late ’80s, I asked one senior exec, a male, to give me a snapshot of the industry I had just joined. Without missing a beat, he quipped, “It’s a good old boy club. Plain and simple.”

And for years, despite the amazing contributions of folks like Aminy Audi, Jena Hall, Caroline Hipple, Carolyn Crowley, Connie Post and others, the deck was pretty much stacked with Kings versus Queens. (No disrespect meant to either gender.)

In light of the statistics I shared, I am happy to see us moving in the right direction.

La-Z-Boy has Melinda Whittington at the helm as president and CEO, Carol Lee as chief information officer, Raphael Richmond as chief compliance officer, and Katie Vanderjagt as chief human resources officer.

Williams-Sonoma, meanwhile, has Laura Alber as president and CEO, Marta Benson as president of Pottery Barn, and Jennifer Kellor as president of Pottery Barn Kids.

Even closer to home, we have Tammy Nagem doing a wonderful job as head of the High Point Market Authority.

It’s an ever-changing, brave new world, and lately, it seems it is changing faster than ever.  

I sincerely hope this industry will not only keep pace with change but make it a habit to anticipate change and be waiting to greet it when it comes barreling around the corner.

OK. Final thought … if anyone wants proof about the outcome of having a woman running a major home furnishings operation, go ask Irv Blumkin of Nebraska Furniture Mart to share a few stories about Rose Blumkin, a dynamo who made James Brown’s lightning-fast stage slides look like he was slow dancing.  

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