Room for Change: The Growth of the Children’s Bedroom Industry

(ARA) – Every mother wants something better for her child, and that sentiment is often reflected in the way we decorate our children’s bedrooms. Americans spend more than $9 billion annually on furnishings for kid’s rooms. Moms drive a growing retail segment that serves up decorative bedroom offerings ranging from furniture designed especially for kids, to coordinated accessories including bedding, lamps, rugs, wall art and a variety of decorations.

Kathleen Moore knows all about stores like these. The 34-year-old mother of two loves to decorate. “The kid’s rooms are the first stop on the tour when I’m showing off the house,” says Moore. She’s like many moms who say decorating children’s bedrooms is more important than decorating their kitchens and family rooms.

“Our bedroom actually comes last,” Jean Larkin says. Larkin, 38, believes decorating the rooms for her two girls is a reflection on her as a parent. She spent $10,000 decorating her children’s rooms last year.

Of course, it wasn’t always like that. In postwar 1950s America, specialty furniture shops for children didn’t exist, offering a clue to the relative priority of decorating children’s bedrooms at the time. When Ann Tackett’s children were young in the 1950s and 60s, their rooms didn’t look anything like those decorated by Moore or Larkin.

“Our kids didn’t go to their rooms to play,” Tackett says. “They played outside or in the family room. The bedroom was where they slept and did their school work.”

Tackett, 80, says her kids’ furniture was handed down from relatives or bought new at department stores like Sears. “We weren’t concerned with matching companion pieces and we didn’t think about accessories.”

By the late ’60s, many children’s rooms began to reflect their personal tastes and styles. When “The Brady Bunch” hit the television airways in 1969, the change in popular culture and in the way children’s rooms were being decorated was evident. The popular show often used the children’s rooms for scenes and today offers a look back at the increasing attention to children’s bedroom furnishings during that period.

In the ’70s, colorful bedspreads, unique lamps, and wall treatments along with hanging beads and posters were commonly used to reflect the personality of the child.

As disco music gave way to the ’80s, disposable income grew right along with the number of double-income households.

In the ’80s, department stores began catering to mothers, offering decoration packages including bedspreads, shams, pillow cases and matching wall treatments based on popular themes.

The interest in home beautification came into full bloom in the ’90s and continues now. The focus has shifted from thematic decorating to a more eclectic approach, as people become more familiar with decorating and design options.

“Personalization creates a sense of belonging and kid’s today are creating an identity for themselves through decorating their rooms,” says Peter Fowler, director of merchandising for Pier 1 Kids.

“Kids do not want ‘matchy matchy’ any longer, but yearn to express the diverse nature of their personalities with their rooms,” Fowler adds. “Pier 1 Kids is perfect for this, as we have diverse product, much of which coordinates with multiple beds, bedding and accessories.”

Other retailers have caught on, as well. In the last five years, companies like Bombay furniture and Pottery Barn have opened specialty stores offering furniture, accessories, bedding and decorative items for children’s rooms.

And these retailers have struck a nerve with kid-minded moms. Sales for kid’s specialty stores grew more than 5 percent last year, with one chain reporting an annual increase of 89 percent.

The prospects for retailers who focus on kids is best summed up by Moore. “As a girl, you wait a long time to be a mom,” she says. “To decorate your child’s bedroom – it’s like a dream.”

Courtesy of ARA Content