Across the world, singlehood is a growing trend. The Pew Research Center predicts that approximately 25% of American young adults will never marry and the percentage of one-person households in several major European cities has already crossed 50%.
Following this new reality, the world of shopping is changing radically. Businesses and marketing people are identifying singles as a potential up-and-coming market. Companies are starting to cater specifically to those living alone and a new type of economics is taking place. Dating and acquaintance services are already part of the market for a long time, but other services are quick to join. These new services do not aim to match people together but rather to let them feel fine with solo living.
Consumer expenditure reports reveal that singles spend higher proportions of their incomes on clothes, food, restaurants, leisure, and entertainment and that singles expenditures are increasing. Singles have also been found more tolerant of risk, less price-conscious, more brand-focused, and drawn to convenience when it comes to consumption and buying. The combination of these characteristics is expected to affect markets in the coming years in a fundamental way.
Pioneer businesses desiring to crack the singles’ market have already started to provide goods and services for singles such as smaller packages of the same products sold to families. Ikea is now pushing the PS collection for young and single people who move constantly and in need of furnishings for compact spaces. In Korea, the e-commerce site AKMallfeatures a "single life corner" for singles in need of furniture and merchandise for solo living. Entrepreneurs have also started to identify activities and goods of particular importance to singles, including gym equipment, leisure activities, and social events.
One example is that of packaged small meals, which can be found all over now. Grocery store chains such as Whole Foods have long realized that they need to make space for people sitting by themselves to eat their meal. In fact, some argue that eating alone makes one stronger. It makes one comfortable with being alone, relish in silence, appreciate the actual food, and enjoy watching the world go by. Exactly for this reason, many chains place their eating stool against the window
Communal living arrangments are also gaining popularity as they present high appeal to the increasing demographic of singles. Ever imagined co-living micro-apartment blocks that have tea and coffee as one of the extra packages to enjoy with your neighbors? It is a reality happening at Crystal City near Washington, D.C. and Lower Manhattan. The thinking behind this project of “WeLive” it to construct opportunities to meet and greet other people while living alone. Another feature of these apartments is that residents have events organized for them which provide the platform to connect with others and enjoy their company to the fullest. The conducive environment and the opportunity to enjoy a sense of community these apartments have to offer is an emerging trend for the solo way of living.
Of course, the relationship between marital status and consumer habits varies among different groups of singles. For example, singles by choice, or “new singles” that are typically characterized as more individualistic and pleasure-seeking, may spend more on entertainment and leisure. Singles by circumstance, on the other hand, may spend less frivolously due to economic constraints, particularly following divorce or widowhood or before marrying someone.
The single way of shopping and the variations within this population have scarcely been researched, and the time has come to study them. Such new studies will help businesses and society at large to understand the singles population more comprehensively. Despite the fact that very few academic and consumer studies have been conducted on the recent and changing patterns of the unmarried consumer across the world, researchers and marketers should acknowledge that singles have different consumer preferences than married individuals and start offering more tailored products embracing this new, seemingly irreversible, trend of solo living.