Unconventional families of the future: single-person households

Posted by Flux on 

4 December 2019

What’s trending now?
A growing number of individuals are choosing voluntarily to live alone without a romantic partner.

According to J.W.T Intelligence, people are starting to challenge the negative assumptions and stereotypes about singlehood: being miserable, lonely, and unwanted. Many are starting to embrace new perceptions of singlehood as empowering, fulfilling and socially acceptable.

The rising divorce rate along with individuals prioritising education and careers over finding a partner is helping drive this trend. This new group of confident consumers with their own set of expectations presents a fresh challenge for brands and marketers.

Why is it important?
A survey conducted by dating app Tinder in America, revealed that in a group of 18- to 25- year-olds, 72% were single by choice and 81% believe that being single offers them specific benefits. These include the opportunity to develop multiple platonic relationships, to focus on personal wellness and to dedicate more time to their careers. Euromonitor International also confirms the growing number of young people who do not wish to be in relationships or to get married due to their changing priorities.

Another driver of the single-person household trend is the voluntary decision by older divorced or widowed individuals, to remain single. In 2018 research showed that 38% of Canadian marriages end in divorce and the average age for divorce is 41 for women and 44 for men. The divorce rate in America, according to the Pew Research Centre doubled for individuals who are 50 years or older, from five divorces per 1000 married persons in 1990 to ten divorces per 1000 in 2015.

Euromonitor International predicts that between 2016 and 2030, single-person households will see faster growth than any other kind, with the addition of 120 million such households globally. Solo Living, a Scotland-based news and resource platform for people who live alone, identifies this consumer group as a lucrative market opportunity. According to the platform, ‘solos’ are willing to spend their disposable income on among other things, entertainment, travel, hobbies and eating out.

What is the butterfly effect?
The needs of a single-person household are different to those of a home with more than one occupant. Companies have started to look into the requirements and expectations of singles and have developed products specifically for them.

Procter & Gamble has created a bigger-than-usual toilet paper roll called the Forever Roll which lasts a month, for singles living in small spaces with very little storage. Arnold, an American bread brand, sells 10-slice loaves for individuals who live alone and want to avoid wastage but can’t finish a normal sized loaf. Home appliance companies such as Bosch, are reducing the size of their appliances to fit the small houses/apartments often occupied by people living alone. These refrigerators, dishwashers, washing machines and dryers are no different from the bigger high performance appliances; they are just smaller.

Although these singles prefer to live alone, they value companionship outside their homes. Brands such as Solo Traveller have created apps for single travellers to connect with others like them who want to travel safely and share their experiences. Opentable U.S, an online platform that allows people to make restaurant reservations, has created a dedicated app for solo diners, called ‘Open Seat’, in the state of Virginia. It pairs singles who do not want to dine alone, with other solo diners or groups of diners.

The Pioneers?
The architecture and home design industries were among the first to realise the growing potential of the single-person household trend and started creating small living spaces for them. In 2014, the Dwell and Design Conference saw designers and architects showcasing plans for micro-apartments, which the designers believed, is where a growing number of solos would live in cities in the future. There has also been a marked increase in the number of food products targeting individuals living alone. In 2012, companies such as Kellogg’s, Bisto, and Tabasco started to cater to these households, with the launch of single-serving products.

Global hotspots?
USA, Japan, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Scotland, U.K

By Losego Motshele

About Losego

Losego Motshele, is a young, spirited intellectual with an interest in fashion forecasting and South African pop culture. She is an enthusiast who sees trend research as a way to stay connected to society. In her spare time, Losego contributes to her personal project, a body of work called ‘The Orange Flow’. Well on her way to being a trend researcher, Losego has an understanding of what influences people’s interests. As a final year student specialising in the business of fashion, she is majoring in consumer buying behaviour.


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Image credit: Mitch Rosen

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