A New Breed?

Is a Millennial shopper any different than the rest of us?

While many of these consumers—born approximately between 1980 and 2000—want us to believe that they act totally different than previous generations, there are more and more signs that they do not. 

Millennials—and the social commentators who buy into the idea that this generation is a whole new breed of consumers—go out of their way to make it clear that they follow a completely different set of rules when it comes to, it seems, just about everything. Forcefully, many say that they think, act and, most importantly in our case, shop differently than older shoppers. And, if retailers do not come around to their way of thinking, they risk everything as the 75-million strong Millennial generation gains more financial power. 

I think they are just young and do not know better, yet. 

When I came out of school many, many years ago, there were articles everywhere about the power of the Baby Boom generation and how these consumers—my contemporaries—did not follow the same rules as older generations. That was in the early 1980s, and I can remember reading articles in such prestigious, national publications as Time, Newsweek and BusinessWeek, discussing how the Boomers were not following conventional wisdom on just about anything, including shopping. Retailers, we were told then, better pay attention to Boomers’ needs or they risk just about everything. 

Guess, what? We got older, started families and had to pay the rent. Suddenly, the idealism of the Boomers was tossed out the window when we had kids to get to school, bills to pay and deadlines to meet. We became much more like our parents, albeit with a bit of a modern touch.

​Millennials will eventually find the same constraints. With the one notable exception of the Internet (but don’t we all use digital shopping these days?), the Millennials will gracefully age and start to experience all the things that come with getting older, including raising a family, balancing a budget and finding ways to keep everything go with less and less free time. 

Yes, retailers need to understand that this group of consumers is gaining financial power and, right now, is seeking to do things their way. Take solace in the fact that one day they will join the rest of us in the rat race and begin to modify their behavior. They will one day become like the rest of us, trying to dot the Is and cross the Ts, while listening to members of the next generation tell them they are wrong about just about everything. 


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