Decoding Millennial Shopping Traits & Habits

Decoding Millennial female shopping habits has become an obsession for companies, marketers, researchers and bloggers alike. Because this group is so large, the Millennial female is seen as the present and future of retail and understanding her is key to their success. There is endless hypothesis on what she wants and how she shops.

Millennials represent almost a quarter of the US population.

Millennials represent almost a quarter of the US population.

Who are Millennials?

According to the US Census Bureau Millennials are people born between 1982 and 2000. That makes them 33 to 15 years old. This group represents 83.1 million people and is more than one quarter of the US population. Baby Boomers, the formerly largest population group, is those born between 1946 and 1964. They are ages 69 to 51. Obviously Baby Boomers are getting smaller as the group ages. However they are still a large group and the wealthiest population in US history, so cannot be overlooked, by retailers.

Defining Millennial people ranging in age 15-33 as one homogeneous group, has it’s pitfalls. The life stages of teen priorities versus a young adult building a grown-up life, are quite different.

Teen’s lives focus on their school career, friends, social events, sports and maybe a part-time job. They generally want to “fit-in” with peers. Their money is mostly spent on fashion, technology and entertainment.

Young adults post-college, are socializing, building careers, getting married, setting up first homes and having children. They are socially influenced, but with maturity, they lean more toward more individualism. They are entering the part of their lives when they start to be adult consumers for wedding services, home goods, cars, insurance, housing, etc.

There are some generalizations you can make for all Millennials:

  • They are very budget conscious and serious deal seekers. Obviously, teens have limited spending power. Young adults are coping with weak employment, stagnant wages, unprecedented school debt and dealing with rapidly rising rents, as they start making larger, adult life purchases.
  • They are digitally savvy. The younger Millennials have grown up with technology all their lives.
  • Because of technology they access information and discover new brands continuously. They are very informed, brand aware and also brand agnostic for many items. They move on quickly to the next big thing.
  • They are very influenced by peers through social media and word-of-mouth.
  • They love to “share” the shopping experience.
  • They are more racially diverse than previous generations, because of immigration and higher birth rates in some groups. According to the US Census, 44.2 percent of Millennials are part of a minority race or ethnic group (other than non-Hispanic white).

Big Shifts in Retail Because of Millennials

It is no wonder why certain shopping channels or habits, have risen dramatically in the past several years, as they are driven by Millennial shoppers:

  • Fast Fashion: This frugal, diverse group has driven the meteoric rise of fast fashion stores such as Forever 21, H&M, Zara, Old Navy and will ensure the success of US newcomer Primark. These fast turning, cheap stores are just what the budget conscious Millennial wants. She can find a wide range of looks to meet her diverse cultural tastes. Being brand agnostic for apparel, the deal is more important than the label.
  • Online and brick and mortar consignment stores: The market for consignment of apparel, handbags accessories, jewelry and shoes is booming. This is a perfect solution for the budget conscious and brand aware Millennial. She can consign her discards on the same site as she picks up used, pricey branded items at a fraction of the cost. See sites such as Poshmark, ThredUp and Tradesy.
  • Rental fashion sites: Millennials drive the sharing economy. These tight-fisted, brand aware females get the brands they love on rental or rent to purchase sites of designer, everyday, wedding, plus size and maternity clothes such as Rent The Runway, Le Tote, Mine for Nine, Gwynnie Bee and Borrowing Magnolia.
  • Mass customization: The individualist Millennial has driven the trend of brand customization online for apparel, sneakers, handbags, jewelry, etc.
  • Social shopping: Millennials love to share… their photos, purchases, experiences and thoughts, like no generation before. Social sharing sites like Instagram, SnapChat, Pinterest, Facebook, etc. give them a platform for approval or to boast about their fashion finds. They can shop while simultaneously sending photos to friends for approval. They can see what friends are already wearing, too.
  • They do their research: This is the information generation. They do their homework online before making a purchase. They scout out the best deals, look for coupons and comparison shop to stretch their budget. More often than not they make the final purchase in-store however. E-commerce has grown tremendously, but brick and mortar sales still represent over 90% of retail sales.

In review, if targeting the Millennial customer you have to consider her life stage and culturally diverse tastes. She can’t be thought of as like-minded thinkers. Millennials  like to engage with brands that share their values, but can be brand agnostic and fickle. This is the greatest information and sharing generation, that loves to score a great deal.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting, Boston-based, product development, creative, branding, business consulting and executive coaching for apparel, footwear, home & consumer products companies and retail analysts. Follow me to get the latest posts

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Primark’s Boston Store- a Retail Force to Be Reckoned With

Primark, the UK-based discount retailer opened their first US store in Boston this month. The low-cost, low margin, fast fashion retailer, is located in the 70,000 square foot, historic Filene’s department store building in Boston’s Downtown Crossing section. They have plans to open 10 more locations on the East Coast by Easter 2016.

Well designed floor sets at Primark

Well-designed floor sets at Primark

I visited the store on Saturday the 26th and found it mobbed with urban shoppers. The location is a tour-de-force for a company that targets 18-35 year old, cash-strapped Millennial demographic. The Washington Street site, of recent decades has been a decaying, retail wasteland. Surrounded by the Financial, entertainment districts and Chinatown. It is far from other residential neighborhoods, but directly across from the highly central Park Street subway stop. The daytime walkable population swells dramatically, from the Financial District and other nearby employers.

Boston is home to three major upscale shopping areas, Copley Place, Newbury and Charles Streets. Many of the world’s best retailers open test stores here, because of the many universities, large population of wealthy international students and tourists, as well as a cosmopolitan, well-heeled population. The mass customer has been grossly underserved in Boston proper, so Primark, H+M and Macy’s in Downtown Crossing offer a strong trifecta for budget-conscious customers.

Seventies items at Primark

Seventies fashion items at Primark

I’m blown away by Primark’s well-merchandised assortment, attractive floor sets, and incredibly low prices, e.g. cotton tees for five dollars, jackets for thirty-five, seven dollar jeans, trendy shoes for ten…The assortment is compelling with strong key item basics and on-trend pieces like Bohemian, seventies-inspired items. It is wearable and stylish, including men’s,women’s, children’s and home.

The offer is more “adult”, less “teenage” than Forever 21 and Old Navy, less contemporary than Zara and less trendy than H+M. They also have a particularly strong intimate apparel department, which could eventually take a bite out of Victoria’s Secret. I couldn’t help thinking, why a frugal customer would scour discounters like TJX, when they can find such depth of selection at Primark?

Sometimes foreign-based retailer’s brand aesthetic doesn’t fit with American styling, color and taste levels. (I think this will hamper Uniglo’s future US expansion.) Primark’s Dublin-designed products feel comfortably appropriate in the US market.

A well done athletic assortment

A well done athletic assortment

Primark is another game changing player in the seismic shift of the Teutonic plates under US retail. The Millennial customer’s high debt levels, surging rent, transportation, entertainment expenses and the cost of staying connected, have had a deflationary effect on apparel pricing. To a great extent this customer is brand agnostic and sees apparel as a commodity. Fast-fashion, discount stores, consignment and apparel rental retailers, have been the beneficiaries of this mega-trend.

I spoke to an eagerly observing Primark executive. He was leaving in a few days to open the King of Prussia store in PA. I said, “Forever 21, Zara, H+M, Kohl’s, Target and J.C.Penney have a lot to worry about with Primark“. He wryly replied “That’s what we hope for.”

Men's clothing is wearable and compelling.

Men’s clothing is wearable and compelling.

Dix&Pond is the blog of Dix & Pond Consulting, Boston-based, product development, creative, branding, business consulting and executive coaching for apparel, footwear & consumer products companies and retail analysts. Follow me to get the latest posts

Thank you for liking and sharing this, if you enjoyed the post!

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