Commentary: Millenials Are No Business Killers


Over the past few years, blaming millennials for the business community’s woes has become increasingly common. Millennials (classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as anyone born between 1982 and 2000) have been blamed for killing diamonds, the housing market, napkins, bar soap, running and, most recently, canned tuna.

It seems prudent to point out that there are more than 83 million millennials in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau; the number of millennials surpassed the number of baby boomers in 2015.

In contrast to common beliefs about millennials’ spending habits, the group as a whole has enormous spending power. A survey from Accenture found millennials spend about $600 billion each year; the consulting firm projected the generation’s spending in the United States will grow to $1.4 trillion annually by 2020, making up 30 percent of total U.S. retail sales.

In other words, companies that write off millennials eliminate an enormous potential revenue source.

A recent report from the Federal Reserve Board found that while millennials make less and have fewer assets than previous generations at comparable ages, once issues like age and income were factored out, “millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations.”

Millennials are not impossible for businesses to reach. They may not have the same tastes and consumption habits as their parents and grandparents (hence the falling sales for products like canned tuna), but it’s up to the business community to adjust to those changes, not the other way around.

Connecting with younger consumers might require a shift in marketing from traditional print and TV ads to including social media engagement. Companies might need to revamp their offerings or expand their product lines to account for changing tastes and draw in younger shoppers.

Younger adults, due to economic factors or simply changing tastes and cultural trends, do not seem to be purchasing the same products as earlier generations in the same numbers, but businesses being hurt by these shifting trends have a huge opportunity to embrace innovation and work to find ways to satisfy changing consumer demands.

If younger consumers aren’t flocking to a business, mocking their supposed penchant for avocado toast or condemning them as entitled and lazy is likely not the best way to attract a demographic that is soon set to be the country’s biggest spenders. Recognize that young people are willing to shell out their cash, but the goods and services they’re willing to pay for might be different from the goods and services past generations valued.

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