No day goes by without a newspaper story or television report on millennials, those young people born during the early 1980s to the late 1990s. They’re everywhere because the millennial generation represents one-quarter of the population.
And now, as millennials move into their prime spending years, there is sufficient data to explain the shopping habits of this generation, which is why they were the topic of conversation during the recent Las Vegas Market, the furniture, home decor and gift event that is held biannually at the World Market Center.
Although highly educated, many millennials came of age during the Great Recession and were forced to move back in with their parents as a result of economic problems. Hence they are sometimes referred to as the Boomerang Generation, as well as the Peter Pan Generation, due to a general avoidance of common adult rites of passage such as getting married or starting a career.
But are any of these millennials buying homes or furniture?
Margo Pyne was a panel member discussing this topic during Las Vegas Market. She is merchandising manager of The Grommet, a launch platform that discovers new entrepreneurs.
“Millennials … are old souls with new expectations,” she said. “Their buying habits are in line with a 65-year-old, except they will buy items that are higher priced if that product shares the millennial philosophy.
“Millennials do their research and will not buy from someone who doesn’t share similar social philosophies. They are voting with their dollars and in doing so support innovation. They’re strong when it comes to buying locally and want to make a difference in their community.”
Pyne said it is still a guessing game in trying to determine the spending impact of millennials.
“Millennials are currently retailers’ largest demographic consumer base, and they love to shop online,” she said. “During the 2016 holiday season, more than one-third of online shoppers were millennials. Right now, we’re looking to see if and when they will buy a home or start a family. Millennials are nearing their peak buying power, and some trends will begin taking shape.”
Those trends may take some time, as millennials are more likely to delay marriage and children. The average age for a millennial’s first marriage is 27 for women and 29 for men. And a Pew analysis of Census Bureau data predicts that 25 percent of them will never marry at all.
The younger end of this generation does not want to be tied down with a mortgage and does not trust the institutions that provide them. These people have seen the erosion of home values firsthand.
At the same time, older millennials are settling down, decorating homes and having children. According to data from the 2015 Furniture Today’s Consumer Buying Trends Survey, 55 percent of millennial households were buying adult and youth bedroom furniture and bedding. They comprised nearly half of all sales for both occasional tables and mirrors.
In a survey from Furniture Today and Apartment Therapy, four out of 10 millennials described their home’s design personality as “balanced with neutral color.” Gray was their top neutral color, while blue was the No. 1 choice when using a highlight color. Hardwood floors, more natural light and outdoor spaces were listed as “must-have” features for their home.
When it comes to reaching millennials, Pyne emphasized the impact of social media.
“These young people are ‘digital natives,’ because they began using technology such as computers and cellphones at a young age,” she explained. “Social media is so prevalent among this group.
“For instance, a millennial in the middle of Arkansas versus one in Las Vegas is quite different, but social media brings them together. It brings awareness, education, exposure and knowledge. They’re ‘always on.’ Forward-thinking retailers need to create a personalized, interactive experience if they hope to reach this mobile-focused, high-spending demographic.”
Some marketing companies already have. They discovered that, because millennials are always on their computer or smartphone, advertising videos are soundless so they don’t bother family or fellow employees at work.