Millennials/Gen Y All Over Online Retail, Less so Trips to the Mall

Let me share a study from around a year ago that highlights shopping behavioral trends of Generation Y (Millennials defined as those 18-35/born from ~1978 to 1995). The study, put together by the Urban Land Institute, finds that 91% of Gen Y made online purchases over the last six months.

Meanwhile, some 45% spend more than an hour per day looking at retail-oriented websites! And you thought those guys were working.

​As a Millennial, I swear I’m working!

This is interesting by itself, but it’s all the more interesting in light of the study’s findings around where Gen Y lives and where they shop. Seems that some 90% of Gen Y visits stores like Walmart and Target as well as Costco, BJ’s, and Sam’s Club at least once a month, no matter where these Millennials live (e.g. from living rural to downtown). Nearly 70% of Gen Y visit these places 2 or more times a month. Take a gander at the data (added highlighting, mark-up, and logos per me — logo’s were pulled from the report’s cited definitions of these categories):


Great news for your discount stores.

By comparison, when it comes to shopping at malls, only about 64% of Gen Y frequents stores like Sears, Macy’s, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Dillard’s, and Bloomies. Worse, nearly 35% of Gen Y/Millennials never or rarely go to these department stores.

When it comes to how Gen Y prefers to shop — at least when it comes to buying clothes — the ULI study found that 20% of Gen Yers/MMs like to order online or research online and then go in-store (12%). And there’s a decent showing here for branded and department stores, too, so while the mall may not be an exciting place to visit in total there’s still interest from Gen Y in buying clothes at department stores:


What to do about Gen Y?

Seems the takeaway is fairly obvious: Millennials/Gen Yers like to shop online. They outright enjoy it and it’s now normal behavior (91% in the past six months!). That said, they aren’t as likely to frequent department stores with a whopping third rarely or never going to stores typically found in malls. While that could be scary for department stores, their way “in” to this younger generation is the Internet. Show’em your moves!

I own this minivan. And I’m a Millennial. Wha-what? Honda Odyssey FTW!​

Millennials Living Parents — The “Boomerang Kids”


The New York Times magazine has an article titled It’s Official: The Boomerang Kids Won’t Leave (June 20, 2014) that highlights an incredible aspect of Millennials:

1 in 5 people in their 20s and early 30s is currently living with his or her parents. … [A] generation ago … 1 in 10 young adults moved back home …

That”s a 2X increase in one generation.

What’s changed? Sure the credit market imploded causing a major recession a few years ago, but is that the root cause? I much prefer this narrative from the article:

Childhood is a fairly recent economic innovation. For most of recorded history, a vast majority of people began working by age 4, typically on a farm, and were full time by 10. According to James Marten, a historian at Marquette University and the editor of The Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, it wasn’t until the 1830s, as the U.S. economy began to shift from subsistence agriculture to industry and markets, that life began to change slowly for little kids. Parents were getting richer, family sizes fell and, by the 1850s, school attendance started to become mandatory. By the end of the Civil War, much of American culture had accepted the notion that children under 13 should be protected from economic life, and child-labor laws started emerging around the turn of the century. As the country grew wealthier over the ensuing decades, childhood expanded along with it. Eventually, teenagers were no longer considered younger, less-competent adults but rather older children who should be nurtured and encouraged to explore.

Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a psychologist at Clark University who coined the term “emerging adulthood,” sees boomerang kids as the continuation of this centuries-long trend.

Regardless of the cause of adult-aged kids living with their parents, it’s just one more substantial difference in a generation that grew up at the frontier of digital.

What are some of the implications?  Financial dependence.  Over-emphasizing job decisions (e.g. Do I really want to do X?  That’s not my passion.  What do I love to do, anyway?).  Having kids at a much later age.  Greater rigidity.  Dependence on adult-supervision.  Indecisiveness.

Those are mostly negative things in my mind.  Surely there are some positives.  Anyone want to suggest a few?