Forbes published an interesting (/depressing, if you find yourself ... focused on the financial situation "persons 25 years or younger" and what effect this situation will have on retailers in particular.
Among the disheartening revelations (or obvious observations, depending on your point of view):
the average member of Gen Y carries $45 000 in debt, with student debt being the most common form. Add to that an employment rate for 18 – 24 year-olds that hovers only slightly above 50%and a majority of the Millennial population (or at least the female half) claiming that they’ve delayed major purchases and life changes because of the recession and you have the making of one toxic target market.
According to the Forbes article, retailers "have taken notice":
Gap, Urban Outfitters and Aeropostale have been suffering in light of decreased consumer spending by twentysomethings and cautions these retailers and others in their shoes about aiming their marketing campaigns at a cohort that currently lacks spending power. The report’s authors also warn that a generation of potential consumers who are unwilling or unable to spend will eventually hurt higher-end retailers – those who can’t afford Gap prices today are unlikely to be able to trade up to Neiman Marcus (or even Banana Republic) anytime soon.
A recent study by Yale helps explain why Millenials struggling to afford Urban Outfitters now will struggle to afford Bloomindale's later:
those who graduate and land their first jobs during a recession tend to earn less than their peers who graduate during better economic times – a wage gap that still persists almost two decades after college graduation. As well, with Gen Y’s tendency toward brand loyalty – 70% of those surveyed by Edelman Digitalclaimed that they stick with brands they’ve become accustomed to – weaning them from entrenched lower-end options over the long-term may be an uphill battle for those offering luxury products and services.
Unfortunately, it seems, earning less now often means earning less later.
Adding to the troubles of retailers are the reformed shopping habits of young professionals whose outlook on life has been shaped by growing up in financially difficult and unstable times and whose desired shopping experiences are shaped more and more by changes in technology:
Not only do 37% of Millennials claim to distrust big business according to survey data, but the nature of the shopping experience sought by twentysomethings – sensory, shareable and less about finding a deal than participating in a social event – favors browsing over buying and those niche retailers that are able to create unique, immersive buying environments. That’s hardly the forte of the chain store.
The article's author, J. Maureen Henderson, sums up the situation succinctly for us:
Lack of cash, skepticism about big business, a preference for customized products and heuristic purchasing experiences and possibly a lifelong tendency toward scrimping? Retailers have a right to be nervous about the Millennial market.
As some one aged just outside the definition of Millennial, I find my own identity as a consumer reflected in the article's description of this generation. What do you think? Should retailers be nervous?