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When times get tough, millennials stop spending

Shoppers between the ages of 18 and 34, once considered a "golden ticket" for sales growth by manufacturers and retailers, are now pinching pennies to survive in tough economic times. What can natural products retailers do to attract these valuable consumers?

Tech-savvy, highly educated and maybe even a little overly confident—that's how many would describe the millennial generation. I know those are the words I might use for myself and many of my friends who fall between the 18 to 34 age range. I might also throw in the descriptors trendy, well-traveled and financially stable which until recently, would have also been totally accurate.   

"The young adult market has always been known for being the most fashion forward, the first to respond to trends and first to adopt to new retail channels," said Candace Corlett, president of WSL/Strategic Retail, a New York-based retail consulting firm.

But when highly educated and overly confident meet foundering economy, results are grim. Corlett adds, "[Millennials] are also the group that's been hit hardest by the economic recession which has left them struggling to find jobs and pay down student loan debut." Unsurprisingly, it's also impacting spending.

According to WSL/Strategic Retail's How America Shops MegaTrends report, Moving On 2012 [PDF], 25 percent of millennials don't have the money to cover their basic needs. Here are some of the report's findings:

  • 80% of millennials believe it’s important to get the lowest price on most things they buy
  • 60% are likely to choose a lower-priced brand over their usual, if they can save money
  • 57% of this demographic make a point to search online for discounts before shopping
  • 63% are now sticking to only those brands and stores they know they can afford

"The decline in millennial spending power presents a significant challenge to brands and retailers who have long considered young adults to be the 'golden ticket' to sales growth," said Wendy Liebmann, CEO at WSL Strategic Retail. "Businesses must begin rethinking their strategy to lure these shoppers to buy."

So what's a natural products retailer to do?

It's still possible to gain the attention of these budget-strapped consumers said Jeff Hilton, cofounder of Integrated Marketing Group a Utah-based branding and consulting agency in a Q&A with Nutrition Business Journal.  Here's what he suggests:

  • Offer multiple ways to buy. Millennials like diversity of choice and convenience.
     
  • Highlight private label. This group doesn't believe name brands reflect who they are. Remember the age old Pepsi, Coke debate? Instead, price is king.
     
  • Emphasize convenient nutrition. Millennials aren't pill poppers and love foods that do double duty. Call attention to functional products that taste good and offer a nutritional bonus. 

How do you attract millennials to your store? Leave a comment!

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