Generation Y: A Complex Social Niche

According to a new study by the Urban Land Institute and Lachman Associates, Generation Y thoroughly enjoys shopping and frequently visits most types of centers. However, the challenging corollary is that 18- to 35-year-olds are bored easily, so they’re on the lookout for new excitement online, in brick-and-mortar settings, and in restaurants. Sensory aspects of retail facilities need to evolve constantly in order to retain young shoppers’ patronage.

Based on the Gen Y viewpoint, 37% love shopping, another 48% enjoy it, and 12% view it as a chore but can cope with it; only 4% hate to shop. Half the men and 70% of the women consider shopping a form of entertainment and something to share with friends and family. Importantly, that is an aspect of shopping that cannot be replicated easily online, though pinterest.com, Skype, and social media are encroaching on face-to-face interactions. More women than men love to shop, but most young men find it enjoyable and are engaged. More Hispanics than non-Hispanics love shopping, as do more blacks than whites. 

Attitudes about Shopping

 

 Respondent

Love to shop

Shop when necessary, and enjoy it

Shopping is a necessary chore, I can deal with it

Hate shopping

Total sample

37%

48%

12%

4%

Men

29%

51%

15%

5%

Women

44%

45%

9%

3%

Hispanic

44%

45%

8%

3%

Non-Hispanic

35%

48%

12%

4%

White

33%

50%

12%

5%

Black

55%

34%

8%

3%

Other

32%

50%

17%

1%

Source: ULI/Lachman Associates Survey, January 2013.(Other includes Asians, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, and people who identify themselves as biracial or multiracial)

At the same time, though, 91% of Gen Y made online purchases over the previous six months, and 45% spend more than an hour per day looking at retail-oriented websites. They are researching products, comparing prices, envisioning how clothing or accessories would look on them, or responding to flash sales or coupon offers. In terms of actual purchasing, stores still dominate; but Gen-Yers are multichannel shoppers.

Over half of all Gen-Yers go at least once a month to the following retail formats:

  • Discount department stores (91%)
  • Neighborhood and community shopping centers (74%)
  • Enclosed malls (64%)
  • Full-line department stores (64%)
  • Big-box power centers (63%)
  • Chain apparel stores (58%)
  • Neighborhood business districts (54%)

Gen-Yers are big fans of eating out: 46% dine at least weekly with friends or family outside their homes; one-quarter do so several times each week, with dinner being slightly more popular than lunch. Many are serious foodies, and 25% say they grocery shop more than once a week; another 40% shop weekly for groceries.

Describing their residential orientation, 39% of Gen-Yers said they are “city” people. Among current respondents in their 30s, only 34% say they are city people versus 41% of those 18 to 30. Significantly, 54% of Hispanics and 63% of blacks describe themselves as city folks, where most of them grew up. One should not conclude that all the “city” types migrate there. Many simply stay where they were raised, says the report.

Whereas 29% of all respondents claim to be “suburbanites,” only 22% of Hispanics and blacks use that descriptor. Among Gen-Yers in their 30s, 36% identify with the suburbs, and those folks have the highest homeownership rate in the sample. One-third of Gen Y says they are “small-town/country people.” Among whites, the proportion is 37%; but it is a much lower 25% for Hispanics and just 17% for blacks. 

Where Gen Y Lives

Location

% of Respondents

Downtown/near downtown

14%

City neighborhood outside downtown

34%

Dense, older suburb

13%

Newer, outlying suburb

11%

Small city/town (Population under 50,000)

19%

Rural community

10%

Source: ULI/Lachman Associates Survey, January 2013.

Locational self-images do not necessarily match respondents’ current places of residence. In contrast to the 39% who define themselves as city people, nearly 48% actually live in cities: 14% in or near downtowns, but a much larger 34% in other urban neighborhoods. Although a relatively small share of the total sample, “downtowners” are a unique lot, varying from their Gen-Y peers in numerous statistically significant ways: 

  • 62% are male, compared with 47% of all other respondents.
  • 51% are age 18 to 25 versus 44% for the rest of the sample.
  • 34% are Hispanic, compared with 18% of others.
  • 23% are black versus 15% of those not living downtown.

Though an essay in the New York Times Magazine said Gen Y’s “... relationship with money seems quite simple. They do not have a lot of it, and what they do have, they seem reluctant to spend,” that assertion is not borne out by the survey. More than 45% of survey respondents have annual household incomes exceeding $50,000, and the median is $45,979. For 18- to 35-year-olds this is not bad, especially given that one-quarter of them still live with parents and/or other older relatives and many are in school and not working full time. In addition, some of those who live independently receive financial assistance from parents.

Dichotomies abound. American Express and the Harrison Group, a Connecticut-based marketing consulting firm, observe that one-third of Gen Y grew up relatively wealthy. The Ipsos Mendelsohn Affluent Survey found that 11.8 million Millennials age 18 to 30 live in households with incomes exceeding $100,000 per year. People who grow up in financial comfort typically are not driven by money or traditional status symbols. At the same time, Gen Y respects quality of materials and manufacture, and the report notes that casual is fine, but so is a designer hoodie! Similarly, Gen-Yers might patronize Walmart but wear a Zegna tie or Manolo Blahnik shoes. They will travel to the World Cup in South Africa or Brazil but shop at Sam’s Club.

Gen Y shops frequently for groceries. Although only 6% make a daily grocery purchase, 25% buy food more than twice a week and another 40% purchase groceries at least weekly. When asked where respondents typically shop for nonperishable groceries, each person could mention up to three shopping venues, though more than 40% specified just one type of store.

Gen Y takes shopping seriously and spends a lot of online time researching, fantasizing, considering flash-sale promotions, checking out what celebrities are wearing and then imagining how they would look in similar outfits, using pinterest.com to share items with family members, and keeping up with food and fashion blogs. In fact, when asked how many hours they spend on line per day checking out retail-oriented sites, the response is: 

Time Online Per Day Checking Retail Oriented Sites

 

Total sample

M en

Women

Less than 1 hour

55%

52%

58%

1–2 hours

28%

28%

29%

2–3 hours

11%

12%

9%

>3 hours

6%

8%

4%

Source: ULI/Lachman Associates Survey, January 2013

This is daily computer time; 45% of respondents spend at least an hour each day on retail-oriented sites. Among those spending over two hours, men are more obsessed than women. Within Gen Y, male fashion has assumed a new prominence, and the overall survey results reinforce that trend. 

Find more information about the study results here, as well as access to the report in PDF format.

 

 

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