The sun is rising on a new generation of shoppers

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

With all the important news about revolving-door changes of NFL and college football coaches, you may have missed this story: apparently, there’s gonna be some sort of presidential election in the U.S. this autumn.

Not surprised? Then maybe this will give you a jolt: People born in the year 2006 will be eligible to vote in November. A few of you, like me, may have shirts or neckties in our closets that we bought in 2006.

It should be a big wake-up call to our retail world.

Sure, 18-year-olds don’t buy many mattresses. But a lot of them get new mattresses for their college dorms. But that’s not the biggest part of the story.

Your shopper base is changing. Fast.

Last century, we fretted about Y2K. Those babies born in 2000 are turning 24 this year. That age is the early cusp of your target market. And while you may have been sporting butterfly clips or a long mullet in 1990, the kids born that year will be blowing out 34 candles on their birthday cake. They are smack dab in the center of your target market.

Baby boomers, those born between 1946 and 1964, numbered over 75 million in the U.S. at their peak. They are the biggest generation with the most money and an insatiable appetite for consumer goods. For most of our retail lives almost all marketing has been directed at them.

Their days of big-ticket purchases aren’t over. But the sun is dipping behind the mountain very rapidly.

Your new shoppers are mid-range millennials and Gen Z’ers. They are 20 to 40 years old, moving out on their own and have money to spend. You need to market and sell to them on their terms. Or ride that same sunset over the mountain.

Here are some starting points on reaching out to your new shoppers:

  • They don’t buy or read newspapers. Rip ROP out of your ad budget.
  • They watch very little network TV. In a nation of 330 million, 18 million watched the Oscars, 8 million viewed a game of the World Series and 6 million tuned in to the Emmys.
  • They get their news and information from Instagram (51%), YouTube (31%) and TikTok (33%).
  • They earn money. The average household income for millennials is $71,000. For Gen Z it’s $32,000. And rising.
  • No matter what advertising venue you choose, your new shoppers will visit your website before they visit your store. If the site doesn’t capture their attention, they will move on.
  • Phone calls are so last century. Text and chat are the way your new shoppers communicate.
  • American millennials and Gen Z’ers number over 130 million. More than one-third of the total U.S. population. In Canada there are 8 million millennials and 6.7 million Gen Z’ers, about 38% of the total.
  • Convenience and a hassle-free shopping experience surpasses low price for the new shoppers. (Just ask Instacart or Uber Eats.)

We have far more to learn and not much time. When all else fails, ask the experts! How about inviting your younger family members to check out your website? Next, invite relatives of your delivery or office team who may be in that age range to tour your store. Ask them to text you their impressions of your shop’s presentation — the way it looks and how it makes them feel. Ask what they would change. Honesty is paramount.

Their answers may be difficult to accept, but your actions are crucial to your relevance. And your future.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YSN. You can reach him at

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