Better life stage and lifestyle analysis needed to engage millennials

13 June 2016 4 min. read
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The millennial generation – those aged between 18 and 34 – now represents around one-quarter of the US population and 38% of total spending in US apparel sales. According to a new report, the group is currently being targeted too homogeneously by retailers. More focus on lifestage and lifestyle trends could provide a platform to better service millennials and bolster commercial potential.

US department stores have been suffering a mild contraction on apparel sales, last year seeing a 4% downturn in sales performance even while there was 2% growth in total US apparel sales. Reaching that group has become more important as its purchasing power is set to increase significantly over the coming decade

In the report, titled ‘In Apparel, Age Isn’t Everything’, A.T. Kearney considers the wider consumer landscape and their respective preferences in some detail – providing a more nuanced understanding of diversity within the generation of new, and old, shoppers. The survey for the report involves 2,355 men and women in the US.

Heavy purchaser by generation

The research highlights that the millennial generation has the highest proportion of heavy purchasers, those who purchased three or more items in the same category during the six-month time frame, across all generations in four key categories.

18% of millennials are heavy purchasers of jeans, compared to 8% of boomers, while 14% of millennials are heavy dress purchasers compared to 6% of boomers. The bra category had the highest overall percentage of heavy purchasers, with 25% of millennials and 18% of boomers.

Life stage has a big impact on purchasing behaviour

The research found, in addition, that the life stage of those within the different groups had an impact on the number of heavy purchasers. Millennials without children, for instance, were more than twice as likely to buy a dress (24% vs 9%), and also considerably more likely to be a heavy purchaser of bras (32% vs 23%). In terms of Gen-Xers, the largest difference was noted in the jeans category, where 13% of those with children were heavy spenders, compared to 5% without children.

Single millennials are heavy purchasers of dresses and bras

According to the consultants, the marital status of those within the various generations has an effect on whether they tend to be heavy purchasers. For instance, when it comes to dresses, 18% of the not married group are heavy purchasers, compared to 10% for the married group. Those not married in the millennial group also tended to be more heavily involved in bra purchases, at 30%, compared to those married, at 23%.

Shoppers with active lifestyles

The research also asked questions related to how the respondents interpreted their own lifestyle. Finding, for instance, that those who self-identified as wanting to have or having an active lifestyle – finding physical activity important – tended to be heavier purchasers across all four categories.

In jeans, for instance, 12% of those that said an active lifestyle is important were heavy purchasers, compared to 9% that do not find it important. In activewear, 20% of those that find and active life important are heavy purchasers, compared to 10% that do not find it important.

The authors of the report reflect: “Knowing a shopper’s life stage, fashion attitude, and whether or not he or she has an active lifestyle can improve how brands and retailers connect with consumers across generations. Whether it’s breaking away from age-based merchandise in stores (no more “Young Contemporary” section) or using social media to create a personal mobile shopping experience, it’s important to cater to a certain life stage, rather than a certain age.”