A journey into the heart of Generation Y shopping habits

Posted on October 23, 2009


There are two trends that have shaped this generation’s attitudes toward shopping. The first is being raised during an era of “self-esteem” parenting, with a constant refrain of “Good job!” and “Everybody’s a winner!”

The second is the Internet, which taught them to expect everything to happen faster, for experiences and products to be customized just for them, and to rely to an even-greater degree on friends for advice.

The result, says Yarrow, is a generation that is extremely confident, has a much closer relationship with its parents and excels at using technology to get what they want.

On the downside, it is an anxious generation, worried that being told they can do everything, they are actually expected to do it. They mature much more slowly. And they have set the bar high in terms of their jobs and relationships. The result is a tremendous amount of stress. Many Gen Y’s surveyed said shopping provided a “mental vacation.”

The conclusions made in this article don’t mesh for me. Gen Y is stressed out, so we expect a more personalized shopping experience? The author goes on to say he’s “afraid that our society has bred a generation of shopping-obsessed, materialistic offspring.”

On the other side, you could argue that Gen Y’s determination to find the best deal and our love of “try before you buy” retail leads to retailers and manufacturers developing better products and services. We can always walk out of the store and search online for the same product at a better price… or a better product altogether. We’re certainly not the only group to benefit from that shift.

This is part of the problem with lumping tweens into the same group as late 20-somethings. While 13 year old girls (apparently in the same generation as I’m classified by this author) might be willing to settle for a messy pile of clothes at Forever 21, I want to touch and feel the quality of clothes at boutiques and mass merchants. I want to try the makeup at MAC so that I know it won’t irritate my skin… I’m not materially obsessed, but I’m not willing to sacrifice quality.

Are you a GenXer or GenYer? What do you think of the differences in our shopping habits?

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