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Wake up call: Millennials are not the only consumer

By Jackie Mallon



It’s a message arriving from sources as varied as Stylus, whose recent Decoded Futures summit in New York questioned our obsession with that most cash-poor demographic, to the United Nations which released a report this year stating that the population of all countries is expected to rise over the coming two decades. But still it’s a message that seems to be going unheard along the corridors of retail power.

Experts warn us to expand our view to include the generations that bookend the millennials. According to Marshall Cohen, chief analyst at NPD Group, “The fastest growing segment, with the highest discretionary spending power, is the boomer demographic. Yet marketeers still put all their eggs in one millennial basket.”And Visa Business and Economic Insights 2018 reports that over 55s account for nearly half of all consumer spending and over 70 percent of wealth in the US. Gen X is also not ready to hang up its fashion credibility now that it has passed 40, yet it is also underrepresented in media and marketing. According to Bankrate, Gen X spends more on vices than any other generation––shouldn’t they be well-dressed for their misbehaving?

Over-50s hungry for fashion

What is behind our shortsightedness? Millennials are not only cash-poor, but they are over-served. Whereas over-55s do not see themselves represented in the fashion industry to such an extent that they are forced to spend their money elsewhere and account for nearly 60 percent of all leisure travel spend. Conspicuously still absent from mainstream fashion and beauty advertising, this demographic is however fashion-hungry as evidenced by its success on Instagram. AdvancedStyle, by Ari Seth Cohen, with 248,000 followers has spawned numerous style books celebrating colorful, confident peacocks of a certain age. Not content with stereotypical depictions of older women, Accidental Icon, Lyn Slater, has 577,000 Instagram followers and describes herself on her blog as “the woman who does not consume garments, she lives her life in them and dresses honestly, has original style without being eccentric…has the strength not to be part of a group even while she is delightedly part of a group(s).” Beloved 97-year-old New Yorker, Iris Apfel has 1.1 million followers, starred in a documentary about her life and a Barbie doll made in her likeness. More than just style influencers, these individuals are cultural impactors, so why are brands ignoring their power?

Engage with Gen Z now

Marketers are also failing to future-proof their businesses by engaging with another cash-rich consumer on the opposite end of the life experience spectrum. According to Barkley 2018, the US Gen Z’s self-spend is 143 billion dollars per annum compared to the millennial annual self-spend of 65 billion dollars. Gen Z has grown up in a time of economic instability amidst fast-paced innovations in digital technology which as a result has made them, according to Forbes, “resolute, smart, pragmatic and hard-working” and puts them “on track to become the largest generation of consumers by the year 2020.” Tech natives, they are extremely connected, pay attention to ratings and reviews, and have major influence on the current household spend. They are also reversing the online shopping trend exhibiting a preference for in-store shopping experience. According to Forbes, “Gen Z leans on brands more when it comes to helping them craft their identities” so while they currently consume more information than products, they are informed. This is precisely the right time for brands to begin to build loyalty with them.

Photos by Pixabay, FashionUnited.

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