It’s been well documented that the millennial generation is destroying certain industry sectors. Recently headlines touting that millennials have killed: beer, mayonnaise, diamonds, chain restaurants, department stores, razors, and Hooters, have all made their way into my morning headline scroll. I find myself amused because, as a member of the millennial generation (as now defined by those born between 1981-1996), I can assure you that there has not been a generational-wide conspiracy to shut out certain products. I’m sure I would have seen it on instagram. However, as a member of the millennial generation, I can also affirm that many of the industries experts are afraid we’re generationally ignoring…we probably are.
Forbes recently asserted that the reason millennials were shunning certain industries because we’re poor. While that may be true of spendier products like diamond jewelry and three bedroom homes, I also don’t think you can point to something like Frosted Flakes and ascertain that we’re not buying it because we don’t have the cash. True, many millennials are strapped with excessive student loan debt, which can be restrictive in making major purchases like homes our automobiles. However, millennial women are still shaving their legs, men are still trimming their lumberjack beards, and most of us are still eating breakfast (you know…avocado toast and all), so pointing the finger at the all-powerful dollar seems like an easy scapegoat.
Joking and stereotyping aside, there are probably more obvious, and less financially driven reasons that certain industries are lacking appeal among millennials. For example, a 2016 study suggested that millennials weren’t buying cereal because it required cleanup when finished. If this sounds ridiculous, it’s likely only because of the way it’s phrased. Afterall, if it stated that cereal wasn’t a convenient option to grab-and-go (because it was messy and required dishes, milk, etc.), or that cereal couldn’t be easily packed in a work or gym bag (because it required setup and cleanup), or that cereal didn’t work while driving or on public transportation (because it required setup or cleanup), you’d maybe agree with those options more readily than cereal in and of itself required a lot of cleanup. The simple fact is that cereal, compared to say a ready to drink protein shake or a piece of fruit, does require some cleanup. And in a world (let alone a generation) that values speed, efficiency, and convenience, cleanup isn’t ideal.
Moreover, I realized as an adult that eating a bowl of most cereals is like having dessert for breakfast. I might have craved Cinnamon Toast Crunch as a kid because it was packed with sugar and turned my milk a delicious swirly, sugary slurry; however, as a more health conscious adult who has grown up hearing the last fifteen years about the rise in obesity and weight related health issues, I’m may not be drawn to cereal because many options are not inherently healthy breakfast choices.
It may be easy to point at millennials and say that we “don’t care about…” or “can’t afford…” but in considering many of the industries that we’re supposedly “killing,” I find myself thinking that they actually reflect a much broader cultural shift, and a wider understanding of the things that we (and society) values. Here are five industries that maybe you should thank a millennial for shunning…because I think if we’re honest, we’d all be a little better off if these products and services were forced to reevaluate a little!
The day I read about millennials “killing” Hooters, I laughed out loud. According to company earnings reports, the number of Hooters locations in the US dropped almost 10% between 2012-2016, and the company has continuously struggled to attract millennial and women customers, most recently launching a failed campaign to revamp decor and menu items to cater towards millennial tastes.
Personally, I’ve never been in a Hooters. I’ve heard the wings are good, but there are actually A LOT of reviews on Yelp! that suggest that the food is mediocre at best. Add in the fact that you’re lounging in a slightly less than tacky strip club environment, and there should be little surprise that the generation that quickly rallied behind the #metoo movement, isn’t super keen about dining around women who are required by their contract to show a certain amount of cleavage. I’m going to go out on a limb, and it doesn’t feel too risky to say, that millennials aren’t “killing” Hooters. The idea of Hooters has always been a bit exploitive and sleazy, and it’s 2019…so people have noticed!
Ok, Hooters might be one thing, but what about other all American staples like Applebee’s and TGI-Fridays? Certainly there’s not a moral issue with traditional neighborhood chains that cater to families and the sports bar, jumbo appetizer platter loving types? In my humble, millennial opinion, you’d be right, there’s nothing inherently wrong with the sit down dining, chain bar and grill model. But if you look at food trends in general over the last five years, they’ve all shifted away from it.
Chain restaurants in and of themselves aren’t the problem. Chipotle enjoyed a millennial renaissance, catering to the idea that customers wanted food that was fresh and food that was fast. Also, chains that offer delivery options have continued to maintain sales while their brick and mortar only counterparts suffer. For good, bad, or otherwise, that freshness factor carried over into the sit down dining world as well. Truth be told, if I’m going to go out with my friends to a sit down place, we often look for a unique experience. Farm to table, unique entrees, menus that cater to special diets or allergies, wine bars, whiskey bars, craft beers, etc. The price point at many of our local places is comparable to chain restaurants, and honestly, the atmosphere, selection, and overall quality of the food is better.
You also have to take into account the surge in online food box services that encourage people to stay in and cook at home. True, these are expensive, and you could go put down a lot of appetizers and beer at Applebee’s for what it will cost you for three meals of Blue Apron. However, I think here, again, we see a cultural shift suggesting that even in a world that’s become increasingly fast paced and convenience oriented, sometimes we want that convenience to set us up to enjoy traditional values like a meal at home. Heck, even the instapot trend speaks to more millennials, and families, wanting a fast and easy way to prepare a meal, while also speaking to the value once again being placed on prepared at home.
Yes, you read that right. Millennials are bringing down the paper napkin business. The Washington Post recently attributed this to the fact that more millennials weren’t eating at home, and therefore weren’t buying napkins. Remember, however, that we’re also killing Hooters and chain restaurants, so if we’re not eating at home and buying napkins, that must mean we’re eating at Chipotle…where they stuff 30 napkins into the bottom of your takeout bag. You’d think this would balance itself out?!
The same Washington Post story did note, however, that millennials are still buying plenty of paper towels. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that millennials may have figured out that paper napkins and paper towels are essentially the same thing. One major difference is paper towels are all on a roll that stores neatly and conveniently on the counter for quick access and ease of use. I have to stuff a packed of napkins into goodness knows what cupboard. Also, and this might just be me, but I eat a lot of meals at home, so the Washington Post’s initial argument should apply to my needing napkins, but there’s a catch. I use cloth napkins…all the time…every day. Then, I wash them and use them again. Imagine the generation that had it beat into them to “reduce, reuse, and recycle” decided to stop buying paper towels folded into squares as a separate household paper product!
I picked this one knowing full well that I buck this millennial trend. I own diamonds. I like diamonds. I wear diamonds, and tend to still think that they are a romantic classic.
That being said, I also have friends that don’t wear diamonds. I have friends with colored gemstone engagement rings, lab created stones, and silicone wedding bands. And I get why they didn’t want the standard sparkler. First, diamonds are expensive, and the whole idea that a man should spend a certain multiple of his paycheck on a piece of jewelry when it’s becoming increasingly more expensive to live in general, doesn’t really jive. Secondly, diamonds are…traditional romance (based on what the diamond industry sold us on traditional romance looking like!). I like that tradition. I didn’t own diamond jewelry until my husband proposed, and when he did, I wanted the diamond. But there are plenty of people who like a non-traditional look instead. If colored gemstones weren’t widely available in the jewelry store, they’re now widely distributed online, and therefore much more easy to come by. Most are also conflict free, which brings me to…
Thirdly, diamonds have a pretty conflicted and violence strewn history. I mean, don’t watch Blood Diamond and then think you’re going to want to rush off to Rogers and Hollands to pick out a ring! Even among millennials who are buying diamonds, the demand for conflict free diamonds is up. My own diamond jewelry is set with Canadian diamonds, which makes me feel better about how it made its way into the jeweler’s case. Some might say that millennials are too feelings oriented, but there’s really not anything wrong with feeling poorly about an industry that’s been used to finance wars, genocides, and violence against women, children and civilians.
Marriage (and Divorce)
Maybe the real reason that millennials are killing the diamond industry is that we’re just not getting married like people used to. The average age of marriage is up; the overall rate of marriage is down. Thus, it stands to reason that fewer millennials are buying diamonds, as diamond engagement rings obviously don’t appeal to the unengaged.
I think there’s a lot of interesting cultural trends in the movement away from marriage and the movement towards marriages later than previous generations. There are also some interesting exceptions. My sister’s group of friends, for example, just about all ended up marrying people they met and/or dated in high school. As a result, most of them married in their early twenties. Many of the people I went to highschool with (just a class ahead of my sister) married later and/or are still single. I can’t name one couple from my graduating class that stayed together post high school. On the whole, I think society looks different for today’s twenty-two and twenty-three year olds than it did their parents and grandparents. When you figure that many millennials entered their early twenties into a job market that was collapsing, a housing market that was collapsing, and economy that was collapsing, it’s not difficult to understand why many postponed a trip down the aisle. Where would a new family live? How would a new family support itself? While the economy might appear to be “booming” in 2019, many young people saddled with student loan debt and the demands of entry-level positions are still asking themselves these questions. Waiting until careers are established and financial stability seems attainable makes sense for many young people contemplating taking the next step in a relationship.
Still, some will make the argument that the millennial generation is killing marriage because they’re rejecting monogamy. I find this to be categorically false among my own group of friends. And statistically, among married millennials and Gen X’ers, the divorce rate has fallen 18% in the last 10 years. (Coincidentally, divorce is up among baby boomers!) Maybe it’s just me, but I was not the same person at 23 that I was at 27. I’m not saying that had I been married at 23 I wouldn’t have made it work at 27; rather, I had a much better understanding of myself, what I wanted in a partner, and what I brought to a relationship at 27 (when I actually got married), which may have helped lay a foundation for future success. I was also stable in a career, as was my husband-to-be, and we had a house. My mom called me “an old bride” when trying on wedding dresses, but truely, I was just a bride who took time to find herself, know herself, appreciate what value she offered to a partner and know what I was looking for in return!
What else are millennials “single handedly destroying?” These 15 brands blame millennials for their recent decline in sales. Mashable is also keeping a list of headlines from various news agencies that have accused millennials of destroying certain industries. There current tally stands at 77 things!
Do I actually believe we’re “destroying” all these things? Probably not? Do I believe that a cultural shift has occurred on multiple levels that reflects a change in priorities? Doesn’t that happen with every generation? And if that’s the case, why give millennials so much grief? Afterall, you can’t tell me the world is actually worse off for having a few less Hooters around? And avocado toast…it’s delicious! 🙂