Retailers Are Betting That Millennials Can't Do Anything

Retailers Are Betting That Millennials Can't Do Anything

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Dabney Frake
Dec 18, 2017
(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

26-year-olds are the largest age group in the United States right now, and, aside from making avocado toast and going to libraries, can't do much of anything. So goes the thinking at some major retailers, who are shifting marketing strategies in the hope that millennials turn to them to fill the gap between their desire for a cozy, welcoming home, and the practical life skills needed to get there.

According to Zillow, millennials are driving the current real estate market and ready to invest in their homes: 86% of homeowners in this age group made at least one home improvement in the past year. Perhaps because they can't afford a pro, they're also more willing to jump in and do it themselves — more so than other generations — even if they don't have a DIY background or the skills.

And therein lies the problem, or the opportunity, depending on how you see it. Since millennials grew up with so-called helicopter parents, they were more apt to do structured or virtual activities —a full schedule of dance classes, or playing online video games. As a result, they didn't grow up informally shadowing mom or dad while they worked on the house or planted a garden on the weekends, or puttering around and exploring a hobby on their own. Basic (and we mean basic) hands-on and life skills are missing from their toolbox, the theory goes, like making sure plants get sun, or how to use a tape measure.

As retailers actively look for ways to reach out to this powerful demographic (and capture their dollars early on), one strategy is to bridge that gap. Companies like Home Depot and Sherwin-Williams are increasingly hosting classes and posting online tutorials to teach basic home repair, like installing a ceiling fan or painting a room.

Other retailers like West Elm are betting on a DIFM (do it for me) vs. DIY mentality, and now offer home repair, installation — in addition to design services. Customers can get help hanging artwork, swapping out a light fixture, in additional to design advice like picking out the right patterned rug for their space.

Millennials, what do you think? Is this approach condescending or correct? What's your experience?

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