Upcycling trends: How Millennials and baby boomers cross over

  • News
  • August 11, 2016
  • Denise Piper
Upcycling trends: How Millennials and baby boomers cross over

Nineteen-year-old retailer Benjamin Dobbs says he has been pleasantly surprised with the response to his shop from Mackenzie Country’s older generation.

His Fairlie store, Blank Space, stocks New Zealand clothing brands like Federation, Huffer and RPM – streetwear designed with teenagers and 20-somethings in mind.

But Dobbs has found a number of older customers buying the garments and wearing them their way. He gives the example of a woman in her 60s who bought a short Federation 'Sketch' dress.

“There are so many older people – around the 60-year-old mark – buying these dresses, which are 18-year-olds’ dresses, and putting them on with heels and leggings."

“Everything on my racks I’ve seen both ages buy. I was quite surprised.”

But Theo de Monchy, Previously Unavailable’s innovation planner, believes the motivation of Millennials and baby boomers is quite different, when generalised.

The Millennial generation is driving the need for companies to solve a social issue or right the wrongs of past generations. He gives the example of Eat My Lunch, a New Zealand company who gives one free lunch to a Kiwi child in need for every lunch sold.

Baby boomers, with their high disposable incomes, have helped drive the trend for organic, sustainably grown foods and high-quality products, de Monchy says.

But while these two trends have similarities, the distinction comes in the reasons for making these buying decisions, he says.

“Millennials do it to first support a company’s cause and second to buy a quality product, whereas baby boomers do it first for the quality of the product and second for the difference they can make.”

Retailers can make the most of these trends by being transparent about their purpose and offering a more authentic experience, de Monchy says.

“I think retailers need to realise that consumers are no longer just a mass crowd to be sold to but, rather, they are discerning individuals that need to be engaged with.” 

Juanita Neville-Te Rito from The Retail Collective believes there are many overlaps between older and younger generations.

Millennials are early adopters of technology and have pioneered “frictionless retail” – where they can buy whenever, wherever and however they want. But this has quickly been adopted by other generations, she says.

Younger customers have carved out many trends now taken up by older generations, from leisurewear to the gourmet burger trend. Brands like Adidas, Levi’s, Lewis Road Creamery and Burger Burger appeal to multiple generations, Neville-Te Rito says.

“The Millennials are the ones seeking it out more, but the older guys have got more disposable income: they’ll give it a go as they want to be part of the tribe.”

Neville-Te Rito says it is hard to generalise generations, with segments now being based on lifestyle, rather than age. Whether you are a NETTEL (Not Enough Time to Enjoy Life) or a KIPPER (Kids in Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement), part of the Sandwich generation (caring for parents and dependent children) or a Silver Styler (cosmopolitan retirees), depends on your situation, she says.

Likewise, some of the older generation save their pennies to leave a legacy for their children, while others spend their income on themselves because they have “damn earned it”, she says.

Like de Monchy, Neville-Te Rito says catering for all these different lifestyle segments involves offering a rich experience, with high-quality products, accessible – or at least researchable – online.

“The key trend is we’ve got an ageing population, they’re more educated and have more disposable income than before. They want a total retail experience.”

​ ​

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