As wall street analysts celebrate the coming of age of the millennial generation, a group of young people who were supposed to lead another revolutionary wave of consumerism if only they could work long enough to escape their parents' basement, retailers like Home Depot are panicked about selling into what will soon be America's largest demographic...but not for the reasons you might think.
While avocado resellers like Whole Foods only have to worry about creating a catchy advertising campaign to attract millennials, Home Depot is in full-on panic mode after realizing that an entire generation of Americans have absolutely no clue how to use their products. As the Wall Street Journal points out, the company has been forced to spend millions to create video tutorials and host in-store classes on how to do everything from using a tape measure to mopping a floor and hammering a nail.
Home Depot's VP of marketing admits she was originally hesitant because she thought some of their videos might be a bit too "condescending" but she quickly learned they were very necessary for our pampered millennials.
In June the company introduced a series of online workshops, including videos on how to use a tape measure and how to hide cords, that were so basic some executives worried they were condescending. “You have to start somewhere,” Mr. Decker says.
Lisa DeStefano, Home Depot vice president of marketing, initially hesitated looking over the list of proposed video lessons, chosen based on high-frequency online search queries. “Were we selling people short? Were these just too obvious?” she says she asked her team. On the tape-measure tutorial, “I said ‘come on, how many things can you say about it?’ ” Ms. DeStefano says.
Meanwhile, Scotts Miracle-Gro has been forced to start training classes to remind frustrated millennials, who can't seem to keep their flowers alive, that plants need sunlight to grow (apparently not a single millennial ever took biology in grade school). Commenting on the tutorials, a defeated VP of Corporate Affairs, Jim King, admitted "these are simple things we wouldn’t have really thought to do or needed to do 15 to 20 years ago"...sorry, Mr. King this is your life now.
The Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. has started offering gardening lessons for young homeowners that cover basic tips—really, really basic—like making sure sunlight can reach plants.
“These are simple things we wouldn’t have really thought to do or needed to do 15 to 20 years ago,” says Jim King, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Scotts. “But this is a group who may not have grown up putting their hands in the dirt growing their vegetable garden in mom and dad’s backyard.”
“They grew up playing soccer, having dance recitals and playing an Xbox,”says Scott’s Mr. King. “They probably didn’t spend as much time helping mom and dad out in the yard as their predecessors or their predecessors’ predecessors.”
Companies such as Scotts, Home Depot Inc., Procter & Gamble Co. , Williams-Sonoma Inc.’s West Elm and the Sherwin-Williams Co. are hosting classes and online tutorials to teach such basic skills as how to mow the lawn, use a tape measure, mop a floor, hammer a nail and pick a paint color.
Unfortunately, at least for the Home Depots of the world, millennials now represent the largest demographic in America with 4.75 million 26 year olds roaming the streets of New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles without a clue as to how to use a tape measure.
The biggest single age cohort today in the U.S. is 26-year-olds, who number 4.8 million, according to Torsten Slok, chief international economist for Deutsche Bank . People 25, 27 and 24 follow close behind, in that order. Many are on the verge of life-defining moments such as choosing a career, buying a house and having children.
Millennials as a whole are America’s latest demographic bubble, overtaking the baby boom generation and, like them, transforming popular culture, retailing, media and lifestyles. They make up about 42% of all home buyers today, and 71% of all first-time home buyers, according to Zillow Group . Some 86% of millennial home buyers reported making at least one improvement to their home in the past year, more than any other generation, Zillow says.
While we have our doubts that it will save their business, retailers like J.C. Penney and West Elm are trying to adapt to the millennial generation by offering basic in-home services like installing televisions or hanging wall art.
J.C. Penney Co. says the group is willing to hire others for projects. The retailer has pushed into home services, including furnace and air-conditioning repair, water-treatment systems and bathroom renovations, and expanded its window-covering installation.
“They’re much more of a ‘Do-It-for-Me’ type of customer than a ‘Do-It-Yourself’ customer,” says Joe McFarland, executive vice president of J.C. Penney stores. “You don’t need a ladder or a power drill, you don’t even have to wonder if you measured your window right.”
Home-furnishings retailer West Elm offers service packages, which start at $129, to provide plumbing and electrical work, painting, installing a television and hanging wall art and mirrors.
All that said, at least some millennials are trying to be more self-sufficient...as an example, the WSJ notes the case of 26-year-old Breanne Loes who recently borrowed her dad's power tools to craft a wooden headboard...which went really well AFTER she realized the saw blade was on backwards.
Ms. Loes enjoys do-it-yourself projects, and two summers ago built with her now-husband a wooden headboard in her parents’ garage, with help from an online tutorial, her dad, two older brothers and their tools.
The saw wasn’t working at first because the blade was backward. “That was embarrassing,” says Ms. Loes.
Congrats, Breanne, really great job...really.