How Millennials Really Shop, According to Retailers

We tested the validity of some common ideas about how this generation spends its money.

Katie Caron
10/12/2017
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(Photo: stock.adobe.com, zinkevych)

A lot has been said about Millennials and their shopping habits. Many picture the Millennial consumer as cheap, often found lazing on the couch and scouring the internet for deals on their phones. But do these perceptions hold up? We got to the bottom of it by reaching out to the people who know best: showroom staff. Employees at lighting and home decor businesses weighed in on five statements about how Millennials are said to shop — here’s what they said. 

1. “Millennials mostly shop online and are guilty of showrooming.”

“I agree that they mostly shop online, but Millennials also like small mom-and-pops. They’re always looking for a deal but I think they like better quality things and stuff that’s unique.” – Angie Moreno, Design Consultant at Sacksteder’s Interiors, Montgomery, OH

“I disagree. I think that Millennials are wise enough to know that what you see online isn’t always what you get, and I think it’s really more about price point. If you can show them something fabulous at a reasonable price point they’re more than happy to come into the showroom and shop with you.” – Jackie Dunn, Interior Designer at ID Cincinnati, Madeira, OH

“I would have to agree with that, because I think they’re lazy and don’t want to go out in the stores. That’s basically it, they want to sit on their cell phone or on their computer and do all their shopping that way. They don’t come out to shop anymore.” – Marji Vincent, Manager of Home South, Rock Hill, SC

2. “Millennials don’t invest in quality home furnishings.”

I think they do invest in quality home furnishings, but they look for quality at the best price online.” – Brent Smith, President of Charleston Lighting & Interiors, Charleston, SC

“I would have to agree with that too. Cheaper is better, so they think. I think with the cost of living and what they get paid, they can’t afford to invest. They don’t look at it as an investment that could last them the rest of their life, they look at it as a instant buy, let’s get it done with, not thinking about the consequences of buying cheaper, and a lot of that is because they can’t afford it.” – Marji Vincent, Manager of Home South, Rock Hill, SC

“Not necessarily true, I guess it depends. It goes both ways — I think they’re going to shop at say Target or somewhere, but they’ll also spend money on something if they really like it. It’s definitely a mixture. If they like it, they’ll buy it if it’s cheaper, and if they like it, they’ll buy it if it’s more.” – Laura Norris, Sales Associate at Magnolias, Norfolk, NE 

3. "Millennials aren't loyal customers."

“I think they are loyal customers. They value people’s integrity and the product, if something is good. They do like good customer service too. I think if they have a good experience then they’ll come back to a place.” – Angie Moreno, Design Consultant at Sacksteder’s Interiors, Montgomery, OH 

“That’s too much of a blanket statement, simply because for interior designers, it’s really more about understanding the wants and the wishes and the needs of your client. If you’ve done that, then you’ve got a relationship and people come back to you whether they’re Millennial or Baby Boomer or whatever.” – Jackie Dunn, Interior Designer at ID Cincinnati, Madeira, OH

“As far as our store, it just depends on their niche. I’m going by my daughters, and I’d say they’re pretty loyal to their favorite places, so if it’s their niche, their place, they are loyal.” – Laura Norris, Sales Associate at Magnolias, Norfolk, NE

4. "Millennials value unique shopping experiences."

“I think they would rather have a unique shopping experience online than in brick-and-mortar stores. My theory is that shopping in brick-and-mortar stores is a perceived waste of time by the Millennial. They would rather shop online, save time and spend that saved time doing something ‘Millennial.’” – Brent Smith, President of Charleston Lighting & Interiors, Charleston, SC

“Definitely. I don’t think Millennials like going into a Macy’s or a big department store because it’s not a very unique experience. They want something that gives them a little more personality, where they like to go back to because they value having a more one-on-one experience with other people and they know that those people are working hard for what they’re doing.” – Angie Moreno, Design Consultant at Sacksteder’s Interiors, Montgomery, OH

“True, I believe Millennials are looking for unique pieces and will go to certain stores to find them. Millennials are drawn to more boutique-type atmospheres.” Kacey Winkler, Interior Designer at Interiors by France, Bismarck, ND

5. "Millennials don't respond to traditional marketing."

“Who does respond to traditional marketing? Nobody reads the newspaper anymore. As far as television and radio advertising go, there are too many options out there where you can avoid annoying advertising.” – Brent Smith, President of Charleston Lighting & Interiors, Charleston, SC

“That’s a yes and no as well. I think they’re more social media-driven. More and more businesses are becoming more social media-oriented. But [Millennials] are not going to look for your ad in the newspaper. They may see an ad in a magazine that they love, or watching HGTV they’ll see something that inspires them, but I do think that social media — Instagram, Houzz, Facebook — those things are all important in ways that they haven’t been in the past.” – Jackie Dunn, Interior Designer at ID Cincinnati, Maderia, OH 

“True, Millennials seem to want to browse on their own and they don’t want a salesperson to hover over them. They know what they like and if they have questions they will come find you. Millennials have already done their research and don’t need someone to ‘sell’ it to them.” – Kacey Winkler, Interior Designer at Interiors by France, Bismarck, ND

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