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Pandemic And In-Store Promotions: Younger Generations Don’t Need Them, Older Generations Don’t Want Them

The benefits of youth have often been touted as resiliency, adaptability and optimism. We are certainly seeing this play out in Gen Z and Millennial behavior across America right now. And this isn’t stopping short of where younger generations are shopping and how much they are buying.

Recent research is showcasing that Millennials and Generation Z are purchasing both online and in-store more often than other generations. As a comparison, 66 percent of Gen Z and 61 percent of Millennials are purchasing both online and in-store compared to only 37 percent of Baby Boomers who report shopping in both channels.

Generation Z is also the most likely to go in-store, according to another survey from June which found Gen Zers intend to shop in-store for personal and beauty care (71 percent), clothing (71 percent) and entertainment items (33 percent) once stores reopen. And 39 percent of Gen Z respondents said they are ready to return to in-store shopping right now.

As retailers and brands consider the place of promotions and discounting as part of their strategy to lure consumers back in-store, First Insight research from the end of April showed that younger generations were less inclined to require big discounts. The data also uncovered, however, that Baby Boomers were less likely to go in-store for any discount than other generations, likely due to the increased risk of COVID-19 on older generations. But this does beg the question as to whether deep discounts and promotions are even necessary, at a time when retailers are working to offload inventory while also making the most money.

More Younger Generation Shoppers Enticed by Smaller Discounts on Apparel, Footwear

For example, 40 percent of Gen Z and 42 percent of Millennials said they would require a minimum promotional offer of 30 percent or less to entice them to go back in-store to buy apparel. This compares to 36 percent of Gen X and Baby Boomers. Worth noting, only 7 percent of Millennials and Gen Z respectively said they would not buy apparel in-store for any discount, compared to 16 percent of Baby Boomers. 

Similarly, in footwear, 38 and 39 percent of Gen Z and Millennials, respectively, require a minimum promotional offer of 30 percent or less on footwear, compared to 27 percent of Baby Boomers, who prefer larger discounts. However, 19 percent of Boomers said they would not buy footwear for any discount, compared to only 8 percent of Gen Z and 9 percent of Millennials.

Boomers Least Likely to Buy Accessories In-Store, Discount or Not

Similar to apparel, younger generations also were the most inclined to be lured back in store with lower discounts than other generations on accessories, handbags and jewelry. Thirty-three percent of Generation Z and 37 percent of Millennial respondents require a minimum promotional offer of 30 percent or less on these purchases, compared to only 17 percent of Baby Boomers who said the same. Baby Boomers were most likely to need a 30-50 percent discount (24 percent of respondents), but interestingly 41 percent said they wouldn’t buy accessories in-store at all. This compares to 16 percent of both Generation Z and Millennial respondents.

Younger Generations Most likely to Purchase Home Décor at Lowest Discount Level

Thirty-four percent of Generation Z and 38 percent of Millennials would need a minimum discount of 30 percent or less on home décor items to go in-store, compared to only 24 percent of Boomers, who preferred a 30-50 percent discount (28 percent). Worth noting, 30 percent of Baby Boomers said they would not buy home decor items compared to 15 percent of Generation Z and 14 percent of Millennials.

Home Improvement   

Generation Z (37 percent), Millennials (43 percent) and Generation X (40 percent) were the most inclined to need the lowest discount (30 percent or less) to return in-store to purchase home improvement products. While 31 percent of Baby Boomers said the same, 23 percent said they would not buy these items compared to 16 percent of Generation Z, 12 percent of Millennials and 14 percent Generation X.

At the end of June, Deloitte issued the results of an interesting study on Millennials and Gen Zs which said that while the younger generations have been hit hard by the pandemic, they view this period as an opportunity to reset and take action. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has radically shifted our way of life—how we work, socialize, shop, and more—and young generations were especially impacted,” says Michele Parmelee, Deloitte Global Chief People and Purpose Officer. “However, despite uncertain and discouraging conditions, Millennials and Gen Zs express impressive resiliency and a resolve to improve the world. As we rebuild our economies and society, young people will be critical in shaping the world that emerges.” The younger generations continue to stay hopeful, even in the midst of crisis. They are committed to improving society, pushing for a world in which businesses and governments mirror their own values and priorities.

The study notes that these generations are still very much concerned with the environment, and that the pandemic experience has made them more empathetic to the needs of others. As retailers and brands evaluate how best to move forward with the products and prices they offer, it will be interesting to see how they decide which items to select, and whether discounting may be even less important to rising generations of shoppers across a backdrop of sustainability, diversity and inclusion, social justice and more going forward. This also drives home the importance for retailers and brands to get it right the first time, offering the right product at the right price in order to make as many full price sales as possible. What the “right” price is will continue to change along with consumer needs and preferences, and listening to these changing customers will remain mission critical.

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