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Millennial Passions: Food, Fashion, and Friends

November 06, 2012 by Christine Barton, Lara Koslow, Jeff Fromm, and Chris Egan
In This Article
  • The Millennial generation is poised to leave its mark on the world—and its dollars in the cash registers of restaurants and stores in the U.S.

  • Millennials—both men and women—are knowledgeable about clothing, like buying it, and are forming strong brand preferences.

  • To keep these shoppers coming, savvy owners of malls and mall stores will focus on six key principles of attraction.


The Millennial generation is poised to leave its mark on the world—and its dollars in the cash registers of restaurants and stores around the U.S. Although the youngest members of this 16- to 34-year-old group are still financially dependent on their parents, the Millennials are forming strong brand and retail-format preferences, and they report an intentional influence on the behaviors and brand choices of their family and friends, and even complete strangers.

What’s more, Millennial attitudes toward and preferences for marketing and media are early indicators of trends that will eventually spread beyond this group to non-Millennial consumers. And unlike with past generations, the influence of Millennials is far from passive and narrow. Rather, members of this generation are active advocates and detractors, using social media to broadcast their preferences and influence the choices of others.

To better understand Millennials as consumers, The Boston Consulting Group joined forces with Barkley and Service Management Group to survey 4,000 Millennials (ages 16 to 34) and 1,000 non-Millennials (ages 35 to 74) in the U.S. A key focus of this research was to identify how behaviors and attitudes differ between the two groups and determine which of those differences are truly generational characteristics of Millennials—and not merely qualities associated with youth in general.

To this end, we looked not just at age but also at household income, employment details, marital status, and the presence of children in the household. We took into account any significant differences related to gender as well as ethnicity and race. For example, we looked in particular at Hispanic Millennials because of that group’s rapid growth in terms of population size and discretionary spending.

As noted in an earlier report on the Millennial consumer, the members of this generation are entering their peak earning and spending years. Our findings put to rest one stereotype: that Millennials aren’t particularly interested in spending money. Moreover, their needs and preferences are often quite different from those of non-Millennials as well as those of one another. In this article, we explore U.S. Millennials in terms of their dining and apparel-shopping habits: two categories that rank high with this generation in terms of enjoyment, knowledge, and overall spending.