retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There have been a couple of stories this week that grabbed my attention because they pointed to ways in which different demographics are behaving in non-traditional ways ... which in turn should suggest to marketers that they may need to adjust their assumptions about at least some of their customers.

The Wall Street Journal reports that "a University of Michigan study of state driver’s licensing statistics shows a sharp decline over the past two decades among people under 25 years of age getting their driver’s licenses. The drop signals high-schoolers and college-age Americans are less interested in driving than previous generations. And the change is spreading to their parents and grandparents, moves that have auto makers scrambling to ramp up investments in alternative mobility services such car-hailing services."

While these statistics would seem to be at odds with numbers pointing to 2015 as being the best year in history for the US automobile industry, the story notes that the population is growing faster than car sales, which would suggest that demand may, in fact, be waning. (Though, to be fair, it is remarkable that an industry that was hearing death knells a few years ago has rebounded as much as it has.)

At the same time, the New York Times has a story about how some aging baby boomers, when embarking on retirement, are eschewing golf courses and resorts and instead are "traversing hiking trails, rivers and mountains," or getting in kayaks or on bicycles, choosing to spend their time on the Appalachian Trail or the Camino de Santiago rather than on the back nine.

I love the guy in the Times story who says he's racing to "beat the aging cartilage in my knees," and squeeze in as much of this stuff as he can. And while I'm probably still 11-15 years from anything close to retirement, I have to say that all this stuff sounds a lot more attractive than a golf course or resort. (What would the MNB audience think if I decided to post each day while walking along the Camino de Santiago? I may have to find out one of these years...)

But the larger lesson here is that today's customers do not necessarily match the expectations and categorizations of the past ... and marketers of all kinds have to be aware of these attitudinal and behavioral shifts.

It is an Eye-Opener.
KC's View: