retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Yesterday, MNB took note of a Bloomberg report on a new Federal Reserve study saying that Millennials, “long presumed to have less interest in the nonstop consumption of goods that underpins the American economy, might not be that different after all.” In fact, the study says, their spending habits are pretty much the same as previous generations. That’s the good news.

The bad news? They have less money to spend at this point in their lives.

Prompting one MNB reader to write:

The Bloomberg study findings are interesting if only because it refutes hypotheses that were perhaps built on studying one group too much and missing the larger picture. Here is what I mean.

We have heard how educational debt is dramatically different than in previous generations and is crippling the spending power of those that carry this debt. This has disproportionately fallen on Millennials causing them to delay larger purchases such as housing. Then the group waits to start a family as they are either in school or trying to figure out how to afford a place to live that they would feel comfortable raising kids. I don’t feel it is a big jump from there to conclude that changes in life stage timing and economic status explain most of the variances in behavior that are not explained by technology that impacts the general population.

What I have noticed is that the way research has changed and how the Millennials respond to being asked to give feedback is very different from previous generations. I frequently find answers that are more aspirational than realistic.

Perhaps that is the real difference, a generation that grew up branding themselves on social media for the world to see. Internet trolls simply do not have the same effect on behavior as the kids on the block that know you weren’t on a tropical vacation because you were in the ball field with them dropping the pop fly despite the picture you doctored and posted online.

We referenced yesterday a Bloomberg report that Amazon-owned Whole Foods “ranked worst in a study of five major U.S. grocery chains for chemicals it uses in packaging at its popular hot-food bar. In response, the company said it has removed all the coated paper products in question and has started a search for new biodegradable packaging.”

One MNB reader responded:

Wow, I think the Whole Foods brand could suffer from this in a big way. I would always have thought that they would be on the front line of ensuring the safety of food due to the promise that they are better than average. It turns out they were far from average in the wrong direction.

And finally, regarding a report that Walmart is testing a burger-flipping robot that may have applications in its various foodservice operations, one MNB reader wrote:

I sure hope the risk of salmonella doesn’t get out of control when Flippy doesn’t wash its hands after every use.

I’m sure that it has an automatic cleaning function. Just as I’m sure that, in the event of a water landing, it has been designed to serve as a flotation device.
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