Boomers Vs. Millennials: Holiday Shopping … In September?

Don’t wake up Santa or Hanukkah Harry just yet. It’s still technically summer for a few more days, but we already know how shoppers — Baby Boomers and millennials — are going to shop this holiday season.

Making a list, checking it twice…

Holiday shopping may see an uptick this year, but Mintel, the global marketing intelligence agency, said it’ll be somewhat somber. Retail sales in November and December are forecast to grow by just 1.3 percent year on year, the slowest rate of growth since 2006.

But how are Baby Boomers and millennials going to gift this year? Buckle up, reindeer…

Millennials, well, they’ve got their wallets and they’re ready to spend, with most planning on spending significantly more this holiday season than last year. According to Mintel, about two-thirds (64 percent) of millennials intend to spend more this holiday season over last year. Baby Boomers don’t agree. Only 20 percent of Baby Boomers say they’ll spend more.

That’s not to say that they want things, per se, but rather experiences, like travel and new activities, including living in bustling urban centers and eating at trendy restaurants. Whatever you do, don’t think those antiques and hand-me-downs are going to be a hit. The Washington Post focused on the flood of thrift shops, consignment stores and auction houses with items like furniture, silverware and other types of collectibles that millennials’ parents would like to pass down to them. Those millennials simply just say, “No, thanks.”

Interestingly so, because apparently studies say their inheritance isn’t changing buying behavior. Experts at Accenture said there is $30 billion in inheritance headed to transfer from Baby Boomers to millennials in the upcoming years. Among those millennials polled, almost 60 percent responded that that money doesn’t tweak their spending habits.

Let’s touch on those spending habits: They’re not buying houses, but they are starting more businesses. Sure, we all get to decide where and how we spend our money.

So, what are millennials buying? Gift cards, even for themselves. Mercator Advisory Group surveyed about 3,000 adults, and 63 percent bought these types of cards this year, compared to 61 percent in 2015 and 56 percent in 2014. They like their online purchases, and they like the digital connection.

Who’s online? You guessed it. Millennials drive online sales, with 88 percent intending to complete half of their shopping online and almost 40 percent hoping to check off their holiday shopping list online.

As for Baby Boomers, they have also moved online, but they’re only really shopping where they feel most comfortable. In an interview with Knowledge@Wharton, through University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, Andrew Mantis, executive vice president of checkout tracking at The NPD Group, said: “Whether it is a QVC or a Macy’s, it’s a store they’re comfortable with. The Gen Xers are kind of in between. They’ll be picking up some of the online pure plays, like a Zappos or a Zulily.”

But online or offline, Berkeley Research Group said that millennials prefer their local community for shopping. About 76 percent of millennials said that this factor was most important to them, and it was least important to 61 percent of Baby Boomers.

“There is a comfort with technology that millennials have, and it decreases as you age,” said Marlene Morris Towns, a professor of marketing at Georgetown University. “There are some things about holiday shopping that are ritual, and I will find myself in the stores on Christmas Eve doing that last-minute dash. For me, it’s part of that whole holiday experience.”

There is indeed something to the holiday shopping experience and perhaps the memories we grew up with — which are different for different generations.

Regardless of age or generation, that last-minute shopping the day or two before Christmas is when the rush really sets in, and that’s when online may not cut it.

Last year, America’s Research Group released the results of a study tapping into the Monday before Christmas. Seventy-five percent of consumers were not yet finished with their holiday shopping, and nearly half said they would wait until Christmas Eve to wrap up their purchases. Most notably, that was at a 12-year high.

Since it’s just September, we’ll just have to be good and wait and see what kind of shopper arrives.