The Down Payment Will Have to Wait

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How the Millennial experience continues to impact high-end brands

I read an interesting piece recently about Millennials in The New York Times, which demonstrates the highs and lows of this remarkable group of consumers – and the challenges faced by marketers of high-end brands to impact their buying decisions.

At a macro level, Kyle Chayka nailed it by describing the pressures faced by Millennials in the US: “a lack of affordable housing and linear careers — are particularly tough on Millennials, who are also, incidentally or not, a historically unattached generation, with low rates of marriage, homeownership and childbearing. If the usual trappings of adulthood don’t seem attainable, and a permanent sense of precariousness seems unavoidable, why not embrace impermanence instead?”

Chayka’s article is a fascinating piece on the growing number of digital nomads using networks of live-work spaces around the world as an alternative to the path followed by their parents.

But the larger point about this “unattached generation” is what resonated with me. I recently suggested that while Millennials are putting off marriage and home ownership until “the time is right” or until they are on solid financial footing – the desire to someday own a home remains solid. Approximately three out of four renters say they would like to buy a home in the future.

When will the time be right to buy a home, get married, or have kids? Well, that concept seems to be evolving for Millennials. Putting off these life events will of course impact the housing market, the economy, and the fortunes of high-end brands.

Tiffany Hsu wrote in another Times piece about the impact of stock market volatility on this young group of consumers. She quotes Mario Tehuitzil, 27, who checked his stock holdings, which had plummeted by more than 40 percent at one point. “I’m aware of the risks but I never expected this rapid and severe drop,” said Mr. Tehuitzil, a New York-based pediatrics assistant. “Looks like the down payment for an apartment I’ve been eyeing will have to wait.” Hsu says that Millennials are “haunted by the trauma of the Great Recession,” and I think she’s right.

This macro-trend has enormous implications for marketers of high-end brands – and for any company in the housing space. Think about it: if the pie is not yet getting larger, with more home-owning Millennials entering the marketplace, then marketers will have to fight harder for their share of the pie.

Chris Ray

Chris Ray is founding editor of Upward Home, an online resource for marketers of high-end home brands.
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