The Millennial Report: Shopping In These Unprecedented Times

In what felt like a moment, our lives were changed. We lost comfort and security for ourselves and our families. Daily life was suddenly different, and there was no quick fix. We don’t yet have all the coping mechanisms for living alongside Covid-19, but we do have muscle memory for tragedy that almost feels like déjà vu. Of course, we haven’t experienced a global pandemic before, but American millennials know of fear, uncertainty, and sudden change, and that’s not just trauma from middle school. We know them because our childhoods were rocked by the September 11th attacks that preceded war which was still raging when we were greeted with a debilitating financial crisis. We know change and loss of comfort and lack of security because we’ve experienced all of them before, and with these challenges, we’ve grown resilient. We came back after 9/11, we trudged through the recession, we’re still taking our time on that war, but millennials are not giving up now. 

I would surmise that, like much of the world, millennials are ready for multi-faceted solutions addressing both widespread public health and widespread economic health simultaneously. I don’t believe that many millennials see them as mutually exclusive — we can wear masks and swipe our cards at the same time. But because of the financial turmoil that has accompanied this disaster, it’s hard to capture how millennials are spending their money. Some have guaranteed, reliable paychecks, though others can’t afford to pay their monthly rent. Casting a wide millennial net around buying practices of 30-somethings would be impossible. 

That means I can only speak for what I have purchased. My grocery bill has been looking more like a down payment, and every time I hit “Buy Now” my Amazon Prime account has started to ask me, “Are you sure you really need that, though?”. Some of my purchases are hopeful hobbies to keep me busy (like a watercolor set), and others are for projects I’ve been putting off for a while (like a closet organizer for the clothes I no longer wear since my work wardrobe seems to look a lot like pajamas these days). In March when all of the social distancing and safer-at-home orders were first issued, many of my favorite retailers rushed to mark down prices, so I was inclined to purchase spring and summer clothing then. But those massive sales have largely tapered by now. If my fiscal inclinations are any indication of other millennials’, practical goods and sales govern much of my superfluous spending. Of course, this is all to say that I’m one of the lucky ones because I still have a (meager) paycheck to depend on. 

Of vital importance is the fact that millennial purchases are highly indicative of our movements going forward. For instance, I bought clothing and some shoes that can only be worn in warmer temperatures; any Generation Y uptick in beauty product sales, swimwear, or Airbnbs indicates that millennials have not given up on the idea of summer. Our spending habits suggest that we are investing in the near future despite Covid-19. It’s a promising sign for retailers.  

Regardless of the hope we have in restoring a semblance of our pre-COVID-era life, we’ll get a more concrete vision of summer spending as states begin to reopen and millennials crawl out of their dwelling spaces. I’ll have more to come then, but for now, I’ll be testing my artistic prowess and practicing some Prime social distancing.

–  The Soph in Sophelle


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Retail is transforming, how we consume is evolving, and “normal” will never be the same. For a Millennial’s outlook on retail in the age of COVID read The Soph’s take on all things retail.

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