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Young consumers tell it 'straight'

At 43 percent of the U.S. population and with $278 billion in spending power annually, Gen Yers and Gen Xers make an attractive target for retailers. A recent survey tracked what these groups want from retailers, and the results were announced at the IMRA seminar "The Future of Shopping: Capturing Tomorrow's Consumer."

Three student groups from the University of Florida, the University of Arizona and Texas A&M University conducted the survey of 180 consumers, who were between the ages of 17 and 25.

Kenny Kwong, a student at Texas A&M, told the audience that peer influence is very important to the Gen Y group, and any advertising directed to it should be "true and straight," since they've been exposed to advertising their whole lives and are familiar with all of the gimmicks. And if the product does not live up to their expectations, he added, they will tell everyone. "Don't patronize us," he added.

"We want everything to be easy, and we want it now," said Katie Smith, a student at the University of Florida. "We have no patience." The Gen Y consumer is brand- and store-loyal, she said, but the store must provide choices and have them in stock, or they will go elsewhere. They also want ease of return for purchases bought on the Internet or through catalogs, as well as various ways to contact the company.

Almost half of the respondents expected to be earning between $60,000 and $100,000 in 10 years, Smith added.

Three distinctive groups surfaced during the survey, said Sabrina Valdez, a student at the University of Arizona: the techno suave, with 30 percent of those surveyed, the techno safe, with 50 percent, and the techno scared, 20 percent. The techno suave is very comfortable with technology, including purchasing over the Internet and using self checkouts and in-store scanners. The techno safe consumer adopts new technology at a moderate level, she said, though is more concerned with privacy and security issues. The techno scared consumer is more the traditional shopper, and wants to adapt technology at their own pace.

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