Perennial Millennials

January 30, 2017


Yes, this is yet another story about the most over-analyzed, over-scrutinized and often over-exposed generation, the Millennials, since … well, since the last over-analyzed, over-scrutinized and very often over-exposed generation, the Baby Boomers.

And yes, it’s written by one of those aging Boomers who somewhere deep in his subconscious probably resents the fact that the torch has been passed and life itself does not revolve around him and his co-generationals.

But unlike every other endless tirade about these folks, this one is going to unlock the real truth about the Millennials and why they are having such a big impact on the home business.

And it’s as simple as one number: 40%.

That’s the percentage of the total post-school, young-person generation back living with their parents — or those who never left in the first place — a level not seen since pre-World War II 1940.

And it doesn’t get any simpler than that in trying to understand why business is both not especially good for the home textiles and furnishings industry and why it will probably never return to the good old days.

All of those Millennials — can we call them Millies, M-ers or some other shortened variation of the phrase just to mix things up a bit? — who are living with mom and dad (or more likely mom or dad) aren’t buying all the traditional things for their home that previous generations did.

The numbers are a little more vague on how much of an increase that 40% represents, but generally prior generations have had a 25-30% stay-at-home rate, so this does represent a pretty substantial spike.

So, for the short-term the home business is having to just suck it up and deal with fewer customers shopping for its products. The next question — the bigger question in the long-term — is does this last or does the generation revert to historical pattern and eventually set up households of their own.

I wish I knew the answer.

I am one of those observers who think they will eventually move out from the family homestead and enter home furnishings maturity. Living with mom and/or dad is going to ultimately prove to be not an ideal domestic situation for this age group.

That migration has already started, but again it’s been slower, less dramatic and ultimately more impactful than it has in the past. And until it truly kicks into high gear we’re going to continue to see this loping, moping home furnishings malaise.

(This cues up my usual plug that to keep abreast of all of this one needs to be tracking the government household formation numbers and not pay all that much attention to the more widely cited housing starts or new home construction numbers out there. They will tell you a lot more about the construction business than the home business. End of evangelical commercial.)

Until all of this happens, Millennials will remain perennial home dwellers. The only problem is that it’s somebody else’s home.