Millennials aren’t always so different.
When I moved to Seattle in 2012, the craft beer scene was well established, but in the years since, it has really boomed. Small breweries have popped up all over town. They open shop around the corner from competitors. They cram into spaces so small, you couldn’t park a car in them. But, on any random weekend afternoon, they’re all busy—really busy. We’re talking lines out the door.
It seems like every new brewery is a big success. I mean, people like beer. And in a densely populated city, one that’s growing by 1000+ people every week, each new brewery immediately becomes a new neighborhood hot spot. Maybe one day Seattle will get oversaturated with craft beer, but it doesn’t seem likely anytime soon. Back to beer in a minute.
I recently read a Business Insider article in which the author presents the idea that Millennials, as a generation, are “psychologically scarred” by their experience having come of age during The Great Recession. And, that because of their experience, Millennials have unique consumer preferences that sometimes have severely negative impacts on well-established American companies and industries. You’ve probably heard it all before. But what caught my attention was that the author comes to the conclusion that Millennials aren’t responsible for their industry-killing ways, but that it’s actually their Baby Boomer parents who created the conditions they grew out of.
The Business Insider article focuses on the question, why do Millennials kill established businesses? To me that question is less about intent and more about outcome. Do Millennials and their unique consumer habits kill established business? Yes. Do they do it on purpose? Of course not. The onus really falls on the businesses themselves.
Like a lot of Millennials, I grew up in a suburb. My parents did, too. And also like a lot of Millennials, I moved to a city for work after college. It’s a trend that’s been written about quite a bit around the country: Millennials moving back into cities that previous generations left for suburbs. But, just like the generations before us, we care about convenience and community, too.
We frequent the businesses that make themselves a part of our lives. Businesses that open up on the streets we take to work or the restaurants around the corner from where we live— exactly like the small local breweries I mentioned earlier.
With every new brewery opening, or other small business for that matter, a neighborhood gets new life. Neighbors get a more local option. And people from outside your community come to visit to see what it’s got going on. Resulting in more businesses setting up shop. And more people moving in.
In my mind, Millennials aren’t industry-killers. We’re industry-definers. Our selective consumer habits define how businesses should adapt in order to remain successful and appealing.
In the same way that big box stores and chain dining followed the generations before us out of cities and into strip malls, the successful companies and small businesses of today must adapt to serve a growing generation of urbanites.