UK Millennials: think global, act local was never truer

08 Jun 2018

“This is the millennial moment, long expected and feared by companies that built their brands for baby boomers,” writes John Gapper in the Financial Times, laying out the now familiar arguments about how they are the “largest generation” with their own unique values based on a mixture of distrust of big business and yearning for authenticity, married with a mix of tech-savviness and insecurity. In Asia, they are leading the growth of beauty brands and luxury fashion, while in the US they are set to inherit $30trn in the next three decades. Yet when we turn to UK millennials, how many of these statements hold true? The answer is: very few indeed.

First of all, they are very far from being the “largest generation”. In fact, in the UK, the biggest year groups are from the mid-1960s, with 1964 being the largest, at close to a million individuals. To top this, the number of young adults is set to fall progressively in the next few years.

Secondly, UK millennials mostly do not have the buying power, outside a very small metropolitan professional elite, to spend heavily on expensive craft or niche brands. Their living standards have, to put it bluntly, collapsed, due to stagnating wages, high rents and property prices and costs of education, and while they may aspire to luxury brands, financial reality means they are predominantly focused on value for money, budget alternatives.

Thirdly, there is no generation of ‘boomers’ waiting in the wings to save them through inheritance. The UK, apart from one blip in 1947, did not have a post-war baby boom in the way the US did. British families had to wait until the late 1950s and early 1960s before the economy had recovered enough for the birth rate to turn upwards. And that generation will not start popping off its perch until well into the 2030s. So, sorry kids, but apart perhaps from some help from ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’, you’re on your own.

The brutal truth is that, while there are some important opportunities for brands focused on millennials and gen z in the UK, but they are much smaller than those to be had from tapping into the larger, wealthier, mostly home-owning group of consumers in their 50s, 60s and older, who are growing in number and affluence.

If you want to understand more about the financial reality, rather than the hype, about UK millennials, you can buy ConsumerCast’s report covering them (UK Consumer Opportunities: the Under-50s), due to be updated in July, and you can also see the new collaborative research published through WGSN on the topic (Young UK Millennials: Spending Priorities).

Photo: Superdry