Millennials might be the shiny object, but don’t overlook Generation X, said Brad Edmondson, author and consultant on demographics. Speaking at the recent PLMA conference, Edmondson said, “Gen X is your most important customer right now. Millennials are the second, but Gen X is the juiciest generation right now.”
Why? Even though Millennials are the largest generation, Gen X has many economic and demographic factors that make them highly valuable to retailers.
Consumer spending is chief among those factors. Gen X spends more than other generations on food, both at home and away from home. They spend 40% for food at home, compared with 19% for Millennials, which is third behind Baby Boomers; however, Millennials are growing in this spending area.
One reason for that is Gen X has the largest households of any generations, meaning they have more mouths to feed and need to purchase more food. Gen X is often taking care of older family members as well as Millennial children who have moved back into the household.
A second factor for why Gen X is such a powerhouse for retailers is the empowerment of women. Gen X women grew up in the ’60s and ’70s when civil rights and women’s rights started to come to the forefront — birth control was legalized for all women in a Supreme Court ruling in 1965. One way this impacted women was that more women went to college, which means that Gen X households are more likely than previous generations to have dual-income households. In fact, Gen X is the first generation where women’s income equaled that of the man in the household, according to Edmondson.
Because there is this dual-income household, men in Gen X contribute to so-called women’s tasks of grocery shopping, Edmondson said.
Some other demographic highlights from Edmondson’s talk:
- Convenience is important but there’s one important thing retailers need to keep in mind. A Pew Research Center survey asked working parents what they missed the most and the answer was fun with family. So that leads to more food delivered to home and frozen foods.
- The percentage of households that are married is on the decline and cohabiting couples are on the rise. They don’t have the same setup as married couple meaning they are likely to pool incomes and less likely to eat together.
- Gen X was the hardest hit by the Great Recession. “They spent a decade putting their household goals on hold,” Edmondson said. That makes them prime shoppers for a Lidl or Aldi.