Talk about a eureka moment, it happened to me last month in Boston. Fran and I attended our grandson, Nate’s, graduation from Boston College. Spending time with his folks (my son Tim and his wife Kelly), who are both very tech savvy, as well as gobs of college kids, gave witness to what traditional furniture sellers are competing against.
When we arrived at the high rise in downtown Boston that had been reserved on Air BNB, they couldn’t store our luggage because the storage room was full of internet merchants’ packages! Wayfair, Walmart, Target and the ever present Amazon filled the room! On all our trips to the campus, Fenway Park, restaurants, and touring, our mode of transportation was Uber. It is fast, dependable and CHEAP. With traffic on old, outdated, and totally congested roadways, we left the driving to them. The final leg of my discovery was after graduation. Nate needed to move his be-longings to storage and we needed to move bags to airport lodging. The solution was ZIP car. This was a 4 hour rental, by someone under 26, for a large mini-van, at a very competitive price, that was dropped off at an agreeable spot.
Of course every transaction, including my baseball ticket, was done on a smart phone. The point is, the next generation lives their lives on these devices. Why would they want to wait in traffic for an hour or more just to get to ONE STORE, no less trying to shop around for price and selection.
Since all but the savviest of consumers know what furniture is really worth, they can do most, or all, of their shopping from home or work on mobile devise. Now I realize Salt Lake City, Omaha and the far reaches of the mid-west and Rocky Mountains are not as clogged as big eastern metropolitan areas are. You are finding lots of grid-lock in Twin Cities, Denver and Phoenix! My point is young boomers on down are a totally different demographic from their elders. Your web presence has to be sparkling and your media presence has to give the customer a REASON to make the effort to even come in your store.
One last observation from the Boston College graduation — the mix of those joining the work force and the buying wave is drastically changing. As Thomas Friedman, the New York Times best-selling author states in his latest book: “Thank You for Being Late”, the traditional white population will be a minority by 2025. You need to keep that in mind in your merchandising and hiring.
The graduates at both prestigious Jesuit schools were of all nationalities and origins. A large portion of the foreign born students were graduating with top honors and going into professions that are going to reap large rewards. I only point that out to reinforce the message that millennials are going to lead our country into a bright future. With wisdom and guidance from those of us that are more mature, they will accomplish amazing things! As always, the best is still ahead for our business and our nation.