Millennials are thought of as a tech-dependent generation. Growing up with computers, cell phones, and the blessed/cursed advent of social media has certainly led a lot of millennials to replace “IRL” with screen time, but when it comes to shopping, it turns out that the people now in their 20s to 30s prefer a real store. That’s right; quite contrary to popular belief, more millennials would prefer to go to a brick and mortar store than do their shopping online.
According to a new study from the market research firm SmarterHQ, 50 percent of millennials do their shopping in stores, while 27 percent shop from their phones, and 22 percent use their phone or tablet to shop. The remaining one percent still shop from good old-fashioned catalogs.
The total difference between online and brick and mortar is small, but there’s a huge difference between the mediums millennials use to go shopping. While malls and department stores are indeed dying off these days, it’s not because millennials don’t like brick and mortar stores. In fact, many actually prefer to shop in-person.
This probably comes as a surprise to the contingent of older generations that blames millennials for the death of everything (including department stores). According to a recent article in Business Insider, “As millennials flock to fast-fashion brands like H&M and Zara, Macy’s and Sears have suffered. Sears is closing more than 300 Sears and Kmart stores this year, while Macy’s plans to shutter 68.” Another part of the equation, as the article explains, is millennials would rather pay for experiences than expensive designer duds.
But while some people might be shocked to learn that millennials actually do a lot of their shopping in-store, the survey’s findings are familiar to millennials themselves.
Jess Goodwin, who is 30, tells Brit + Co says that unless a brand is offering something exclusive online, she prefers to hit up the real store. For Jess, it’s a lot about saving money. She explains that if she orders online and a garment doesn’t fit or look right, she’s inclined to keep it instead of going through the hassle of a return, whereas in a store, she knows right away if she’ll like it.
Being smart with money is a concern for a lot of millennials, considering the vast amounts of student loan debt many millennials have. For people who want or need to save, cutting totally unnecessary costs like clothes you’re never going to wear makes a lot of sense.
27-year-old Ali O’Reilly tells us that she shops almost exclusively at thrift shops for both clothes and home furnishings. By shopping in thrift stores, Ali says she can closely check for quality and style, both of which are very important to her.
Occasionally, Ali says she’ll shop from a vintage Instagram account, but for the most part, she wants to go to the thrift shop and see things for herself before making a purchase. She tells us she thinks it’s a crime to pay full price for something online, or anywhere, when you can get a great deal by thrifting.
According to Ad Week, some millennials like to go to stores first just to check things out before eventually ordering online. This method eliminates wondering whether or not new clothes will fit or if items look the same in real life as they do online, but doesn’t really help retailers bring in enough money to save suffering shops.
Some brands are trying to meet millennials in the middle with online and in-store shopping, addressing the interests and concerns expressed by both Jess and Ali. One example is Warby Parker, the extremely popular eyeglasses company that allows customers to shop for frames online, then try them on at home, shipping back the pairs they don’t want to buy.
Other companies, such as Trunk Club, offer try-on-at-home remote shopping, but items tend to be relatively expensive. Warby Parker, on the other hand, sells frames at a much lower cost than other big name brands, saving customers both money and time in the process.
Though malls, department stores, and other retail shops are struggling and many have had to close, there’s definitely plenty of millennials who want to shop at the ones that still exist. Some may want to say millennials are responsible for the death of the mall, but the facts show we still love them.
Do you still love shopping in real stores? Tell us about it on Twitter @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty + Paramount Pictures)