From diamonds to alcohol to dining out, millennials have been blamed for the decline of many industries. But is there any truth in these accusations?
Google the words “millennial” and “destroy”, and see the results. We’ll wait. Are you done? Then, you’ll realise that, every other day, the media feels a need to publish a story about millennials “destroying” a particular industry.
It’s become a fad to bash young people for cruelly refusing to take part in outdated past times, and refusing to fuel exploitative companies. Here’s a list of things millennials are accused of destroying (which are really just destroying themselves):
1. Millennials are Killing the Diamond Industry
In 2016, The Economist published a (much mocked) article asking why Millennials aren’t buying diamonds. It’s a little strange that they made the headline a question, given that they already knew the answer.
In the same article, they noted that the diamond industry has developed a poor reputation, and that “Young consumers increasingly shun the taint of conflict and exploitation”.
This is bizarre on many levels, not least because we seem to be slamming millennials for doing a good thing (if the industry prompts conflict and exploitation, then maybe we ought to take a lead from your young people).
But don’t worry about it, because it’s a nonsensical problem with a made-up reason. Statistically, demand for diamonds is rising – in fact in places like America, demand isgrowing significantly. It’s up 4.4 per cent as of last year in the United States alone, and companies like De Beers can restrict the supply of diamonds to prompt a recovery.
More importantly, the whole “millennials hate diamonds” thing is rubbish. A recent survey shows that millennials may like diamonds even more than the previous generation. In the survey, only 11 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds got engaged without a diamond ring. In contrast, 39 percent of the people aged 55 or older got engaged without one.
It looks like the whole millennials versus diamonds story may have been cooked up on shoddy statistics, for industry professionals to explain weak sales to shareholders.
2. Millennials are Killing Alcohol
Millennials have “gone mild”, laments media like Forbes. Instead of guzzling loads of alcohol and waking up in a longkang, like we used to do, our young people are into silly things like…oh, not vomiting all over themselves, or preserving their livers by drinking fruit juices instead.
(How dare they! The insolence!)
Except again, all of this is highly questionable. Because young people aren’t killing the alcohol industry, they’re just moving it in another direction. In 2015, millennials as a single demographic drank a shocking 42 per cent of all the wine in the United States. But this isn’t confined to the US.
Globally, it seems millennials are ramping up the success of the wine industry, and allowing for new alternatives. From organic wines to ignoring established critics, millennials have reshaped the wine aisles in almost every supermarket and liquor store.
3. Millennials are Killing Golf
There are no young people joining golf clubs, the industry complains. The previous generation is “aging out”, no one new is taking up the sport, and country clubs – heck golf itself – is in decline.
But that’s a pretty strange thing to say, given that millennials are set to be become the largest demographic of golf players in the next few years. Sports apparel company Under Armor has even identified a 25 per cent growth in golf related products over three years, among its mostly millennial customers. That’s makes it one of the fastest growing sports segments.
So what can explain these two conflicting news stories?
It’s simple: golf isn’t dying, but overpriced country clubs are. Of course millennials aren’t rushing to sign up for S$50,000 memberships: most young people are at the start of their careers, and they don’t yet earn as much as the 50 year-olds who can afford private access to a luxury golfing green.
That doesn’t mean millennials aren’t into golf, or don’t find more affordable ways to play the game.
4. Millennials are Killing Mid-range Restaurants
Millennials are avoiding mid-range restaurants (think S$20 per head), because of things like “health consciousness” and “not being rich enough to go there all the time”. Apparently, millennials are somehow more sensitive to health issues and eating junk food than we older people.
We’ll say that’s a sweeping and incorrect conclusion, by industry professionals seeking quick answers.
We think so because millennials spend a lot of money eating out, across the globe in general. When you get specific to Singapore, things become even more confused – it would seem that our millennials eat poorly, and also prefer fast food outlets.
Overall, we don’t know what to think. It seems pretty obvious, though, that any attempt to generalise the eating habits of millennials has been questionable. It’s too wide a demographic to measure easily, and there are conflicting news reports.
Our guess? Casual restaurants are suffering, but it’s got nothing to do with millennials. It’s just high rent.
5. Millennials are Killing Dinner Dates
Apparently, the days of going out for dinner (as a date) are at an end. Millennials today are more likely to go out for a glass of wine or coffee, or to swing by a shop. This has been blamed on dating apps like Tinder – it’s easier to escape if your date turns out to be different from what you expected (sitting down at the dinner table is a trap!)
Which is bizarre, given that millennials are also said to spend 11 per cent more than baby boomers, when eating out. Why? Here’s the answer: millennials do go on dinner dates – they just do it with a very select group of people, whom they filter from the larger number they meet via apps like Tinder.
In the past, when you asked someone out you were fairly sure you liked them (it tended to be someone you already knew). Today, that someone might just be a face and a dating profile; you don’t know if they’re nice people, or complete weirdos.
As such, the first date is cheap and simple – almost more like a handshake than a date. The actual dinner date comes after, when you decide you like the other person enough for a follow-up (and vice versa).
So calm down, restaurants. Millennials still do dinner dates.
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By Ryan Ong
Ryan has been writing about finance for the last 10 years. He also has his fingers in a lot of other pies, having written for publications such as Men’s Health, Her World, Esquire, and Yahoo! Finance.