Jenny Heinzen York

The Future is Now

July 8, 2013

Look around. Do things look different than they did 10 years ago?

From the technologies we use every day that seemed oh-so-remote a decade ago, to the evolving demographics of the United States, to the changing roles of women in the workforce and home ... yeah, I think things look pretty different.

The technology changes are perhaps the most obvious, as we have evolved (devolved?) into a population of smartphone clutchers, keeping our Facebook friends, Twitter followers and even our work right beside us on our nightstands as we (at least try to) sleep. Technology is not just changing communication, though - it is rapidly influencing commerce and the way we all buy. 

I was struck as I reviewed our data from one of our recent research special reports, highlighting some of the changing demographics in the United States. Key takeaways: Singles now make up more U.S. households than married couples do; and the Hispanic population -- and not coincidentally its buying power -- is about to surge. Those two factors alone represent tremendous shifts in the way we live and really, who we are as a people. 

Widely reported data late last month indicated that in more than half of American households, a woman is now the primary breadwinner - a colossal shift (driven by a number of divergent factors) from what the typical American household looked like 30 or 40 years ago.

At the May Accessories Resource Team conference, Gen Y expert Jason Dorsey predicted that over the next few years, Gen Y's buying power will surpass that of the baby boomers, and because of their age and their spending confidence, will prove to be the most influential generation ever in terms of spending. And, he said, that generation communicates very differently than the consumers you have grown accustomed to.

But what does it mean for you and your business? I think it means that the "future" is now, and it's time that retail businesses adapt, and do so pretty quickly. 

Are you still marketing your businesses to "traditional American families?" Good luck finding many of them over the next couple of years. 

Are you still selling the same products you always have? Good luck selling them to this new, selective consumer generation. 

Does your store and your marketing message look like they always have? Good luck getting young, savvy consumers to respond to them.

Look, your stores survived the Great Recession. You can do anything, right? I have complete confidence that you will respond to this changing world, too. But just don't take too long, or you could find yourself in the rear view mirror in very short order.