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Gen Y

Big generation, big opportunity

This year the oldest of Generation Y turns 28, the youngest turns 19. Over the next few years they'll be entering the workforce, starting families, buying homes and all the things that will make those homes a comfortable place to live.

"Their influence on the consumer economy is immense," said John Geraci, vice president of youth research at Rochester, N.Y.-based Harris Interactive. "They, literally, represent the future market for most consumer brands."

Born between 1976 and 1985, Gen Y is 76 million strong — just 2 million shy of the number of Baby Boomers who have dominated the consumer scene for the last four decades. Gen Y, sometimes called Echo Boomers because they are, for the most part, the children of Baby Boomers, shows every indication of being as influential as their parents.

Courting this group will require understanding their mindset, frequently quite different from the mindset of their parents or of Gen X. Already, exclusive consumer research by Casual Living shows Gen Y planned to buy outdoor furniture at a rate more than one and one-half times their presence in the population last year. At the beginning of their working careers, they set aside about one-third less for their outdoor furniture purchases than either Gen X or the Baby Boomers.

They also are twice as likely to be buying at a discount store or a home improvement center than at a casual living specialty store. Gen Y nearly matches their Baby Boomer parents in number, but any similarity largely stops there:

  • Ethnically, Gen Y is more diverse. One in three is part of an ethnic or racial minority.

  • One in four grew up in a single-parent household.

  • Three in four had a working mother; they're used to dual-income house-holds.

  • They are veterans of technology: they grew up not just with TV, but also with the PC, CD, PDA, DVD, IM and e-mail.

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