Holiday shopping habits vary with generation



Everyone approaches shopping for the holidays a little bit differently.

From when they start shopping to who they’re shopping for to how much they spend, shopping habits are distinctly different for almost every generation.

Pamela Mickens, from left, with sons Micah, 16, and Marquis, 18, shop for the holidays at the Sanford Mall in Sanford on Dec. 8.(RICARDO RAMIREZ BUXEDO/ORLANDO SENTINEL/TNS)
Pamela Mickens, from left, with sons Micah, 16, and Marquis, 18, shop for the holidays at the Sanford Mall in Sanford on Dec. 8.

Retirees, for instance, seem to focus on gift-giving for their youngest family members. Millennials, on the other hand, don’t just want to give another boring gift, they want to give friends a memory or experience.

The differences don’t end there. Generationally, shopping preferences also differ in the way people are influenced to buy what they buy.

Millennials could be swayed by word of mouth while older shoppers rely more heavily on advertising, according to a 2013 study by Radius Global Market Research, an independent market research company. And then there’s the impact of technology.

“There is a comfort with technology that millennials have, and it decreases as you age,” said Marlene Morris Towns, a professor of marketing at Georgetown University. “There are some things about holiday shopping that are ritual, and I will find myself in the stores on Christmas Eve doing that last-minute dash. For me, it’s part of that whole holiday experience.”

There’s an age affect. Here’s a look at how three generations of Central Florida shoppers approached this year’s holiday shopping season.

The retiree
Susan Goehring is a grandmother of four with a fifth on the way.  The bulk of her shopping was done weeks before Christmas.

Goehring said she makes shopping lists, but does not typically use them because she can’t find them later and prefers to shop with her eyes and her gut.

“I’ve bought a few things when I see them,” said Goehring, as she shopped at Marshalls on Colonial Drive in Orlando. “If I see something I go, ‘That’s that person.’”

As a retired community college teacher, Goehring said she’s able to avoid the traditional holiday shopping crowds.

“I can come during the week when there’s not as much traffic,” who would only describe herself as in her “late 60s.”

Goehring said she doesn’t have a set budget for holiday gifts, but has to be mindful of her spending because she’s on a limited income. That self-imposed restriction could be one of the biggest differences between her and millennials, she said.

“A 20-year-old probably has a whole lot more money because they’re still working, and to me that’s one asset,” she said.

The mid-career
Since September, Pamela Mickens has been scoping stores and hunting for deals, trying to find the perfect Christmas gift for everyone on her list.

At 38, Mickens grew up around department stores and in the era of malls, so she said she prefers brick-and-mortar holiday shopping even if a website is involved.

“I’ll go online to look at stuff, but I order it to the store to pick it up,” said Mickens. “It’s something about the rush and excitement, getting out with people and buying your gifts.”

Mickens’ age group, those between 35 years old and retirement, has the highest income and the highest spending patterns, according to studies from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. That’s because at this age individuals are more likely to have children and be in their prime earning years.

Sons Marquis, 18, and Mica, were at her side, picking up clothing and gifts themselves.

For Pamela Mickens, online shopping has become an important way for her to comparison shop, gather ideas and find deals. But it’s only a starting point for shopping with a personal touch, she said.

“I’ll never give something that you are only going to use once or throw away,” she said. “I’m always listening and having conversations, thinking about what to get next.”

The millennial
Efren Devera has been shopping for months, mostly from the convenience of his phone.

“I come to the store to get clothes because you have to try that on, but for electronics and big items, you can buy most of your stuff online,” said Devera, a physical therapy student who lives in Tavares.

Like many young shoppers, Devera is price conscious. On a recent Wednesday, he was at Seminole Towne Centre in Sanford, finding clothes and gifts for close family and friends. For small items, clothing or shoes, he said a brick-and-mortar store can be the best.

“You can find a lot of stuff on clearance this time of year,” he said, holding bags from Rue 21 and Foot Locker and accompanied by a friend.

Devera’s shopping list is also small, only having to buy gifts for a few close friends and his girlfriend. But he said that hasn’t made him a more prepared shopper. He’s only bought a few Christmas gifts so far.

“I’m a last-minute shopper,” he said. “I’ll probably be out as late as possible.”



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