Millennials in charge

Redwood Comment
Published:  20 June, 2018
Dr Mike Redwood

Spending by the millennial generation, globally, has long since swept past that of the boomer generation and is accelerating fast. Maybe it does “suck to have been born between 1980 and 2000” as Malcolm Harris, author of Kids These Days suggests, but this is the group that is now leading consumer spending and relentlessly moving into positions of power in industry and politics.

Even North Korean leader, Kim Jong-un falls into the category; perhaps Donald Trump has seen the direction of travel of global power? Certainly, the big numbers of millennial spenders are in Asia, over 80% according to some figures and, while there are many similarities with western millennials, consumption preferences are not the same. We often forget that attitudes are heavily impacted by the huge speed of changes seen over the last five decades in many different Asian countries. War, famine, mass migration, hitherto unseen levels of economic growth and a huge jump in education. Change has been relentless and has not waited to fit neatly into “western” demographics.

Most Chinese millennials are single children, and everything suggests they are quite distinctive. Recent quotes from Jessie Qian, KPMG’s head of consumer markets in China suggest “They are very optimistic about the future and they are willing to spend money.” McKinsey, the consultancy, describes young Chinese adults as “confident, independent minded, and determined to display it through consumption.”

Blemish-free leather

We heard a few years ago at a conference in Shanghai that research by Eagle Ottawa had shown that the Chinese liked their leather to be blemish-free and tended to prefer plastic since defects were totally absent. But there are other trends bubbling away in China in parallel, one of which is a move towards the “craftsmanship spirit” which has been pushed by senior politicians for the last two years and seems to gaining some traction.

There certainly is some evidence of consumers looking for more craft products, and more local ones which comes with a weakening of loyalty towards the big international brands. Small independent brands are on the up. Brand loyalty is also under threat elsewhere in the world where the instant delivery wins over waiting for the brand.

None of these trends were unexpected; what was complicated to estimate was the timing and context in which they would arrive, but now tanners can see more clearly what they must do to respond. The marketing has been so delayed over the last decades, certainly, but marketing that is deeply wound up with innovation and new product development.

Just shouting about leather is not enough; too late for that. We have to reinvent our material for the 21st century.

Dr Mike Redwood

June 18, 2018

mike@internationalleathermaker.com

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

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