Are Millennials Really “Killing” Industries?


Jenna Miller, Editor in Chief

You’ve all seen news articles with headlines claiming that the millennial generation—those between the ages of approximately 25 and 40 —are “killing” countless innocuous industries. Their preference for instant streaming is putting cable TV companies in danger. The rise of healthier alternatives to soda and millennials’ desire to stay fit has been causing stocks for soda companies to fall. They wait to get married, making companies like Tiffany & Co. suffer. Even specific items have become the victim of millennials’ changing tastes. McDonald’s cancelled the sales of their healthy McWrap because millennials would prefer eating healthy at different establishments, and Toyota nixed their Scion line of cars targeted at teens and young adults because, according to Market Watch, “millennials…look to live in walkable, urban locations and prefer car-sharing services like ZipCar or ride sharing services like Uber.”

But is that enough to say that millennials are “killing” these industries?

The allure of Scion was that its vehicles could be customized to the liking of the customer. They came in funky colors with different kinds of decor for their paint, had unique body styles, and some models, such as the boxy Scion xB, were made with the intent of being modified to their owner’s heart’s desire with a plethora of aftermarket parts. Scion did have some success—except not with its target audience. Retirees, according to Eric Lyman of TrueCar, accounted for most of Scion’s sales—and because of this coupled with millennials’ vision of the cars as cheap and their desire to use car-sharing services, the brand could not last and was discontinued in 2016. According to International Business Times, “Scion sales grew in only five” of the thirteen years the cars were sold. However, this is more of a problem on Scion’s end than on the millennials’ end. Business Insider found in a study carried out by Chris McCahill at the State Smart Transportation Initiative that lower-income millennials actually drive 35% more than they did in 2009, while medium-income millennials drive the same amount. Millennials prefer different types of cars than the space-age, out-of-the-box Scions. 

As for the other industries that millennials are supposedly endangering, they are not the sole reason why their sales are tanking. Sure, millennials are a large part of the equation, but the main culprit is the economy of the current age. The country has been on a constant decline in terms of economy since the recession of 2008, as government debt piles up due to increased government spending. The study “Are Millennials Different?” by Christopher Kurz, Geng Li, and Daniel J. Vine found that “millennials are less well off than members of earlier generations when they were young, with lower earnings, fewer assets, and less wealth. … Conditional on their age and other factors, millennials do not appear to have preferences for consumption that differ significantly from those of earlier generations.”

There’s also numerous industries that millennials are actually helping. Because a large amount of millennials enjoy working a lot and tend to work long hours, many depend on coffee for a perk that lasts throughout the working day so they can stay alert and focused. 44% of the coffee demand in the United States is millennials, according to Fast Company. Live music concerts, sporting events, and other similar gatherings are also profiting off of millennials. Market Watch found that, according to Schwab, “73% of millennials are still willing to spend money on a live event, compared to only 65% of Generation X, and 55% of Baby Boomers.” A study by Barkley also found that millennials go to the grocery store more often than their non-millennial counterparts, helping grocery stores remain profitable. 

The uncertain future of the United States’ declining industries and companies is dependent not just on millennials, but the economy as a whole. Think about it – if millennials really killed industries, then we would probably see no American cheese still on store shelves and sold everywhere, no paper napkins at restaurants and in houses, and stores still would not have cereal aisles with a plethora of brands. Every consumer product has a market – cereal and American cheese are popular among children, and the aging population of the nation tends to prefer goods that millennials shift away from, so much of the products millennials are seemingly “killing” are here to stay.