Why Millennials & Gen Zers Are Eager to Spend Money on Commercial Holidays

Millennials are infamously up to their eyeballs in debt, and Gen Z is just starting to earn a paycheck, but new research shows both groups are very interested in treating themselves with a new commercial holiday early in the calendar year.

A.T. Kearney surveyed 1,000 people 18 and older to gauge their feelings on current spending-centric anniversaries and potential new ones. Many of the current biggest and most established “holidays” like Valentine’s Day and Black Friday were essentially conjured up by the retail industry; latecomers like Prime Day in the U.S. and Singles Day in China were born out of an individual company but inspired competitors to launch deal days of their own, spawning a new pattern of consumption and consumer behavior.

Across all age groups, most (21 percent) expressed interest in a January holiday, while August (11 percent) and June (10 percent) were the second- and third-most-popular choices. Asked what they’d want a new holiday to celebrate, respondents were evenly split between a day revolving around others (36 percent) and one that’s all about “me, myself and I” (35 percent).

More so than older shoppers, younger respondents were more likely to side with me-centric holidays, according to A.T. Kearney. Forty-eight percent of 18- to 24-year-olds and 38 percent of millennials and young Gen Xers 25 to 44 years old agreed that a self-centered day would sit well with them, comfortably ahead of the 32 percent of all consumers who felt the same way.

Those who want to splash out on themselves are willing to spend more than people who prefer a new holiday for loved ones, the report found. Spending for “treat yourself” holiday-makers stands at a median of $100 — and 30 percent, the highest among any spending level, would shell out more than $200.

Given how most traditional holidays revolve around other people and the chaos of the November-December holiday season, these responses could signal that some consumers might be hungry for a day early into the new year to decompress, indulge in some self-care and recover from a hectic six-week gifting season, especially when considering the things they’re willing to spend on.

Consistent with the recent trend toward doing things and making memories with Instagrammable experiences, most survey takers (18 percent) would spend the most on things like travel and restaurants, followed by entertainment options (15 percent) and then fashion (12 percent).

The report uncovered few surprises when respondents outlined their shopping behaviors. More people (53 percent) prefer buying through digital channels like websites, mobile apps and social platforms than in physical stores (31 percent). Meanwhile, shoppers still love a good deal and seemingly getting something for nothing; 20 percent would be motivated by a discount or some such offer, while free shipping or a freebie gift with purchase would entice another 27 percent.

“What we have uncovered is a clear, unmet consumer need for a new commercial holiday that rewards the shopper,” said Patricia Hong, a partner with A.T. Kearney and a member of the Consumer Products & Retail Practice and head of the firm’s luxury and beauty sector. “Earlier A.T. Kearney research — such as our work on experiential retailing — provides a firm foundation that retailers can build off of as they design creative strategies to fulfill the need shoppers have for a holiday that lets them celebrate, treat and/or reward themselves.”

There are implications as well for merchants interested in maximizing gift-giving events like Valentine’s Day (66 percent) and Mother’s Day (65 percent), the two most widely celebrated holidays.

“If [retailers] want to pump new energy into these traditional events, retailers need to look at the themes we’ve discovered and begin to create unique experiences for their shoppers,” Hong noted. “Self-indulgence sells — especially to millennial and Gen Z shoppers. And at a time when traditional relationships are being redefined and people are more mobile and changing jobs more often, pets can take on the emotional significance formerly only enjoyed by family and friends.”

Editor’s Note: This story was reported by FN’s sister magazine Sourcing Journal. For more, visit Sourcingjournal.com.

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