Giving Up Giving Gifts as Retail Sales Slow

Mike Petresky III, Sam Petresky, Joey Tafuro, Alex Petresky, Vinny Tafuro, Kevin Petresky
Mike Petresky III, Sam Petresky, Joey Tafuro, Alex Petresky, Vinny Tafuro, Kevin Petresky – Christmas 2009

With just 21 days left before Christmas we are now in the thick of the holiday “consuming” season. Shopping no longer being the operative word considering we are targeted by retailers and websites to buy what has the most margin after being baited by the best deal. We are merely consumers in the eyes of an industry and according to the National Retail Federation we are predicted to spend 4.1 percent more this year over last.

While numbers were down this past weekend and Cyber Monday the federation is not concerned and describes the coming days a “dogfight” as individual retailers fight for their share. However is another trend beginning to take hold? Last month MediaPost covered a recurring theme that millennials value experiences over materialism, which translates into owning less, sharing more and generally not buying into the same consumption model that supports much of the retail industry.

With a population of “74.3 million millennials who wield more than $200 billion in purchasing power” could analysts be too focused on macro expectations to pick up on a major shift below the surface? That a generation that values experience over materialism could actually be influencing the surrounding generations and altering their buying habits.

While my own family is certainly not a statistically valid sample we have a unique generational make up that including my late grandfather spanned all five living American generations. The shift I am witnessing is not that millennials are blazing new  trails of idealism and the rejection of gross consumerism – but rather they are returning to the ideals of our greatest generation – that family and simplicity are comforting and that living a life of limited material possessions provides a freedom to explore.

In the past 20 years my family’s Christmas gift exchanges have quietly shrunk smaller and smaller with the six of us cousins never having exchanged a single gift. Yesterday morning my mother and I discussed this year’s gift exchange and decided together that we would end the tradition. That said, in recent years us cousins have begun planning cousin outings while we are all in town, a new tradition that I hope continues.

Retail industry associations, market analysts, and economists tethered to their outdated focus on GDP to measure economic well being unfortunately don’t have a method to even see the writing on the wall.



  1. Susie says:

    Interesting thoughts, Vinny. I do think that in some demographic groups there is definitely a trend against consumerism. The Millenials and the Boomers have something in common in their quest for experiences over stuff. It’s those with kids that are continuously baited by the marketeers of the world. What do you think will happen when the single Millenials form households and begin having families?

  2. Vinny says:

    Thanks Susie, glad you enjoyed it. I’ve had some discussions about what millennial families may look like and while plenty will opt for traditional families there likely will be a significant variety of non-traditional households and patterns that emerge.

    One shift might be in that where boomers didn’t stay in unhappy marriages, the later-in-life nature of millennials may keep them from entering unhappy marriages in the first place.

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