When Santa is a millennial minimalist

When Santa Is a Millennial Minimalist

Following the Millennial Money

You’ve witnessed the trend: Millennials are calling BS on following their parents’ lead in creating a well-stocked house of stuff. Instead of cars or electronics, young adults are prioritizing travel, dining and recreation. A study by Harris Group found that 72% of millennials prefer to spend money on experiences rather than material things. And now that older millennials are coming of age as parents, the generation’s aversion to conventional consumer accumulation is being put to the test this holiday season.

Fulfillment over Frenzy

Traditionally, having children has meant succumbing to a heap of colorful plastic and plush on Christmas morning. Whether it was the impossible-to-find Furby of 1998 or the infamous Cabbage Patch Kid of 1983, kid gift-buying has always been a hype-laden contact sport, culminating in the acquisition of a thing. It raises the question: How will millennials’ values impact modern kid Christmases? This year on Black Friday, Americans spent a record $6.2 billion in 24 hours.1 Then two days later on Cyber Monday, consumers spent another $7.9 billion – the largest U.S. online shopping day in history.2 So we know parents are spending, but on what? Is this the juncture at which millennial parents relinquish their well-intentioned ideals of “less stuff”?

Unpacking Memories

Though it may seem as if subscription boxes have had their moment, they fit perfectly into a kid-friendly, anti-stuff holiday. According to Forbes, subscription box shoppers in the U.S. over-index for having children ages 3-5 in the household. Not only are most subscription box contents consumable in nature (like craft supplies or snacks), but they’re experiential – both in the moment of the “unboxing” itself and through the activities they promote. Little Passports is a company that specializes in kids subscription boxes, ranging from monthly science experiments to cultural learning activities. Even though the boxes contain – yes, stuff – consumers are really buying the cadence and experience of improving daily life with their kids.

Once Upon a Purchase

Even for retailers in the business of selling durable goods, there’s an opportunity to prove that the experiential touch points of their products reign supreme. One brand living this mantra is the American Girl empire. American Girl isn’t in the doll business, they’re in the business of girlhood, storytelling, play and companionship. Kids can visit The American Girl Store to design their doll’s clothes, have her hair done, and learn the stories behind the historical doll characters. Kids can even subscribe to the magazine to access kid-friendly advice columns, stories and crafts.

Gifts that Keep on Giving

A number of parents are choosing to prioritize pure experiences as gifts, such as sports tickets, zoo memberships or movie theater gift cards. Just Google “non-toy gift ideas,” and you’ll find that just about every parenting blog or website out there has cultivated a list of experience-based gift ideas: classes, activities, tickets, gift cards and memberships are among the most popular. The retailers that stand to benefit most from experience gifts are those that offer products that enhance those experiences. Think – sporting gear, specialty clothing or hobby supplies. Show consumers how your brand fits into a valuable, quality family experience, and you can prove your worthiness to parents among a bombardment of brands that represent little more than a financial transaction.

Moments Matter Most

Time will tell whether millennial parenting styles will have a lasting effect on how families experience the holidays, and thus retail as an industry. But in the meantime, their generation is valuing gift intentionality – choosing quality over quantity. And “quality” equates to gifts with a story, a purpose, a lesson or an experience.



1: Nikki Baird, “Every Result You Need To Know From Black Friday, Cyber Monday And The Holiday 2018 Season So Far,” Forbes, Nov. 28, 2018

2: Baird, “Every Result You Need To Know From Black Friday, Cyber Monday And The Holiday 2018 Season So Far.”