Companies are learning how to market to this large demographic, but they are still adapting to educating millennials in basic life skills.
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Much has been said about the popularity of DIY culture among millennials, but that may have been overstated. Companies are working harder to appeal to the expanding millennial consumer demographic, and they’re learning that many millennials lack basic household skills. Where older generations once commonly knew how to perform oil changes and read maps, millennials look to pay someone for this service and rely on GPS technology to navigate.

The largest age group in the U.S. is 26-year-olds, totaling roughly 4.8 million people, according to Torsten Slok of Deutsche Bank. Companies that sell supplies for do-it-yourself chores so desperately want to sink their teeth into this age group that they are going out of their way to teach consumers how to use their products, using online tutorials and in-store classes.

Learning to adult

Adulting is a tongue-in-cheek term that refers to being able to cook, having a real job, paying bills, etc. Millennials are having a harder time reaching a stage in life where they feel adept at adulting compared to other age groups. Almost half of 25 to 34-year-olds in 1975 lived away from their parents, were married, had a job or had a child compared to nearly a quarter of 25 to 34-year-olds in 2016, according to the Census Bureau.

Basic skills such as reading a map or sewing are dying out among millennials because they have not been necessary skills for our generation. Technology makes many of these skills obsolete; the internet makes it easy to search for information or find someone in the gig economy who can do it for you. The decline of this skillset also can be attributed to the elimination of home ec courses, which taught students cooking, budgeting and basic household skills.

Many are still piggybacking off a family phone plan or on their parent’s insurance. The problem is so severe that a school sprouted to help millennials. Women are currently outshining men in many aspects of adulting, from moving out, having a steady job and managing their taxes. Millennials’ biggest problem is finding financial independence.

Changing for millennials

Companies are learning that they will have to re-evaluate their business models to adapt to millennials — changing marketing, making new products and launching education programs to capture the changing tastes of the modern youth demographic. Home Depot now hosts classes and posts online tutorials showing basic household maintenance to lure in millennials. The company saw a 9.5 percent rise in net income, which the company said was due to a surge in home purchases by young adults. First-time home buyers made 33 percent of Home Depot purchases in May.

Stoner Inc. reported a 20 percent increase in online sales thanks to basic online training that showcased product demonstrations. Briggs & Stratton, a lawn-mower engine maker, built a studio in their Milwaukee office to produce how-to videos. Procter and Gamble is highlighting their products’ use for maintenance cleaning — pushing Swiffer mops and dusters for “in the moment” cleaning.

J.C. Penney is leaning in the other direction. It describes millennials as more do-it-for-me instead of do-it-yourself. The company is moving into home services such as air conditioning repair, bathroom renovation and window covering installation. Home-furnishing store West Elm offers installation services, which includes mounting televisions, hanging curtains, paintings, wall art and mirrors, and plumbing and electrical services.

Takeaway: Millennials are willing to learn these skills

Not knowing these skills doesn’t make millennials lazy; they just didn’t learn them as early in life as other generations did. Millennials are in some respects overachievers — 25 to 34-year-olds are currently the most educated with 33 percent having completed a four-year college degree, and 90 percent having a high school diploma. Millennials want to learn the adulting skills necessary to “graduate” to the next phase of their lives, as evidenced by the popularity of the classes and tutorials offered by companies such as Home Depot. And for anyone not willing to learn, it won’t be too hard to find someone willing to provide the service for a fee.

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Posted 10.25.2017 - 11:00 am EDT