"I totally prefer to shop in store," says Rachael Blackketter, a 34-year-old stay-at-home mom. "You get it right then. It's instant gratification."

Those statements mimic the findings of a recent study by a nonprofit research institute of the shopping habits of young adults.

The Urban Land Institute study found that despite the tech-savvy prowess of the millennial generation, those who fall in the 18-to-35 age bracket still make most of their purchases traditionally, in a store, rather than online.

Lauren Baker, co-owner of alternative-clothing store Razorz Edge on North Fourth Avenue, said her store recently did a similar survey while in the process of updating its website.

The results were the same among her customers, whose median age is 22 to 34.

"We found that a lot of people shop online maybe once a month," Baker said. "But most people preferred to shop in the store."

The survey results were eye-opening, she said. "I thought it would be opposite, and that people would say they wanted to shop online more."

The physical and sensory experience of shopping in-store hasn't lost its appeal to the millennials.

"It gives me the chance to look at things face on," said Abril Castro, a 25-year-old customer service representative in Tucson. She added that things can look different in person than they do in a photograph.

"Online, you don't get to feel the clothing, try it on and appreciate the textures and colors, as well as you would in a store," said Samantha Esquivel, a 24-year-old Tucson communications professional.

As Razorz Edge's Baker puts it: "It seems like they still want that tangible shopping process where they can try it on and have that one-on-one experience with the sales staff."

Castro feels like she's taking a chance if she buys clothing online. "If I see something I like online, I have to take a chance and just buy it … whereas in a store, I can try it on and then decide."

That's not to say millennials don't shop online. The Urban Land Institute report found that 91 percent of respondents said they had made online purchases over the previous six months, with 45 percent spending more than an hour a day looking at retail websites.

For Esquivel, shopping online is reserved for accessories and things she doesn't have to worry about whether they are going to fit or not. "It's more tedious to have to send stuff back if it doesn't fit," she said.

Blackketter said if she purchases something online, it's from a retailer that has a brick-and-mortar store in town so she doesn't have to ship anything back if she needs to make a return.

Another part of the national study said that although millennials like to shop in-store, this group of consumers gets bored easily, which means retailers have to find ways to keep them interested.

Indeed, going into stores that have the same styles and displays every time is boring, said Castro. "If they change displays, it makes me want to go in and look because it's something I haven't seen," she said.

Amy Jesionowski, owner of Collette, a women's clothing boutique in Main Gate Square near the University of Arizona, said changing the displays is a useful tool to give the store a new feeling, which keeps consumers interested.

"I change all of the displays," Jesionowski said. "We obviously can't sell all of our inventory every week, but if you move it around, it gives the feeling of a new store every time."

Jesionowski also said having small quantities of items allows her to change styles out frequently.

"When the students are in town, we can be putting out eight new styles a day," she said.

Taking advantage of social media sites like Facebook to post pictures of new inventory and special offers is one way to keep tech-savvy millennials engaged and informed.

The Urban Land Institute study found that young adults are multi-channel shoppers - they use the web not only to make purchases, but to research products, compare prices and respond to deals and coupons.

Razorz Edge is tuned in to those facts and has responded by using fun Facebook status updates, with photos of new merchandise and special offers, to intrigue consumers.

"They do get bored," Baker said. "We have to constantly put it out there using social media that we have new stuff, so they know they are going to see something new."


The millennial label refers to those born after 1980 - the first generation to come of age in the new millennium. The group is also known as Gen Y.

According to a 2010 Pew Social Research study:

• 83 percent of millennials said they have placed their cellphone on or right next to their bed while sleeping.

• Asked what makes their generation unique, millennials' top responses were:

24% 1. Technology use

11% 2. Music/pop culture

7% 3. Liberal/ tolerant

6% 4. Smarter

5% 5. Clothes


The median household income for millennials was $58,620 in 2009, the Pew Reseach Center says, but the generation has since been hit hard by the recession, facing high unemployment rates, leading many to stay living with their parents longer than expected. But now, "the tipping point is near," and their potential economic growth is enormous, The Atlantic Monthly reports in its current issue.

"Over the course of their lives, millennials may well earn less than their luckier predecessors. But they don't need to duplicate their parents' McMansion-with-three-car-garage lifestyles to jump-start the economy. Once millennials start getting on with the rest of their lives … their sheer numbers will push our entire economy forward," The Atlantic writes.

How big are those numbers? There are 82 million millennials, the magazine says, citing Census Bureau data.

Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at apitteng@azstarnet.com or 573-4137.