Today I was sending a business student an example of a report from our Euromonitor database. By chance I just happened to pull the most recent report for consumer lifestyles in the United States. Of course you know I had to read it, at least a bit.
Something jumped out at me, as it usually does:
The Sharing Economy: young Americans mantra ‘access not ownership’ shaping future consumer landscape:
Among the characteristics of young consumers cited in the recent Goldman Sachs report Millennials: Coming of Age was that ―Millennials have been reluctant to buy items such as cars, music and luxury goods. Instead, they‘re turning to a new set of services that provide access to products without the burdens of ownership, giving rise to what’s being called a sharing economy.
Young consumers ‘widespread adoption of this concept was supported by a separate report compiled by PricewaterhouseCoopers which said ―Communism may have failed to establish collective property ownership, but it has evolved to meet capitalism halfway in the sharing economy. Thanks to the mobile revolution and a confluence of other factors—35 years of wage stagnation, entrepreneurs challenging ossified business models, the appeal of convenience, environmental concerns, and affinity for social interaction—access has become the new ownership, at least from a consumer perspective’. The report went on to identify five sectors that it believed would see significant revenue gains in coming years as a result of this new approach: travel, car-sharing, finance, staffing and audio/video streaming.
Euromonitor International. (2015, July). Consumer Lifestyles in the US. Retrieved from Euromonitor Passport database.
Millennials are the largest consumer group in history taking over the baby boomers as the most targeted generation to advertise towards. Many of us are in our 30’s, are marrying and having children much later in life and have disposable income since we all live at home. Well, not all of us have that luxury, but I thought I’d make the joke. Personally, I love the idea of a sharing economy. I’m a librarian, we believe in collaboration not competition and that we ought to share resources and knowledge with one another. I know from a business standpoint that doesn’t make much sense, but I think there are a lot of like-minded young people out there that see how big business and the insanely greedy quest for profits at the expense of the decency of our race as humans has really gotten amazingly and sadly out of hand. Martin Shkreli, if you don’t know who he is, google it. A major plus for me in a sharing economy is that sharing teaches us how to reconnect with people and respect one another. I stayed at an Air BnB once with the nicest older couple who owned the home. It was a room in the house. Some may think, wow, people let complete strangers sleep in the same house as them. That goes both ways you know they are probably as likely to murder me as I am to murder them. But yeah, it was great, they talked with us, told us of some good spots to eat, offered me a beer when my friend passed out and I wasn’t ready to go to bed, and offered to make us breakfast and mimosas the next day. We talked about what we did, where their kids went to college, and I made sure to clean up after myself, make the bed and leave the room in as good of shape as I found it. It’s like a Montessori School for adults where you can learn how to respect other people and care for them and their homes. I’ve never felt uncomfortable using an Uber, but let me tell you I’ve for sure been on the shady end of many yellow cab rides.
It may sound mean but sometimes I cringe when I realize I’m a millennial. Maybe because I’m on the older end of the generation. Yes, I remember dial up modems, and I remember when cell phones first became a thing. But I also endured the recession hitting the same year I graduated from college and feel the effects of it to this day almost 10 years later (cough, cough can’t find a full time job). I don’t know if after the horrors I saw when the housing market crashed if I’ll ever want to buy a house. I’m not an economist. I don’t crunch numbers or analyze financial forecasts, I couldn’t even tell you how the stock market is doing, but sometimes it’s interesting to think about how the power of purchase persuades a market and changes society as a whole. I hope that we can continue as consumers to sway the market towards shared services, and companies and products that are kind both to people and the environment. Because really, we give them the power.