Demography Is Destiny:
Three Monumental Trends That Will Rock Your (Retail) World
By Thomas Tseng
The 19th century French mathematician Auguste Comte’s tenet “demography is destiny” has particular resonance today in light of the new demographic trends which confront America’s
immediate future. Prognostication is tricky business, but the demographers who study our country’s patterns today are nearly unanimous in identifying three primary forces that
are fundamentally changing this nation’s population composition. The numbers are undeniable. They include:
- The “graying of America”
- The “browning of America”
- The second “booming of America”
Recently, the Chicago Tribune reported how these three forces are at work transforming the profile of the American homebuyer (1/13/05), and needless to day, are also causing a basic re-shifting in the housing industry. Retailers, too, should be responding to this rapidly changing base of consumers. Let’s examine each one of them:
The Graying of America. This one hardly needs an explanation: America’s current bunch of Baby Boomers are rapidly aging. There are 78 million Boomers on the cusp of retirement,
who will suddenly encounter an entirely different lifestyle away from the workplace. Predominantly white, affluent, and known for re-writing the rulebook for everything from the
workplace to how consumers should behave and shop, Boomers have undeniable made an indelible mark on the world of marketing. No doubt they will redefine the lifestyles characterizing
seniors and what products and services the “mature market” prefers as well.
The Browning of America. The fast ascending Hispanic population in the U.S. is replenishing the country with youth. As Boomers enter their mature years, Hispanics are
becoming the next big, distinct consumer opportunity. Because this is a population that is disproportionately young, it has yet to establish its full presence in the general U.S.
marketplace. But that will only take time. As greater numbers of young people pour into the U.S. labor force, Hispanics will re-write the rules of retail marketing in their own
The Second Booming of America. This one strongly corresponds to the Browning of America. America’s Gen-Y segment, or echo-boomersprimarily those under their mid-twenties,
born between 1977 and 1994form the most ethnically diverse generation this country has ever seen. As a group that comprises 73 million people, this population will eventually
rivalperhaps even overshadowthe influence and stature of Baby Boomers as a consumer group, particularly as these folks have yet to enter the peak earning stages of
their lives. Due to their cultural diversity (over 40% are non-White), their broad influences will radically change tastes for everything from food and beverages to electronics
and entertainment content.
Moderator’s Comment: America’s dynamic consumer landscape will perhaps become unrecognizable a mere decade from now.
Are U.S. retailers prepared to respond to the country’s new demographic reality? –
Thomas Tseng – Moderator