Kids Living With Parents Longer, Changing Shopping Patterns

Dec 14, 2009
Bernice Hurst

Bernice Hurst, Contributing Editor, RetailWire

beware. There is a new threat to your livelihoods from young people who
are living longer with their parents and not exercising their rights
to consume. Reports in both The
the UK and The
Washington Post
some of the causes and effects.

British report cites a study from the Office of National Statistics (ONS)
finding that “many young adults in their mid-20s and early 30s, and especially
men, are increasingly postponing the transition to adulthood.” Blaming
it partially on the housing and job markets, the organization also found
that many simply choose to remain at home with their families. A new
term – kippers (kids in parents’ pockets) – apparently refers to those
who stay through choice.

British youngsters used to fly the nest sooner than those from other
European countries, new figures “show that 25 percent of men aged 25
to 29 now live with their parents…almost double the proportion of women
in their late 20s (13 percent) who still live at home.”

and student debt are amongst factors convincing recent graduates to return
to their parents rather than attempt to fend for themselves. Those who
haven’t gone to university are finding job and income prospects extremely

recent article in Population
researchers from Southampton University explains that “many more advantaged
young adults appear not ready to settle down during their 20s and are
likely to return to the parental home," at least until they find a long
term partner with whom to set up their own home.

Melissa Meyer, the young woman on whom The
Washington Post
failure to find a well-paying job has created unintended consequences. “She
has invented a dozen ways to say those words – ‘I don’t know'” about
her future. Instead, like many of her friends, she is planning to spend
time traveling and taking up short-term opportunities. As one says, “the
economy is almost convenient in a sick way, because everybody is off
on adventures. It’s an excuse to do whatever you want.” Often “hanging
out” in parents’ homes while they do it.

Questions: What does young adults living in their parents’ homes longer
mean for retailers and brand marketers? Are boomerang children a segment
worth targeting? Which categories do you expect will gain or lose if
the kipper trend continues?

commentary] Unintended consequences from these kippers (or boomerang
children, as they are also known by researchers) may have an impact on
retailers. With young adults delaying their purchases of products for
their homes – as well food and CPG needs met by parents – market size
may be a concern for some time to come.

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7 Comments on "Kids Living With Parents Longer, Changing Shopping Patterns"

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Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
11 years 4 months ago

These articles correctly identify the main reasons for this trend, including more education, delayed marriage, etc, but of course the main reason is the economy. When growth and opportunity return, household formation will too. But when will that be, and will it be robust enough? Yikes, maybe not. But as I’m sure other readers will comment, kippers and boomerangs actually have higher disposable income to spend because they are not spending as much on rent and food. So are they worth targeting? Sure, but maybe not in an obvious way.

My most recent column on demographics might be of interest.

Ian Percy
11 years 4 months ago
My wife and I moved from Toronto to Scottsdale because the kids were starting to move back in! As much as we love them what drove us crazy is that they would then behave like kids instead of adults. I’m sure we set a world-record for how long empty beer bottles could be left on a coffee table! But that’s another topic. Does living with parents change buying habits? I’m not sure about how big a deal that is–they seem to live a pretty minimalist existence no matter where they live. After all, how many T-shirts does one need? Behind this whole thing is that kids are not being taught how to live and look after themselves. They are taught to be ‘looked after’ so they wait until someone hands them a “well-paying” job instead of going out and creating a meaningful and rewarding life for themselves. Both schools and parents are accountable. Schools because they fail to teach anything about taking initiative and finding one’s destiny and parents because they ‘rescue’ or bail-out their… Read more »
Mel Kleiman
11 years 4 months ago

Less earnings but more disposable income. If they have it, they will spend it. That is all this new generation knows. They will still eat and entertain and travel. But they will not be buying clothes to go to the office, or furniture, or appliances. So electronics, clubs, and athletic goods are some of the areas that will gain from this trend.

Doron Levy
Doron Levy
11 years 4 months ago

It means stocking up on cheap XBox games, Cheetos and Mr. Pibb. Seriously though, merchants need to figure out what these home dwellers want and need. Commercials for kids sometimes end with: “Don’t forget to tell your parents to buy XXXX.” Can you imagine that at the end of Budweiser or Apple commercials?

Ben Ball
11 years 4 months ago

As for the retail impact, I concur with others that the impact will simply be more discretionary spending fueled by less traditional “fixed expense” like rent, mortgage, taxes, utilities, etc. So this could quite likely be a boon for the right retailers.

As for the causality driving boomerang kids–I’d like to offer another theory. My generation left home so we could do the things that “discretionary income” allowed. Like drink beer in our own apartment and “search for the right long-term partner” without worrying when the parents would come home. But in today’s world that no longer seems necessary. When rent is no longer the price of freedom, why pay it?

Alison Chaltas
Alison Chaltas
11 years 4 months ago

Kippers present an interesting twist to how retailers and manufacturers analyze their shoppers. Not only do Kippers have disproportionately high spending for their age and income, but they also behave a lot like overgrown teenagers spending money on electronics and clothes instead of food and furniture. Their presence will skew the demographics of certain zipcodes and make them feel younger and cooler than they are. Kippers will also influence what their parents buy for food and household products. Marketers beware.

Li McClelland
Li McClelland
11 years 4 months ago

Ian apparently is living it, and many of us are observing it within our social circle. This boomerang-kippers thing is very real but not a very good trend for the economy, retail, OR society in general. The kids’ self esteem is shot–eventually along with their ambition in many cases– and the parents’ marriages become stressed at a time when everybody involved should be enjoying their relative privacy and independence. Also, except in rare cases the extra expense of adult kids living at home is increasingly limiting the parents’ buying power as well.

Marketers would do better by figuring out a long-term strategy focused on helping sell the “concept” and joys of adult kids leaving home permanently, rather than trying to sell to them while they are still living in their old rooms!


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