West Elm Embraces Millennial Shop Local Mentality

Posted by: Claire Hagen

No matter where I am, I constantly search for locally owned and run restaurants, coffee shops and boutique shopping. In my experience, the customer service is of higher quality, the ingredients are fresher and I generally feel better about spending my money in the local economy. I know I’m not the only millennial who thinks this way. In fact, millennials across the board are spearheading the shop local movement.

In a study published by Accenture in Outlook magazine, 82 percent of millennials prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar stores. While many millennials will of course use their smartphones to find the best deals, they often purchase the products they researched from small stores, even if it means they sometimes pay a higher price. A huge reason for this is because millennials are an entrepreneurial group of people and therefore want to support fellow entrepreneurs.

Millennials also have a communal mindset more than their older counterparts. This mindset makes them very invested in supporting their local communities, as they would rather do things in groups than individually. We can attribute this to the fact that millennials lived through a recession that made them weary of large brands and big retailers. Twenty-somethings seek a shopping experience that is unique, sharable and often about finding the best deal, which they report finding in small stores and local shops.

Niche retailers that offer distinct and interactive shopping environments are winning with millennials. Research shows that, for millennials, experience is more important than what they are actually buying. However, if they are going to buy a tangible product, they want it to be special and of high quality. Millennials believe that they are more likely to get the quality of product they expect with local brands.

Transparency has always been another important factor to millennials and they believe that small businesses tend to be more transparent than major corporations. This seems to be especially true when it comes to food.

Millennials want to know what is in their food, who is making it and where the ingredients are coming from. Millennials favor restaurants that use local and seasonal ingredients in their featured dishes. In the eyes of millennials, local is considered “cool,” fueling a major resurgence of regionalism.

However, hope is not lost for bigger and national brands. Just because millennials tend to prefer to shop small doesn’t mean that larger companies can’t get in on this trend as well. Take West Elm for example, by supporting local makers within their stores they draw in millennial consumers and capitalize on their desire to support the local community. Restaurants can take note by using local ingredients and customizing their menu based on region to make the most of those ingredients.

About Claire Hagen

Claire Hagen is a born-and-raised Jayhawk from the mild, mild midwest and recent graduate from the University of Kansas. She is currently residing in England after studying abroad twice during her time at KU. A...See Claire's full bio.