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An Open Letter to the Retail World from a Millennial Mom

Dear World of Retail:

I know there’s been a lot of talk lately about how the traditional world of retail is dying.  Shopping mall stalls stand empty, department stores struggle to survive, and Amazon is slowly taking over the known universe.  

It might be true.  

But women still love to shop.  Trust me.  It’s relaxing to wander the aisles of Target sipping my Starbucks and deciding between two throw pillows I don’t need.  It’s a social event when a friend and I meet up at the mall for lunch and a new pair of boots at Macy’s.  If you ask me, there’s another reason why we aren’t flocking to your doors.

We’re all freaking exhausted.

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2016, my generation, the Millennials, passed up the Baby Boomers to become the biggest demographic in the U.S. with about 83 million people.  More of those families than ever before have both parents working full-time outside the home.  And lots of us are parents.  8 out of 10 babies born in 2015 were born to Millennials.  

And have you ever tried to take a kid shopping?  

It’s. Not. Fun.  

Forget sipping Starbucks – I’m too busy digging a leaky sippy cup out of my purse.  A casual stroll around the mall?  How about a mad dash to the nearest restroom because someone has to potty RIGHT NOW.  Honestly, sometimes…it’s just not worth it.

You want to get us offline and back to the stores?  Help us, help you.

Here are 5 things you could do for which all of us Millennial Moms would be eternally grateful:

1. Put in a drive thru.  Seriously.  Why does WalMart not have this yet?  Why doesn’t EVERY store?  You want to put a limit on how many or which items I can purchase through the window?  Fine.  I’m not talking about a week’s worth of groceries here.  Just let me swing by the window and send one of your employees to run and grab me a gallon of milk, a box of diapers…and maybe a king size Twix bar…without unloading a car seat.  Please.  

I know what you’re thinking, CEOs.  “But we want you to actually come all the way inside!  That way we can trick you into buying all kinds of crap you didn’t even know you wanted!”  Well, see, here’s the thing.  Because you are so dead set on that strategy, millions of us are signing up with online subscription programs that will deliver all the things we need right to our door on a weekly basis.  I personally haven’t caved yet, but every time I have to park a mile away and tow the kids across that parking lot and through that checkout line, I get a little bit closer.  I promise, if you put in a drive-thru, you will be my new favorite store, and the number of visits I make to pick up forgotten cupcake ingredients and toilet paper will more than make up for any impulse sales you would have made by forcing me to drag a grumpy toddler down the aisles.

2.  Get your shopping carts in gear.  Whatever genius invented this monstrosity deserves to push it around purgatory forever:  

Note:  This is not my kiddo!  This photo is from the blog “A Healthy Slice of Life.” But I bet she feels my pain about these stupid carts! 🙂 

I’m surprised it doesn’t beep loudly when I back it up…which I have to do a lot because it turns corners like a damn semi-truck.  And because it just wasn’t annoying enough, some idiot decided it needed seat belts.  The thing is literally 6 inches off the ground!  My child thinks those stupid straps are a game provided for his amusement.  “Buckle me!”  “Unbuckle me!”  “I want down!”  And if the kids aren’t playing with them, they’re fighting over them, or whining about them.  Only about 5% of the time are they actually wearing them.  I think I’ll take my chances on that dangerous six inch drop, thanks.

3.  Put in more potties.  Why does every mall or discount store in America have just one stinkin’ bathroom that’s tucked away in the farthest reaches of space and time? This is 2017.  We can’t install a few more restrooms and distribute them evenly in a shopping space?  Because you know the kids are going to wait until we are at the farthest point from said bathroom (probably navigating a tricky corner in my semi-truck) before they realize they need to go.  It’s science.  And while we’re on the subject, how about you put just one sink low enough for a 3-year-old to reach it?  Truth?  Sometimes we settle for hand sanitizer….or a Kleenex…rather than even attempt the death defying contortionist act it takes to lift him up with one arm while working the water and (usually empty) soap dispenser with the other.   (Maybe I’ll start a boycott until Target meets my bathroom demands! 😉  Too soon?)

4.  Get with the times.  Even the gas pump has a screen to entertain me while I pump my gas.  So does the table at Olive Garden or Applebees.  Want to get me shopping again?  Strap one of those puppies on every cart (maybe you could re-purpose those safety belts!) and load it up with games or videos for kids.  Sure, I could give them my phone…because I enjoy having it dropped every five seconds and looking down to see them deleting all my contacts with their sticky little fingers.  But help a mother out!  Better yet, take a page out of Ikea’s book and provide in-store childcare.  Those Swedes sure do know their millennials…and their meatballs.

5.  Remember your manners.  Yes, I know, you already open the door for me, and no, I’m not suggesting that you start sending me thank you notes after every visit.  I’m saying, train your employees to be a little bit more helpful.  I can’t remember the last time a retail employee asked if I’d like help getting my fully loaded semi-truck to my car.  The cart cowboy at Walmart the other day appeared out of nowhere and offered to take my cart to the nearest corral and I almost cried from gratitude.  (I didn’t because I was distracted by my 3-year-old who was about to run into traffic and my 7-year-old who wanted me to watch a new dance move she had just created in the produce section.)  My point is, maybe if your customer service was a little more Chik-fil-a and a little less…Charter…you might find that we come in more often…and have enough energy left when we get home to rave about you on Twitter!

6.  Convince me it’s worth it.  Even if you did take all the advice provided above, getting out and about with kids in tow is still exhausting.  If I’m going to do it, I need to be reasonably sure it’s going to be worth my effort.  So let me see what I’ll be getting.  I know this one is a long shot, but mommas, imagine if every store’s website was equipped with a 360° video of the aisles and displays.  Just like Google Earth – where you can navigate up and down the aisles as if you’re there.  So if I’m wondering if you carry that very specific doll my daughter wants for her birthday, but I don’t want to park and run inside five different stores (loading and unloading that car seat 10 times, by the way), I can check it out online first.  

Again, I know what you’re thinking.  Isn’t this really just “online shopping 2.0”?  Technically…yes.  But again – we millennial moms really do still WANT to shop in-store.  And lots of times I need something faster than even Amazon can get it to me, or I need to actually try it on or hold it in my hands.  And if I like what I see from my computer, I’d be happy to come in…and a MUCH happier customer, which means I’ll come back to you time and time again.  If I don’t like what I see…well…then I guess I’ll end up shopping online anyway…but it might be on your website…I’m already there using that awesome new 360° camera feature, after all!

The bottom line is, we millennials are busier and more exhausted than the Baby Boomers, and we have very little patience for all those old retail “tricks” designed to get and keep customers in your stores.   In fact…they kind of piss us off.  (You know…like how you put the milk way at the back?  We hate you.)  In a world where online shopping is always an easy alternative…you are going to have to give up on trying to manipulate us into spending more time and money per visit – and start focusing on making those visits so quick, easy, and enjoyable that we actually start looking forward to shopping again!  

Until then…just pray that our kids are in good moods and that we’re strong enough to ignore the siren song of Amazon Prime…

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to run in to Walmart….there are just a couple things I need….

Anything I’ve left out?  Add your own “requests” for the world of retail in the comments below!  

 

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