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Coming Of Age-Start Early To Engage Next Generation

There comes a time when mom and dad finally accept their kids have grown into adults, capable of making their own decisions — good and bad — despite selfish beliefs the children would still be completely lost without parental wisdom.

Last fall, my wife and I settled in an empty nest for the first time, our two daughters safely tucked away at separate colleges. Having both kids out of the house at the same time confirmed our realization when we reunited at Thanksgiving that our girls had transformed into young women, driven by independence that we could no longer contain with the same insistence.

It happens every year in hundreds, maybe thousands, of households in communities across the country. As boys and girls become men and women, living on their own for the first time at college or elsewhere, they start to think and act as adults even if they don’t always realize it.

This is a cautionary tale for operators of kitchenware shops and the vendors that supply them.

It was revealing to watch my daughters fussing over every fashionable detail while shopping for bedding, rugs and bath towels for their college dorms and apartments. When it came to selecting cookware, knives, dinner plates, drinkware, though, just about anything would do.

It occurred to me that, while this might be a boon for mass merchants, big boxes and websites featuring basic implements at entry pricepoints, it could be the beginning of a missed opportunity for independent retailers. Or a big opportunity.

My older daughter has since graduated and she is preparing for her first post-college apartment. While she still seeks some shopping guidance from mom and dad (mostly mom), she insists on making her own choices to outfit her home, including the kitchen.

She, like many of her friends, usually starts by browsing through her iPhone. And I’m concerned that’s a sign independent store operators are about to lose vital links to their future customer chains.

It’s not too late to intercept her and bring her to your store. But it is a stark reminder that recruiting the next generation of independent retail store customers might have to begin earlier than you think, perhaps long before college and first apartments. 

From family cooking classes and themed events to personalized back-to-school shopping experiences and digital marketing connections, anything and everything you can do to engage, educate and entertain your core customers’ children as they come of age increases your chances of getting their business when they’re on their own. Also, prepare to serve them with promotional selections that offer solid quality at reasonably affordable prices to build confidence and loyalty that can be traded up later to premium quality and performance.

Kids will always turn into adults. My wife and I have accepted that we can’t keep our daughters at home. That doesn’t mean you have to let them get away.

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