Lowe's CEO explains why millennials aren't killing the home-improvement market

Peter Wynn Thompson/AP Images for 100,000 Opportunities InitiativeLowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison said that it’s ‘incumbent’ upon Lowe’s to ‘really understand those customers.’
  • Millennials have been blamed for killing – or at least maiming – plenty of industries.
  • But Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison told the audience at the National Retail Federation’s 2019 Big Show that he doesn’t believe that the generation is eschewing home ownership and home improvement, like many have claimed.
  • Ellison said that millennials are gravitating toward older homes near cities, in what could be a boom for the home-improvement business.

NEW YORK CITY – Millennials have been labelled as industry-wide serial killers responsible for dragging down sales of everything from diamonds to light yogurt.

But Lowe’s CEO Marvin Ellison has said he doesn’t believe that the home-improvement business or the housing market is on this demographic’s list of victims.

Speaking to Spencer Stuart CEO Susan Hart at the National Retail Federation’s 2019 Big Show in Manhattan on January 14, the Lowe’s CEO said that millennials are increasingly “buying homes” and becoming “first-time homeowners.”

Ellison said that the widespread belief that this generation would “shy away from home ownership” in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis has simply not come to pass.

Despite this CEO’s optimism, a Federal Reserve report from November 2018 did dredge up some gloomy numbers regarding home ownership among millennials. The report found that only 34% of millennials owned their homes in 2016 – compared with 50% of the Generation X demographic in 2001.

Read more: A Home Depot exec explains the key reason why pushing for ‘the store of the future’ could backfire

And the reason behind this decrease – along with a number of other millennial spending habits – doesn’t come down to a matter of taste. Millennials are poorer than past generations, and they are more likely to be saddled with debt.

But Ellison said that he’s heartened by certain millennial habits when it comes to housing.

“They’re now, in some cases, buying older homes because they desire to live closer to the city,” he said. “They’re going into those homes and they’re making investments to make those homes modern, to their taste.”

Ellison said that it’s “incumbent” upon Lowe’s to “really understand those customers and those customer segments.”

“The millennial customer and the demographic is going to emerge very soon as a demographic larger and more powerful than baby boomers, which is going to be significant not only for Lowe’s but for all of retail – everyone selling goods and services,” he said.

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