Businesses That Millennials Have Killed (and Why It’s for the Best)

The perception that millennials are killing dozens of industries isn’t entirely false. However, the reasoning behind this consumer trend shift might not be as you imagine. Millennials have been painted as lazy, screen-obsessed kids who won’t eat or wear anything without first posting it on Instagram. But, while that might be true in some respects, millennials aren’t kids anymore. Pew Research Center considers anyone born between 1981 and 1996 a millennial. Under that definition, the oldest millennials will be 39 years old in 2020. Most are now far removed from the stereotypical image of unemployed children with upscale taste.

Millennials’ tastes often align with financial stability, as much of this generation was coming of age during the Great Recession. Frivolous spending on weddings, homes and designer clothing doesn’t appeal to this generation of buyers. Local products and services that offer sustainability, affordability and health-conscious options are gaining popularity. And companies unwilling to keep up with millennial consumer trends may be shuttering locations faster than they’d like.

Contrary to popular belief, laying off the avocado toast — which is a healthier option than cereal — will not help you save up for your first home. But there are quite a few products that millennials are, in fact, killing off — though it may be for the best.

Last updated: July 21, 2020

Millennials Are Killing: Casual Dining Chains

Chain restaurants have experienced a decrease of 14.8% in same-store traffic since 2008, according to a report from Black Box Intelligence. Applebee’s, for example, cut back on locations throughout 2017 and 2018. According to Business Insider, Applebee’s has continued to fail when it comes to winning over millennial diners, with the modern bar and grill vibe missing the mark.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Places like Burger King, Pizza Hut and Subway have also announced closures in 2019 and 2020, which may mean millennials have had a change in taste. Perhaps this generation is looking for healthier options when it comes to casual dining. Many chain restaurants have been forced to include ingredients and calories in order to appease the younger crowd. And what will happen once fat and sodium are required to be listed? Well, we might see more chain restaurants close sooner rather than later.

Millennials Are Killing: Traditional Weddings

Millennials are crushing quite a few old traditions, and weddings certainly take the cake. The amount of religious wedding ceremonies has been cut almost in half, dropping from 41% in 2009 to 22% in 2017, according to a study by The Knot. Banquet halls, hotels and country club wedding venues have also seen a significant drop in bookings, with brides choosing more unique approaches to their big day.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Meanwhile, outdoor ceremonies have increased from 39% in 2009 to 52% in 2017, according to The Knot. Use of barns, farms and ranches has increased 13 percentage points over the last decade, as couples look for cheaper and more unconventional alternatives for their wedding day. People often underestimate the cost of a wedding, and millennials are making the smart choice to cut costs and stick to a budget instead of splurging on something they can’t afford.

Millennials Are Killing: Beer

This might be surprising to hear, but millennials are killing beer. According to Fortune, AB InBev, Molson Coors and Heineken all took a fairly large hit in the first quarter of 2018. Total U.S. beer volumes are down 2.3% in 2019, which is the fourth straight year of declines for the industry.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Millennials may be killing traditional beers, but they are spending more money on craft brews. A recent Brewers Association survey found that people are spending more on craft beer every month than they do on their monthly cellphone and utilities. This seems to show that millennials are more supportive of local businesses — at least, the ones that sell alcohol — and could be representative of a larger movement to a healthier lifestyle, with tea, kombucha and other drink alternatives also becoming increasingly popular.

Learn: 8 Surprising Industries That Are Thriving — and Have Millennials To Thank

Millennials Are Killing: Mayonnaise

Mayo might not be America’s favorite condiment, and it looks like millennials are trying to drop it off the map. Mayonnaise sales fell 6.7% between 2012 and 2017. Kraft Heinz shares continue to slide downward as the company attempts to adapt to changing taste buds.

Why It’s a Good Thing

It should come as no surprise that mayo is full of fat. According to the Food Network, one cup of mayonnaise contains 1,440 calories, 160 grams of fat and 24 grams of saturated fat. It appears millennials — and Americans in general — are choosing more health-conscious food options or ones with fairly low mayo intake. 

Millennials Are Killing: Department Stores

With big-box retailers like Macy’s, Kmart and Sears shuttering locations, some may be blaming millennials for their disinterest in shopping at brick-and-mortar stores. Meanwhile, online shopping — looking at you, Amazon — continues to steadily climb.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Large fashion brands actually destroy billions of dollars worth of their own clothing and merchandise every year. That’s right — companies like Burberry, H&M, Nike and Urban Outfitters would rather burn, shred or landfill their merchandise instead of recycling or reselling to brands like T.J. Maxx and Marshall’s. This level of pollution and wastefulness may not be sitting right with most millennials.

Millennials Are Killing: Razors

Procter & Gamble took an $8 billion hit from Gillette last year. While this was mostly due to currency fluctuations, the market for blades and razors continues to shrink as consumers shave less frequently. Gillette competitors like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s also offer much cheaper alternatives and cost-effective subscription services.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Beard-loving millennials are throwing away the clean-shaven look. According to Reuters, relaxed social norms may be prompting men to shave less often. For the women’s razor industry, women are typically subject to a “pink tax,” which makes the products more expensive. The disposable razor industry is a $34 billion industry and not environmentally friendly, so killing off razors might not be so bad.

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Millennials Are Killing: “Breastaurants”

Perhaps millennials are less interested in inappropriate dining options. The number of Hooters locations in the U.S. dropped more than 7% from 2012 to 2016, with revenue down from $960 million in 2008 to $798 million in 2017-18.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Chicken wings might be great, but the business model behind restaurants like Hooters, Twin Peaks and Tilted Kilt seems to have become more off-putting to younger generations. Millennials place a larger emphasis on quality of service and food than they do on certain “aesthetics.”

Millennials Are Killing: Cereal

While cereal has always been a breakfast staple, it appears to be moving into the snack sphere. According to Mintel in 2017, 43% of U.S. cereal consumers ate cereal as a snack at home, with many enjoying it on the go. If cereal was made for on-the-go consumption, perhaps declining sales would look a bit different.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Many cereals contain added sugar, which is one of the worst things to consume if you’re looking to improve your overall health. Look at the ingredients listed on any box of cereal and sugar is often one of the top three. Eating a sugary breakfast every day can lead to health issues like diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Millennials Are Killing: Motorcycles

There is a generational divide on what makes motorcycles cool: the older generation want motorcycles as a hobby, while millennials are looking for a better and more affordable mode of transportation. CNBC reported that Harley Davidson’s average customer is aging out of the market and it could soon see heavy hits to its bottom line.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Nobody can claim that motorcycles are the safest mode of transportation. While millennials want cheaper alternatives to vehicles, it looks like the motorcycle industry hasn’t learned how to attract the younger market just yet.

Millennials Are Killing: Soda

Soda stocks dipped 1% in 2018 in the U.S. market, and big brands like Coca-Cola and Pepsi are scrambling to offer low-calorie and low-sugar options. Diet Coke was even rebranded by Coca-Cola in 2018 in hopes of gauging millennial interest.

Why It’s a Good Thing

While these healthier options are a start, millennials have shifted their taste buds to other drink options like seltzer, kombucha, tea and coffee. Soda has been linked to cancer and diabetes, so abstaining from soft drinks certainly can’t hurt.

Millennials Are Killing: Fabric Softener

Millennials aren’t using fabric softener when they do their laundry. Downy’s liquid fabric softener fell 26% between 2007 and 2015, with the entire product category down 15%. Perhaps this falls on Procter & Gamble for not educating the masses on the benefits of using this product.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Is fabric softener actually necessary for washing your clothes? While this product softens and scents your laundry, it’s not great to use on certain fabrics. And if you are eco-friendly or have sensitive skin, fabric softener often contains harmful chemicals that can irritate your body.

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Millennials Are Killing: Homeownership

The homeownership rate for millennials was just 37% in 2015, which is eight percentage points lower than Gen Xers and baby boomers saw at the same age. Unfortunately, millennials simply can’t afford to buy homes, which is drastically affecting the mortgage and lending industries.

Why It’s a Good Thing

It’s not ideal that millennials struggle to afford homes; however, this generation is becoming more conscious of their spending habits and may not want to jump into a big purchase when it’s not the right time financially. This bodes well for their future finances and could result in more positive economic repercussions down the line.

Millennials Are Killing: Movie Theaters

According to Bloomberg, admissions to theaters in the U.S. and Canada were down 5.8% in 2017, with just 1.24 billion people attending movie showings. This was the lowest attendance since 1992, and companies like AMC attempted a MoviePass-like subscription service to gain more attendees. However, despite the new strategy, many people are just not willing to pay the exorbitant costs associated with going to the movies anymore.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Nobody wants to shell out $50-plus for a movie, popcorn and drink. While the theater seats are comfortable, they are no match for the coziness of watching your favorite films from home — especially with Hulu and Netflix offering monthly subscriptions that cost less than one ticket to the theater.

Millennials Are Killing: Taxis

The yellow-cab industry is on its way out, with more people choosing Uber in New York City. Taxis accounted for just 6% of quarter one 2018 ride-hailing expenses for business traveler ground transportation.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Ride-sharing apps like Lyft and Uber are cheaper alternatives to taxis and often provide discounts and rewards to frequent customers. These services are used on a smartphone and are more accessible for millennials than physically hailing a cab.

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Millennials Are Killing: Hotel Loyalty Programs

Millennials aren’t loyal — to hotels, that is. This generation doesn’t seem tied to any specific brand and tends to find the most affordable option when traveling. Smartphones are used most often when booking travel, and websites like Kayak, Expedia and Trivago make it easier to find discounted rates for your specific travel dates. These bookings often have airfare and hotel included.

Why It’s a Good Thing

A consumer survey by SmartHQ found that loyalty programs have only a small impact on helping travelers and may not have a great ROI. Millennials are more often opting to stay at Airbnbs, which are typically more cost-effective and provide a more personal experience when traveling.

Millennials Are Killing: Greeting Cards

Snail mail is a dying art, so it may come as no surprise that the greeting card isn’t doing too hot. Papyrus, known for its beautiful cards, is closing all 254 of its locations after its parent company, Schurman Fine Paper, filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Hallmark isn’t doing much better, with business efforts moving toward the digital space to keep up with consumer trends.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Greeting cards were an interesting concept when snail mail was all the rage, and it’s super fun to get mail. But the practice of sending greeting cards might be a bit antiquated for millennials. Greeting cards have also become incredibly expensive, with a birthday card costing between $3.29 and $12.99. It’s cheaper to save a tree.

Millennials Are Killing: Napkins

In 2016, only 56% of consumers reported buying paper napkins in the last six months, whereas 86% bought paper towels. Many top companies in the paper-based home goods industry own both napkin and paper towel brands, like Procter & Gamble and Georgia-Pacific.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Sustainability is in, and one-time paper products are out. While they may be useful to have while you’re eating, switching to cloth napkins allows you to reduce waste and your carbon footprint.

Millennials Are Killing: Cans of Tuna

Bumble Bee filed for bankruptcy in November 2019, coming under new ownership after pleading guilty to criminal price-fixing in the tuna-processing industry. StarKist was not innocent in this scheme either, and the company has also made concerted efforts to implement a chicken line.

Why It’s a Good Thing

One could argue that these tuna cans could offer more convenience with a pop-top lid and the like. However, millennials are leading the vegetarian movement, according to a study from research firm Branded. It found that about 15% of Millennials stick to a plant-based diet all the time.

Millennials Are Killing: American Cheese

Given the number of preservatives in American cheese, you might not be shocked that the food is dying. U.S. sales of processed cheese have dropped for four straight years, and Kraft Singles and Velveeta are feeling the pain.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Without going into detail on what’s needed to make American cheese, just know: it’s definitely not good for you. Even fast food and chain restaurants are opting for real cheese, with Wendy’s preferring natural asiago and cheddar cheeses and Panera Bread replacing American cheese in their four-cheese grilled cheese combo. Don’t you prefer authenticity?

Millennials Are Killing: Cable/Traditional TV

Seventy-two percent of consumers use a smartphone to watch online video once a week or more, compared to only 56% who use a physical television to connect to the internet. DISH reported $12.81 billion total revenue for 2019, a steep drop from $13.62 billion the following year. Cable packages have also become more expensive.

Why It’s a Good Thing

Streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video allow for a more tailored viewing experience. Consumers can pay a small fee to skip commercials altogether and don’t have to be tethered to a bulky satellite or cable package.

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