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

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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 40 years old in 2021. Most are now far removed from the stereotypical image of unemployed children with upscale taste.

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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. (Of course, the pandemic hasn’t helped, either.)

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 7, 2021

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Millennials Are Killing: Casual Dining Chains

Chain restaurants experienced a decrease of 14.8% in same-store traffic from 2008 to 2017 — even before the pandemic caused major issues for these chains, according to a report from Black Box Intelligence. Applebee’s, for example, cut back on locations throughout 2017 and 2018, and announced even more closures in late 2020, Restaurant Business reported. 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.

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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.

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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 couples choosing more unique approaches to their big day.

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Why It’s a Good Thing

Outdoor ceremonies have increased from 39% in 2009 to 52% in 2017, according to The Knot. (They are likely even more popular now due to the pandemic.) The use of barns, farms and ranches has increased 13% 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.

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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 recent years. Total U.S. beer volumes were down 2.3% in 2019, which is the fourth straight year of declines for the industry.

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Why It’s a Good Thing

Millennials may be killing traditional beers, but they’re 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.

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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.

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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.

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Millennials Are Killing: Razors

Procter & Gamble took an $8 billion hit from Gillette in 2019. While this was mostly due to currency fluctuations, the market for blades and razors continues to shrink as consumers shave less frequently. This was especially true in 2020, with Procter & Gamble stating that sales of men’s blades and razors were down “due to pandemic-related consumption decline,” New York Magazine reported.

Gillette competitors like Dollar Shave Club and Harry’s also offer much cheaper alternatives and cost-effective subscription services.

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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: Soda

Soda consumption has been declining steadily around the world, and Coca-Cola’s sales declined 11% in 2020, The Motley Fool reported. Diet Coke was even rebranded by Coca-Cola in 2018 in hopes of gauging millennial interest — but it looks like that hasn’t paid off.

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Why It’s a Good Thing

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.

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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.

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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.

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Millennials Are Killing: Napkins

In 2016, only 56% of consumers reported buying paper napkins in the last six months, whereas 86% bought paper towels. And in 2019, Vox speculated that the paper napkin may be destined for the same fate as the plastic straw due to its environmentally unsound nature.

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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.

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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 years, and Kraft Singles and Velveeta are feeling the pain.

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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?

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Millennials Are Killing: Cable/Traditional TV

Cable and satellite TV usage has dropped dramatically over recent years. From 2015 to 2021, the percentage of younger millennials who subscribed to cable or satellite TV dropped from 65% to 34%, and among older millennials, that percentage dropped from 73% to 46%, according to the Pew Research Center.

The way millennials consume television is also bucking tradition — even going back to 2014, half of millennials were accessing streaming services like Netflix on their mobile devices rather than a TV set, Comscore reported.

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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.

    Gabrielle Olya contributed to the reporting for this article.

    Photo disclaimer: Photos are for illustrative purposes only. As a result, some might be representational and not reflect the specific companies and products listed in this article.