Normally, I am not one to shop for recreation’s sake. But the same cannot be said of my aunt (and namesake) Elizabeth Ann. Recently, my daughter, Lisa, and I joined her for a full-day expedition to Tysons Corner Center, which offers 2.4 million square feet (223,000 sq m) of prime retail space in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. With my aunt a member of the greatest generation, myself a baby boomer, and my daughter a millennial, we were practically a case study of intergenerational shopping methods.
For my aunt, the outing was all about prowling the sales floors, taking in the displays, seeing and touching the goods. She may or may not be in a buying mood— but she is always in a hunting mood. Her flip phone remains in her handbag, ready for use in emergencies.
For my daughter, the millennial, there is joy in the hunt—but an actual purchase usually involves her phone. She snaps photos of items and messages the pictures to get friends’ opinions. She will try on a shirt or shoes that are available in her size—but in the wrong color—and then find and buy the right size/ color combo online. She compares prices. The physical store serves mostly as an auxiliary to online shopping, but it can be part of a fun day out.
As a baby boomer, I, too, employ a mix of bricks and clicks. I can get Macy’s coupons on my iPhone. I may go to the store to pick up things I bought online. But sometimes, I bypass the retailer entirely and buy online from their vendors. Who needs to ask if the department store has my favorite cosmetics in stock when I can set up a regular delivery schedule directly with Lancôme?
As you will see in the retail design articles beginning on page 48, retail land use experts are shedding the clicks-or-bricks dichotomy to draw in multimodal shoppers like my daughter and me. They are upping the ante on atmosphere, too. It’s no secret that you have to provide a compelling atmosphere—a pleasant experience—to draw shoppers away from their iPhones. Hunter-gatherers like my aunt and daughter will love the ambience.
This issue offers other insights into the behavior of millennials like my daughter. It turns out that most of them are not passing time sipping martinis on the rooftop decks of luxury downtown apartments. New research published by ULI shows that many are minimizing their rent payments, paying off their debts, and driving their own (not shared) cars around the suburbs. The story beginning on page 72 shows some surprising trends that counter prevailing assumptions about this extremely influential demographic group.
Finally, we would like to send our best wishes to the people of Houston (and elsewhere in Texas) as they recover from extensive, deadly flooding. Barely more than a week after ULI Houston graciously hosted the 2015 Spring Meeting, successive deluges of rain hit the city. Only days after ULI members had toured the new parklands along the banks of Buffalo Bayou, torrential rains drove it—and the city’s other waterways—over their banks. Flooding in parts of the low-lying city was extensive. I am certain all of those who enjoyed Houston’s hospitality during the meeting join me in wishing the very best to the city as it recovers.
Editor in Chief