Industry News

Holiday Shopping Millennial Style: To Draw Gen Y In-Store, Specialty Retailers Gather the Tribe Online

December 7, 2015 | 0 Comments


When it comes to holiday shopping, millennials are ready to spend this year.  According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 47 percent of millennials said they plan to spend more this holiday season, compared to just 25 percent of shoppers ages 35 and older. Additionally, 65 percent of all shoppers plan to research online before heading to the stores to make a purchase. To help specialty retailers capitalize on this trend, we took a look at our Downhill Consumer Intelligence Report (DCIP) and Snow Sports Market Intelligence Report and found a wealth of data to help build a millennials holiday shopping strategy, centered around using social media to bring shoppers in-store for purchases.

Photo Credit: Tim Zimmerman

The Snow Sports Market Intelligence Report can give you a great overview of participation numbers and sales trends, while the Downhill Consumer Intelligence Report offers an abundance of information about snow sports participants of all ages. For example, the DCIP findings highlight the millennials’ need for personalized, experience-based shopping. The data also shows that 90 percent of millennials check their social media accounts at least once daily, and that they draw influence from their peers’ buying decisions. These two facts tell us that social media can bring millennials in-store if they feel a connection to your shop online.

“Millennials are the largest cohort in the snow sports marketplace,” said SIA research director Kelly Davis. “The millennial snow sports participants are 10.8 million strong, with a spending power of over $170 million. The role they play is critical to understanding the snow sports marketplace as a whole, and critical to the bottom line of our retailers and suppliers.”

Interestingly, studies show that millennials rank online shopping lower on their list of preferred channels—after department stores, mass merchandisers, and specialty stores—than older shoppers. This is in keeping with their thirst for experiences. They want to be able to see, touch, and feel the merchandise. And they want interaction. This explains the rise of “webrooming” (researching on-line before going in-store to purchase), which a recent Accenture study says is a trend practiced by 65 percent of all shoppers.

Millennial holiday shopper Sarah Rose with brother Will at Sugarbush Resort, VT

Clearly, making the connection on social media and then offering a great experience in-store are two keys to millennials’ hearts (and wallets). Millennial shopper and 6-to-10 days-per-year skier Sarah Rose of Boston, MA, said, “I split my holiday shopping online and in-store. Generally I’ll buy online if I know exactly what I’m getting for someone. But I like to go in-store to look for inspiration. Often I’ll see something in an email or on social media, or even in the store’s window that will catch my eye, and that may be enough to get me in to browse. But especially with ski equipment, I always buy in store. I’m dedicated to the shop our family has been buying from all my life and the people know me there. Plus, I just like the atmosphere in the store. I like to be able to see everything, talk to the staff to understand the technology, and get the right fit.”

So what’s the best way to build a tribe around your shop on social media, and offer that personal experience both online and in-store? Kjerstin Klein, owner of Willi’s Ski and Snowboard Shop in Pittsburg, PA, has successfully built a community around her shop with social media, and says these efforts have paid dividends with her millennial customers.


Kjerstin Klein, owner of Willi’s Ski and Snowboard Shop in Pittsburgh, PA

 “As in real life, starting a new relationship can be tricky,” Klein said. “Millennials are no more trusting than any other demographic, but they do love to post selfies!  We use that for both marketing and as a non-threatening way to begin a relationship. We have them hashtag us to show off their great new board – or their moves in the park.  The kits for Small Business Saturday had some great stuff in them including a Selfie prop to post to show that you supported a Small Business (like an I Voted sticker).  We encourage that kind of activity and look for hashtags that relate to our business, like our local resort. We find people to follow and have found that if you have good content, chances are they will follow you back.”

“When it comes to content, don’t go for the hard sell,” she adds. “Keep it light and fun. We post pictures of our merchandise, our staff, the funny things that happen in the shop, what the back shop looks like – anything that helps build the relationship, and keeps customers informed and/or entertains them.”

Once customers have walked through the door, Klein says she focuses on the things she knows help a customer make an in-store purchase – price, convenience and confidence. “To make it a no-brainer for customers to purchase in store, be the problem solver, make shopping in your stores as easy as possible, and make it fun. For our customers, it’s a social occasion as much as anything. Some of the millennials we see in our store have been coming in since they first started.”

“The most powerful element in the equation is their confidence. As long as your staff has the expertise, it’s easy to show them that this is performance merchandise and how critical it is  that someone fits it correctly and can service it. That’s a huge value to shopping in-store and it’s easy to communicate it if you make it a priority.”

Finding ways to speak to the millennial generation is a challenge, and one that is often met by trial and error. Keep your ideas flowing by using SIA’s research and retailer tools to guide you. Start by getting detailed, descriptive information about who millennials are and what they want from the snow sports marketplace, which you’ll find in the Downhill Consumer Intelligence Report at

See more about selling the experience in-store in our recent post from merchandising guru Ali Levy, “Are You Experienced?” For more about personalizing the in-store experience as well as loads of tips for social media campaigns, download the Retailer to Consumer Marketing Guide.


For more information about the 2014/15 Snow Sports Market data including snow sports sales, participation and overall trends, check out the newly released State of the Industry Video Series. The video series is based on the SIA Intelligence Report, which offers a behind-the-scenes look at the most recent snow sports season, including how much was bought, which sports are growing, how many people participated, and a look at what it means for the future of snow sports in America and beyond.


Check out the Descriptive Summary for an overview of the Intelligence Report. To get all of the information contained in the SIA Snow Sports Market Intelligence Report, and to request your copy, contact SIA Research Director Kelly Davis at [email protected] or 703-506-4224.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *