A survey conducted last semester by Katrijn Gielens , an associate professor at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, found that many college students see shopping at department stores as unsatisfying. Surveyed students said department stores are cluttered and associated them with older demographics, such as their mothers’.
But because brand loyalties form during early adulthood and the disposable income of the average college student is likely to increase over time, businesses seek college-aged consumers, Gielens said.
The survey was part of a term project Gielens ran in collaboration with a southern department store to determine what college students find desirable and lacking in department stores.
“The response (to the project’s survey) was mixed, but overall, it wasn’t too positive. To be quite frank, it was actually quite negative,” she said. “That is one of the things that came out of the research is that, say, 80 percent of department stores have a perception problem, and perception is often reality.”
Students often do not have an awareness of what brands are offered — and some of the brands offered are popular among those surveyed, but millennials just do not realize they are available at department stores, she said.
Many college students have turned to online shopping, which offers the same wide selection but easier, faster access, as a replacement for department stores.
“They want to be served immediately — not physically — but by immediately seeing the product they want to get,” Gielens said.
With changes in how the average consumer shops, expectations have altered, and Gielens referred to this as the “Amazonification” of the consumer.