Age Isn’t Just a Number at Retail

You’ve heard it said of some young folks that they “have an old soul.” You’ve also heard some older folks described as “young at heart.” But sayings like those refer to exceptions. In general, old folks act like old folks; while young people act like young people. That’s particularly true at retail, according to the Checkout Penetration Index.

Before we go any further, we should explain how the Checkout Penetration Index works. The index is based on millions of receipts from actual consumers across all retailers and restaurants, both online and in brick and mortar, and asks one simple question: “What percentage of all U.S. consumers bought at each store or restaurant?”

The index shows that while some retail and restaurant brands are popular across all generations -- think Walmart and McDonald’s -- shoppers at other brands often tend to skew either older or young.

Consider this:

  • Target is ranked third overall in the Checkout Penetration Index, with 84 percent penetration. But that overall number is based largely on younger consumers. A full 88 percent of consumers between the ages of 21 and 36 shopped at Target last year. But among Baby Boomers, penetration was only 79 percent … and falling.
  • Some 74 percent of Baby Boomers bought at least one item from Home Depot in 2016. Among Millennials, penetration was only 60 percent.
  • Arby’s got a buying visit from just 29 percent of Millennials last year. But the restaurant chain is considerably more popular with Boomers. Four of every 10 Americans between the ages of 53 and 71 bought at least one item from Arby’s in 2016.
  • By contrast, Chipotle’s penetration among Millennials is 42 percent. That’s more than double the 19 percent penetration among Baby Boomers.

One of the more interesting ways of looking at the Checkout Penetration Index is to consider which demographic groups are driving change.

  • TJ Maxx had 33 percent penetration overall in 2016 -- a rise of more than 3 percentage points from the prior year. Among Millennials, penetration rose roughly 4 percentage points last year to more than 34 percent penetration. TJ Maxx is also growing in popularity among Boomers, but at a lesser rate. Penetration in 2016 rose approximately 3 percentage points to 31 percent in that demographic.
  • Dunkin’ Donuts’ penetration among Millennials rose 5 percentage points in 2016, more than compensating for the 2 percentage point drop among Boomers.

Take a look at this earlier blog post to learn more about the Checkout Penetration Index and how to use it.

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