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Home Depot Underestimated Millennials

Home Depot Underestimated Millennials

For a while there, millennials had home-improvement retailers like Home Depot a bit nervous.

Merchandising EVP Ted Decker told Business Insider that, around five years ago, there were ongoing concerns that post-recession woes and declining home ownership would permanently influence the generation’s relationship with the home-improvement sector.

A lot of this jitteriness stemmed from research that indicated millennials weren’t embarking on the “traditional” path of finishing school, getting married, starting a family, moving to the suburbs, and buying a starter home.

“We were concerned that, wow, maybe this isn’t going to happen,” Decker said. “There was a lot of discussion about the rental economy; that people are just going to rent the same way we do Airbnbs and Ubers and Zipcars, that it’s going to be the same in housing.”

But one particular group of millennials ended up steering Home Depot’s beliefs about the generation in an entirely different direction. Decker said that five summers ago, the company established an internship cohort consisting of millennials from a diverse range of backgrounds and interests, including business students, computer programmers, designers, and students of the liberal arts.

“We brought them all together and we said, ‘All right, you’re a millennial. Your job this summer is to tell us what’s relevant to you and what’s not relevant to you in Home Depot, in-store and online,'” Decker said.

He said the interns’ feedback was largely heartening for the company, as many of the millennials had grown up with Home Depot, either through their parents or through the company’s long-running workshops for children.

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