35 Things Millennials are Killing Off

By Adrienne McIlvaineLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:12:09 PM ET
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The Greatest Generation bravely fought the horrors of World War II in order to bring about lasting peace throughout the world. The baby boomers grew up in the post-war period and shaped the world as we know it.

But millennials, aren’t content with doing things just because “that’s how they’ve always been done.” Here’s a guide to all the industries, products and institutions millennials are killing off.          

Canned Tuna

Canned tuna sales are on the decline, and companies like Starkist, Bumble Bee and Chicken of the Sea are blaming their woes on millennials. Why? For not owning can openers. That may seem a bit much, but Big Tuna is feeling the heat after sustaining a nearly 40% decline over the last few decades.

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The real reason for the younger generation’s lack of excitement about canned tuna likely has more to do with the industry’s well-documented, destructive practices and proclivity for fresh food that won’t poison them with high mercury levels. There’s already a move among smaller companies toward higher-quality, sustainable fishing, and the industry is watching to see if millennials take the bait.

Beer

If Coors and Budweiser had their way, millennials would be following in the footsteps of previous generations in knocking back cold ones left and right. But it’s become increasingly clear that millennials are turning their back on beer.

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Though the industry estimates it has lost about 10% of its market to other alcoholic beverages, it’s hard to pinpoint this generation’s lack of interest in beer on any one factor. The recent craft cocktail boom and TV shows like Sex and the City made craft cocktails seem cool and sophisticated — especially compared to the traditionally masculine image of beer companies. 

Oil

Sure, we’ve structured our entire way of life around the continued extraction and use of oil. But millennials are ready to ditch this dirty (and deadly) fuel in favor of...literally anything...that won’t kill the planet. 

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This means big trouble for the oil industry, which has an aging workforce that is becoming increasingly difficult to replace. In fact, the number of young people working at oil and gas companies has plummeted as young people wrestle with the industry’s toxic, capitalistic legacy. 

Football

For many Americans, football is more than just a sport: It’s a way of life. From the NFL, all the way down to Pop Warner leagues, football is such a popular and lucrative sport that for previous generations, it was almost impossible to imagine an American way of life without it.

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But many millennials can imagine a life without it – and that’s got a lot of people worried. It’s no secret that football is dangerous, and millennial parents aren’t too eager to sign their kids up for a sport that can cause serious, permanent injuries and even brain damage. And kids aren’t begging their parents to play, either. 

Marriage

For a while now, millennials have been saying “I don’t” to “I do.” As few as four out of 10 millennials have tied the knot (according to a2016 Gallup poll). Research suggests that millennials are putting off marriage in order to travel and prioritize their careers in much greater numbers than previous generations.

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But really, the biggest variable seems to be financial security. Millennials are putting off marriage for much longer because of financial obligations, such as student loan debt and stagnant wages, which are limiting their ability to forge the successful lives they feel they need to obtain first before making a marital commitment.” For many, marriage has become a status symbol. But millennials aren’t giving up on relationships entirely – they’re simply redefining it in their own way. 

J.Crew

Back in 2012, it seemed like J.Crew was on a roll. The longtime retailer hit upon a magic combination of savvy marketing and genuine style inspiration led by creative director Jenna Lyons, whose personal style combined luxe materials with creative basics for a quirky, unique look. This quickly became J.Crew’s signature style.

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Fast forward a few years, and the one-time fashion darling is in trouble. The consumer transition from mall shopping to e-commerce has been a tough one for J.Crew. More and more millennials are making the majority of their purchases online, and fast-moving fashion trends mean Lyons’ highly identifiable aesthetic was in one day...but out the next. Sustainable fashion has also become increasingly important to this eco-conscious generation, which J.Crew has tried (and failed) to capitalize on. 

Running

Yes, really: Running is dead. Well, not entirely — but it’s in trouble! After a nearly two decade-long boom, the industry saw the number of competitive race participants start to decline in 2015 from an all-time high of 19 million runners just two years earlier. So, what’s behind the sudden reversal?

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A couple of things, actually. Millennials are more likely than baby boomers to choose noncompetitive fitness activities like yoga. The focus for millennials is less about winning and more about maintaining great alignment through warrior pose. Boutique studios that offer personalized services and a variety of fitness options are much more suited to the millennial mindset than simply lacing up a pair of shoes and hitting the pavement like Forrest Gump. 

Golf

Pour one out for a classic round of 18 holes. New studies show that golf — long the preferred pastime of the wealthy and powerful — is not high on the list of things millennials are into. Overall, participation in the sport is down across the board in the US, and golf-related sales are down millions of dollars, causing some in the industry to wonder what the future holds.

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It’s not hard to understand why millennials haven’t stepped up to the tee. For starters, it’s an incredibly expensive sport; there’s all the gear you need just to play, plus the exorbitant golf or country club memberships required by most courses. Second, there’s the well-documented problem of golf as a good old boys’ club (that makes no secret of its sexist attitude towards women). All these things add up to an entire generation simply saying: “No thanks...we’re good.”

Cereal

If you grew up before the fall of the Berlin Wall, chances are you have fond memories of starting each morning with a bowl of some incredibly sugary cereal that got soggy halfway through eating it. Today, an entire generation is giving up cereal for breakfast — and with billions of dollars on the line, people are taking notice.

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Some studies reported that millennials were giving the cold shoulder to breakfast cereal because it takes too long to clean up. Other research suggests the real culprit is simply that millennials are more concerned about eating nutritious, protein- and fiber-rich breakfasts. (Sorry, Cap’n Crunch!). For years, it’s been drilled into millennials’ heads that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so it follows that they are acting on that adage by turning away from sugary carbs as their kickstart to the day.

Gyms

Ever walk into a sweaty, smelly gym, look around, and think, “There has to be a better way?” Millennials have. Traditional gyms like Planet Fitness and New York Sports Club have seen memberships drop. So where is the health-conscious generation turning instead? Millennials are ditching the big-box atmosphere in favor of pricey boutique studios that offer personalized attention as well as streaming fitness options that include a growing number of at-home workouts. Millennials are healthier than ever — it’s the fitness industry inflicted with growing pains.

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Places like Barry’s Bootcamp and SoulCycle are redefining the fitness industry. Why lift weights in a gym when you can go to a spin class that doubles as a chic place to network? But one major factor remains: cost. Traditional gym memberships are expensive and can feel like a waste of money if you don’t go often enough, making á la carte studio options and pay-as-you-go classes much more attractive.

DVRs

Once considered cutting edge in television technology, DVRs now feel as outdated as LaserDisc players or VCRs thanks to millennials’ quick adoption of on-demand services and streaming players. DVR sales have been declining for years, marking a clear shift in generational viewing habits. Millennial viewers have cut the cord and have instead opted for streaming services like Hulu, Netflix and Amazon Prime.

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Silicon Valley’s unofficial motto is “move fast and break stuff,” and it’s obvious DVRs are the ones being broken by a new generation of consumers who value ease-of-use and variety over skipping commercials. (They’re like built-in social media breaks!) Another factor in the decline of the DVR? More millennials are watching videos online, rendering this once-pricey gadget totally obsolete. 

Razors

Quick! Picture a guy in his late 20s to early 30s. Chances are he has a beard. That’s what has the razor industry feeling pretty defeated. Sales dipped over five percent in 2018 alone as more men skipped one or more shaves a week. That’s leading traditional manufacturers like Gillette to fight for relevance in a marketplace crowded with disruptors.

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For many older men, skipping a shave or even actively growing a beard was considered lazy, disrespectful and even rebellious. But for millennials, having a beard, goatee or some other style of facial hair is seen as simply being yourself. Today, it’s less important for men to be clean-shaven at all times than it is for facial hair to simply be well-groomed, which means the industry isn’t entirely dead – just changing.

Mayonnaise

Yet another classic American condiment millennials have in the crosshairs. The linchpin of potato salad, BLTs and (controversial) accompaniment to french fries, mayonnaise sales have dipped in recent years, leaving legacy companies like Hellman’s and Kraft Heinz scrambling for ways to appeal to younger consumers.

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Millennial consumers’ general disdain for regular mayo is due to its unappealing texture and appearance. But if millennials are not reaching for mayonnaise, what are they reaching for? Increasingly, the answer is vegan mayo, a healthier alternative. Companies have also tried introducing new kinds of flavors and combinations (mayoketchup, anyone?), in the hopes of catching a break on social media and going viral. So far, no such luck.

McMansions

A key component of the American dream has always been homeownership. Since the 1990s, the trend has been the bigger, the better. But for a majority of people under the age of 40, being able to own any home — much less one that requires a small army of maintenance people — is increasingly challenging.

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These so-called “McMansions” are a perfect visual metaphor for the gulf between baby boomer culture and millennials: Boomers wanted to show off their wealth, power and prestige with gaudy, oversized homes, while millennials are too busy paying down student loan debt to even think about buying these architectural monstrosities. All of this translates to a growing crisis for aging boomers, who are having an increasingly difficult time finding buyers for their McMansions as they look to downsize before retiring.

The 9-to-5 Workday

See you later, sensible slacks! The future of work is here...and it doesn’t involve spending 25 years at a company with casual Fridays. The typical millennial changes jobs every three years. Plus, the rise of freelancing (the “gig economy”) and other forms of self-employment mean millennial workers are placing a premium on flexibility and independence – something the corporate world is still struggling with.

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Millennials are challenging decades-long assumptions about the role of work in their lives at a time when the generational shift in power is turning in their favor. It’s no wonder things like remote work and freelancing are dominating the conversation about office culture. The only thing anyone can say for sure about the future of work is that it won’t look like anything we’ve ever seen before.  

Applebee’s

It seems like every day there's a new story about corporate chain restaurants blaming their falling profits and slow growth on picky millennials. Suburban mainstay Applebee’s is one of the latest casualties. 

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Millennials just aren’t that excited about eating at casual dining chain restaurants with menus designed by focus groups, especially when the cost of going out to eat is making the entire restaurant experience more and more of a luxury. Individuality is the name of the game here, and chain restaurants are on the losing side. 

Motorcycles

What do you see when you picture a motorcycle owner? An older retiree out cruising on a Harley-Davidson? A well-off Gen X’er who has the time and money to indulge an expensive hobby? That’s exactly the crisis the motorcycle industry (Harley-Davidson, in particular) is facing as less millennials buy motorcycles.

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Forget about the high price tag. Where do you store a motorcycle when you live at home with your parents? And where do you ride it? Millennials are more likely to view motorcycles as a form of transportation as opposed to an expensive hobby.

Lottery Tickets

It’s no secret millennials spend many hours on their phones playing games. The mobile game industry is incredibly lucrative.  much so, in fact, that state lottery commissions are worried they’re at risk of losing a generation of potential customers who could be buying lotto tickets instead of extra donuts in Candy Crush.

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The allure of the lottery is that you could win big. But for millennials, the tiny chance of a big payout doesn’t seem like enough to go through the hassle of buying a ticket. So, while state lotteries try to attract new players with innovative games and strategies, it remains to be seen if younger players will take the bait. 

Vacations

Like many other conventions of the boomer-focused workplace, the idea of taking a vacation has a different meaning to millennials. They are more work-obsessed (and stressed!) than the generations that came before them, and they take far fewer vacations as a result. 

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But why the aversion to taking time off? For younger people in the workforce, forgoing time off may be seen as a sign that they’re invested in their career and ready for a promotion. Plus: If no one else is taking time off in the summer, they don’t want to appear less invested than their peers.

Napkins

Nothing is safe from millennials – not even the lowly napkin. This humble staple of the table place setting is under attack from cash-strapped, eco-conscious millennials. Many view napkins a waste of money and resources when compared to paper towels, which are more versatile than simple, two-ply napkins.

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Plus, there’s the whole no-cooking-at-home thing. When ordering from GrubHub or Seamless, restaurants often throw in what seems like fistfuls of napkins with every order — which is why any millennial worth their smartphone has an entire drawer filled with nothing but smashed napkins, hot sauce packets and plastic utensils. 

Hooters

Founded by six Florida businessmen in 1983, Hooters was a wild concept for the time: scantily clad women serving wings and burgers to happily paying customers. Even its owners thought it would fail. It may have taken a few decades, but their suspicions came true – this all-American “breastaurant” is in serious trouble.

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Unlike their Gen X counterparts (who powered the chain to success in the 1990s and early 2000s), millennials have ditched the wings ‘n’ cleavage combo for fast-casual dining, delivery services and at-home meal kits. Falling sales prompted Hooters to remodel its restaurants and update the menu — but these changes are unlikely to bring millennials through the door according to experts.  

Movie Theaters

Despite record-breaking box office profits and double-digit growth in recent years, Hollywood has a major theater-going problem. A 2015 New York Post report claimed the share of movie tickets purchased by people between the ages of 18 and 24 fell by a third in just over three years.

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But the real reason millennials seem to be avoiding the theater experience because of...well, the experience. Buying an expensive movie ticket to be surrounded by people shamelessly texting seems like a bad investment when compared to staying home and binging the latest must-see Netflix series. 

Credit Cards

After watching the economy crash in 2008, a growing number of millennials became weary of taking on debt (other than student loans, for which many felt they had no other choice), leading to a shift toward debit card spending that has the credit card industry feeling the pinch. Why? Because credit card companies don’t make as much money from debit card fees as they do on credit card fees.

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The boomer-fueled credit increase of the 1980s and 1990s is over, and millennials aren’t interested in stepping in to fill the gap. In addition to relying heavily on debit cards, young consumers are more likely than previous generations to use pre-paid credit cards. Millennials are even favoring old school practices such as paying for things with cash.

Starter Homes

You know the kind – a cute little one- or two-bedroom place in the $200,000 to $300,000 range that’s only meant to be lived in for a few years before trading up for a dream home. Millennials are skipping this once-thriving market.

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For a variety of economic reasons, millennials are more likely than any other age group to live at home with their parents or pay higher rent for a longer period of time. That eats into the income they could otherwise be saving for a down payment. When millennials are ready to buy homes, it’s far later in life than in previous generations. 

Grocery Stores

Another potential casualty of the Internet. Millennials’ well-documented preference for quick and easy online shopping is translating to a decline in grocery store sales that may be a sign of things to come. Food delivery services like GrubHub and Seamless offer millennials more options than ever before. Why bother learning how to cook pad Thai when you can have the best in town delivered right to your door?

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Other ways millennials are disrupting the traditional grocery business include turning to at-home meal prep kits and going out to eat rather than shopping and cooking at home. Unfortunately, grocery stores don’t really put a premium on convenience and flexibility, making things like menu planning, shopping, cooking and cleaning up afterwards seem like a total chore. 

American Cheese

American cheese has been a staple of the American diet for decades. But the unnaturally orange, plastic-wrapped cheese slices are quickly losing favor with millennials in search of more nutritious and delicious options. Sales for producers like Kraft and Velveeta fell 1.6% in 2018, which has manufacturers and other food industry insiders worried about the future.

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Can you blame them?. American cheese — a byproduct of World War I — has highly processed ingredients that are completely out of sync with the healthy, natural foods millennials demand from grocery stores and restaurants. When fast food chains like Wendy’s and McDonald’s are using fancy cheese like asiago...you know something’s up. 

Retirement

Ask any millennial about their plans for retirement and, more likely than not, the answer will be some version of, “What retirement?” The baby boomer dream of a relaxing retirement after a long and fulfilling career is increasingly seen by cash-strapped millennials as a luxury they’ll never be able to afford.

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Being able to retire implies the ability to save money — not exactly short-term plans for an entire generation of young people with less than one month’s rent in their savings accounts. Paying down student loan debt and being able to afford health insurance are seen as more important than saving up for expenses 30 or 40 years down the road. Millennials might be the first generation to work well into their golden years. 

Diamonds

The diamond industry’s destructive and inhumane mining practices have been well known for decades. (Remember Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamond?) However, previous generations seemed willing to turn a blind eye to those harsh realities. Everyone, that is...except millennials. 

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Millennials, who are facing down mountains of student loans and medical debt, are not willingly going to part with thousands of dollars for a shiny gemstone loaded with cultural baggage. The rise of lab-grown gemstones — which are almost undetectable from the real thing — marks a major shift in the diamond industry.

Cars

There’s no denying Americans love cars: In 2018 alone, consumers bought over 17.3 million vehicles. But guess who’s not buying into this part of the gas-guzzling part of the American dream? You guessed it: millennials. Recent studies of car-buying trends have found that while young people are still buying automobiles, their relationship to them is markedly different than older generations.

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Millennials have a much less emotional attachment to their cars than boomers and are more likely to share cars or use public transportation. In fact, younger drivers are more likely to be dissatisfied with driving overall due to the environmental impact of carbon emissions and the high price of maintenance.

Department Stores

A publicly traded company since 1906, Sears has a long and storied history. The same goes for mall anchor stores, such as J. C. Penney and Macy’s. But years of corporate mismanagement, the 2008 financial meltdown and shifting consumer trends paved the way for a generation of online shoppers to deal the final blow.

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Once the only place for millions of Americans to shop, department stores have fared badly in the 21st century. Millennials are the first generation to grow up with the convenience of shopping online. Traditional brick-and-mortar stores struggling to compete have found themselves closing stores left and right to stave off bankruptcy.

Bars of Soap

Cheap Pet Food

Cruises

The cruise industry is well aware that they are facing a generational crisis. When you think of a cruise, it’s likely you’ll think of older couples looking to ride out their golden years cruising the oceans on a sprawling ship. Millennials, on the other hand, prefer more authentic experiences. 

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In 2014, the average age of a cruise ship passenger was 49, according to the Cruise Lines International Association. Cruises are currently working to appeal to millennials with more connective, experiential concepts, but sadly, they just don't want to sit on a boat for weeks.

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