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Future Gen

If you know me at all, you know my daughter Kelly is absolutely the apple of my eye. I love her to pieces, and I'm so very grateful for our closeness — it's everything a mother could want. But as well as I know her, every now and then she'll do something that takes me completely by surprise, and I'm reminded how we're really generations apart, that I'm the boomer mom with the gen y college student.

Boomers might wield more spending power for the time being, but Kelly's generation is going to be coming up, and fast.

I was in Barnes & Noble recently, and in a section of "new" games they were featuring Words with Friends, the board game. I had to laugh. It's hardly a new game — you and I would recognize it as Scrabble, right away — but for gen y kids who grew up on the internet, who played Words with Friends on phones and computers without ever shaking a bag full of Scrabble tiles, it's a completely new experience. And that's something to bear in mind as this new generation begins moving out of the house and into the workforce. Their experiences and expectations are vastly different from our own, and we need to accommodate them if we want to remain relevant.

This is why I think this issue's feature, Generation Y-Not?, is so important and timely. This isn't about ditching decades of experience and I-know-what-works to chase a younger crowd; it's about how we can make shifts in our product mix at the manufacturing and retail level to give gen y shoppers a viable choice. And as it so happens, a lot of their concerns — more electronic connectivity, greater mobility, versatility that blurs the line between work and play — apply to almost every demographic, and we've all seen it in the proliferation of tablet pockets and cell phone-friendly features in business goods and travel gear alike. Gen yers want a lot of the same things everyone else does; they're just more vocal about it.

I've never liked the term "generation gap" because there doesn't have to be a gap between generations. We all know people who seem to easily, magically communicate with others regardless of age; for them, there is no gap. And that's what we should strive for as manufacturers and retailers — to have a strong dialog. It's not enough to change what we sell; we need to alter how we pitch it, not just to gen y, but boomers and gen xers too. Because that's how you stay relevant, and connected with generation now, whomever they may be.

As another year comes to a close, from my family to yours, best wishes for a happy, healthy holiday season and a strong 2015.


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