Home Depot does not buy into new death of the American city rhetoric

  • The coronavirus pandemic isn’t killing cities, according to Home Depot CEO Craig Menear.
  • Much has been made about the coronavirus pandemic sending millennials packing for the suburbs.
  • Speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference on Thursday, the home improvement executive said that millennials were always set to relocate to more spacious, affordable locations.
  • Menear stressed that generalized and incorrect assumptions have long been made about millennial migration.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Reports of the COVID-19-related death of the American city are greatly exaggerated, according to Home Depot CEO Craig Menear.

As the pandemic continues to hamper city life, many reports and op-eds have highlighted the migration of young professionals out of urban areas. But speaking on Thursday at Goldman Sachs’ annual Global Retailing Virtual Conference, Menear said a good portion of millennials were always going to drift to the suburbs, coronavirus pandemic or no coronavirus pandemic.

In response to a question about residents in cities like New York City and San Francisco flocking to the suburbs, Menear said that it’s important not to ascribe too much importance to the coronavirus pandemic. He said observers have frequently gotten things muddled when observing millennial consumption patterns.

“It takes me back to 2015 and earlier, when there was a lot of conversation around the whole millennial generation,” Menear said. “Everybody was going to move to inner cities and the millennials were never going to own anything. They were only going to rent. They would never have a car, they would never have a tool.”

None of that came to pass, according to Menear. He said that Home Depot conducted “deep research” circa 2015 that ended up debunking that belief. The company found that millennials had every intention to “act the same way other generations had,” although they were on a “delayed cycle” due to student loan debt and other financial hardships. 

“As the millennial generation get married, kids come along, they need more space, and they move from the city centers to a more suburban environment,” Menear said. “They need more space and it’s more affordable.”

Despite millennials’ suburban dreams, Home Depot has continued to move forward with plans to open locations in cities around the country, according to Menear. He said that the company had pushed for years — a decade in some cases — to open more stores in “urban centers to take the pressure off a really high volume stores” in surrounding suburban areas. 

“Migration is something that we’ve always dealt with,” Menear said. “That’s just part of what you have to do as a retailer.”

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