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Generation Avocado Toast Is Fueling This Growing $10B Segment Of Retail

Though millennials are often chastised for their lack of homeownership values and wasting money on treasured avocado toast, the younger generation’s focus on self-care and wellness is driving a multibillion-dollar segment in the retail industry.


“There has been a huge push by landlords to put health and wellness into shopping centers,” DLC Management Corp. Senior Vice President of Leasing Chris Ressa said. “If you have a gym in the shopping center, it’s almost like the old adage of the grocer. Repeat shoppers and repeat eyes on your store on a regular basis should lead to growth.”

The idea of taking care of oneself is nothing new. Indulgences, be it a personal training session at Equinox or this season’s Armani, all fall within the self-care segment, and developers are changing their tune to accommodate these types of tenants.

“These tenants were undesirable tenants 20 years ago. If you put a gym in your shopping center 20 years ago, it was almost like you stamped it with the kiss of death that you couldn’t sign other tenants and impaired value of your property,” JLL Managing Director Chris Angelone said. “Today, those are very sought-after tenants.”

Ressa said self-care includes the healthy foods, beauty services, traditional medical services and fitness categories. Whether it is Freshii for lunch, a wash-and-blow at the Dry Bar or a day spa, Ressa expects the self-care trend will remain safely entrenched in future generations, especially considering that only 22% of Americans over the age of 18 have a gym membership.

Namaste And Focus On Me


“Millennials are purpose-driven and want to feel good. My observation is they’re very see, feel, hear and more well-rounded. They do more than just make the money … [they want to] feel good in their bodies and heart,” Wellfit Acupuncture Boston founder Anna Israel said.

Business is strong at Israel’s company in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, thanks in part to clients taking their healthcare into their own hands, she said. Younger generations are more interested in complete care and would prefer seeing a specialist, visiting a life guru or pursuing holistic preventive care options above going to a doctor.

“People want to get better and doctors are no longer the choice for progressive people who think more,” Israel said. “I’m a resource of hope, and that’s what people are looking for.” 

Hotels are even changing build-out strategy to accommodate millennials proclivity for health and wellness options. 

The Four Seasons brand is known for its luxury properties around the world, but its Westlake Village location in California has a particular emphasis on self-care. The company partnered with the California Health & Longevity Institute in 2005 when building the property, which includes a 41K SF spa and wellness center offering lifestyle and health assessments, executive physicals and weekend retreats.


“Beyond the collective services of group programs such as our Signature Retreat, we also believe each guest's journey is very personal and should be tailored to match their own goals and markers of success,” Four Seasons Westlake Village Regional Vice President and General Manager Robert Cima said. “Each guest is worked with personally to ensure they get what they came here for.”

Cima said guests have started to take an active role in their health, both with holistic treatments as well as traditional medical practices. The CHLI partnership enables the property to provide resources and further information with concierge medicine programming unique to the Westlake Village center. While Cima has noticed millennials becoming a larger part of the wellness business, he said baby boomers are still the biggest driver, looking to remain active well into retirement.

Thriving Trainers And 'Holistic Health Practices'

Mark Samara, a leading personal trainer at several health clubs in Boston, has transitioned from working for larger fitness facilities to operating his own private training business, and he does not think his case is unique. As younger, internet-savvy clients become more open to alternative therapies to treat body discomfort, Samara said smaller locations where more individualized services can be offered to clients are gaining momentum.

"Even before I was a trainer I saw the importance of holistic health practices, but now with their growing popularity, it's much easier now to recommend these practices to my clients without them looking at me like I have nine heads,” Samara said. “Meditation is a great example. More people are willing to try it now that there is an app they can use!”

Crossfit Claddagh co-owners Bryan O'Neil (second from left) and Laura O'Neil (second from right) with members of their CrossFit box in Auburn, Mass.

A 2008 Pew Research Center study identified baby boomers as “The Gloomiest Generation” that fretted over finances even though they are the demographic with the most money. Seven years later, millennials appeared less focused on gloom and more on room to improve. The “snowflake” generation spent twice as much on workout plans, nutritionists, life coaches, and, yes, even those apps for meditation.

Bettering Oneself At 'The Box'

It is impossible to have a conversation of self-care, health and wellness in younger generations without considering CrossFit. In the 17 years since its inception, this philosophy and competitive sport has gone from a single “box” (the company’s term for its gyms) in Santa Cruz, California, to more than 13,000 around the world. But the organization is more than workouts and CrossFit Games. Its leaders also promote preventive health.

“CrossFit is defined as constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity. Fitness, especially functional fitness, has a direct correlation to overall wellness and being able to do what life throws at us,” Crossfit Claddagh co-owner Bryan O’Neil said. “We all want to know we can pick up our toddlers, carry grocery bags into the house or, even more long term, be able to pull ourselves up if we fall at an older age.”

O’Neil and his wife, Claddagh co-owner Laura O’Neil, have run their Auburn, Massachusetts-based box for three years, and business is booming even as more gyms open in the area. While CrossFit may seem like just as much of a millennial trend as food trucks, Bryan notes their clientele comes from all backgrounds and ages, and many come to the O’Neils in the name of self-care.

“People are increasingly drawn to anything that makes them think they are doing a better job at caring for themselves, whether its nutritional counseling, instructor-led fitness classes or yoga,” Bryan said. “The majority of people we come across will try almost anything to avoid medication and the doctor's office.”