Italian export: the challenge of generational change

Italian export: the challenge of generational change

October 30, 2017

Italian companies today should invest in a generational turnover in their management to take advantage of an age change in their customers


Italian entrepreneurs are the oldest in Europe. A recent edition of the Industrial Sector Analysis Report by Prometeia shows how 12% of them is over 64 years old, more than twice of Germany (9.1%), more than four times of France (4.5%). The picture does not change by looking at the entire business management class (i.e. including dependent workers). According to Eurostat 7.3% of the managers in Italy are over the age of 64, while in Germany the same indicator does not exceed 4 % and in France is still below 2%.

Generational handover in businesses and a capital market that can ease this process are among the key issues for the future of Italian industry. Ensuring a turnover of the ruling class and responsibilities among different generations is not only natural within a modern society, but also strategic. It’s probably the only way to keep pace with a world where decision-making and buying power will move in the next coming years from fathers to children. Over the next ten years in each of the top 20 export markets for Italy today, more than half of their consumers will belong to well-defined age cohorts: Millenials, Postmillenials and X Generation.

Looking 10 year ahead: the role of Millenials, Postmillenials and X Generation in the top 20 Italian export markets (in % of total population)
Source: United Nations

Demographics and consumption statistics for the international markets are available at Prometeia MIO and suggest a generational change is about to come. The growth of made in Italy in the US, for instance, can only happen by luring those who probably never have saw Rome in the eyes of Audrey Hepburn and his dolce vita. Instead, they may discover Italy mainly from the post and stories collected on line. Similar considerations apply to far-off markets such as China (72% will belong to the aforementioned groups), Japan (55%), Korea (66%), but also European ones (between 57 and 62% in case of Germany and France).

It is clear that the age itself is only a proxy of a mindset. Specific attitudes and buying behaviors depict the three age groups, making them one kind of customer somehow overlapping among different international markets. More than a number on a birth certificate (a part of X generation is about 50 years old, well beyond what was once euphemistically called middle age), age tells what are in fact the lifestyles, the values and the tools that shape tomorrow's consumers. From the attitude toward sharing economy, to the sensitivity toward environment and well-being, from the habit of going on the internet for deciding what to buy, to the need of being back online to reconfirm a choice, these are elements that will move preferences not only as consumers but also for example as industrial buyers. Italian companies today should invest in a generational turnover in their management to take advantage of an age change in their customers.



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