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04/07/2021

Gen Z survey: Teens big on ‘thrifting,’ Nike, Chick-fil-A — and 1990s fashions 

Marianne Wilson
Editor-in-Chief
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gen z shoppers

Gen Z is ready to spend on clothing again, with females leading the recovery.

Teen spending is inching up, according to Piper Sandler’s 41st semi-annual “Taking Stock With Teens” survey. The spring survey highlights spending trends and brand preferences from 7,000 teens (average age 16.1 years) across the country. 

“We are seeing a female-led spending recovery with upticks in spending on clothing, handbags and skincare in particular,” said Erinn Murphy, Piper Sandler senior research analyst.

In the apparel category, athletic is still the dominant trend with Nike and lululemon experiencing new highs and Under Armour seeing improved mindshare among teens.  At the same time, there is a revival of some 1990s fashion trends, with flannel shirts, baggy pants and mom jeans all in vogue.

In addition, “thrifting” has emerged as a strong trend with “thinking secondhand’ becoming second nature to teens, the report said. Forty-seven percent of teens have purchased secondhand items and 55% have sold used items. Thrift/consignment stores ranked No. 10 as teens’ favorite brand/retailer, compared to No. 23 in the spring 2020 survey.

Some preferences remain strongly consistent. Nike has retained its No.1 apparel brand spot (27%) with teens for more than 10 years, followed by American Eagle Outfitters (7%), PacSun (6%), Lululemon and Adidas (both at 4%). Nike also holds  the No. 1 spot with teens for footwear brand and preferred athletic apparel and footwear brand.  

Gen Z also cares about social and political issues. Teens in the spring survey cited racial equality and the environment as their top two social issues, followed by Black Lives Matter.

In other findings, 96% of females claimed to shop online compared to 88% last year, while 92% of males claim to shop online versus 91% last year.

“In the wake of COVID-19 and given these consumers are digitally-native, we are not surprised to see online adoption at its highest ever this spring,” said Murphy. “Snapchat & TikTok are the top-two social media platforms.”

Amazon remains the No. 1 (56%) website with teens.  There has also been a rise in female-centric platforms, such as Chinese fast-fashion brand Shein, Revolve and Princess Polly, an Australian fashion brand.

In other highlights from the Gen Z survey:

  • Food is the No. 1 wallet priority at 23%;
  • Chick-fil-A remains No. 1 restaurant for seven consecutive surveys; Starbucks maintains No. 2 and Chipotle remains No. 3;
  • Ulta maintains No. 1 (46%) preferred beauty destination against Sephora (24%) for the fifth survey in a row, followed by Target (9%), Walmart (5%) and Amazon (2%);
  • Teens spend 32% of their daily video consumption on Netflix, down slightly from 34% in fall 2020, followed by YouTube (No. 2) and Hulu (No. 3);
  • 88% of teens own an iPhone and 90% expect an iPhone to be their next phone, both record survey highs; and,
  • 48% of teens plans to fly on a plane in the next six months, up from 33% in the fall.