Who’s In, Who’s Out: Shifting buying habits of Gen Z

Fast-fashion is on the rise among Gen Z consumers as department stores dwindle in popularity, according to a new study.

Global online fast-fashion retailers dominate Gen Z pandemic shopping, displacing such traditional favorites as Urban Outfitters.

That’s according to a study from Gist, a social product recommendation platform with product verification from more than 15,000 stores. Based on an analysis of 8,000 Gist Gen Z users and scanning 1.5 million purchases, the company found that that the buying habits of these shoppers have shifted dramatically during the pandemic as they moved away from American-based clothing stores such as Urban Outfitters to overseas online-only and fast-fashion apparel retailers friendly to TikTok culture.

The study, which captured data between October/November 2019 and October/November 2021, found that, on Gist, Shein is number one in apparel stores, followed by Zara. And in just a year, the Australian-based fast-fashion online retailer Princess Polly jumped from number eight in clothing stores at the end of 2020 to grab the number three spot by the end of 2021. 

Fast-fashion is on the rise among Gen Z consumers as department stores dwindle in popularity, according to the data.

  • Department stores are out with Gen Z, even online.

Before the pandemic, Nordstrom was number nine in online sales on Gist. Its position has dropped to number 23 by the end of 2021.

  • Urban Outfitters was number one in clothing stores and number four in top stores for Gen Z consumers in Oct/Nov 2019. The retailer dropped to number 16 in Gist’s top stores by Oct/Nov 2021. And it’s fallen behind three international companies: Shein, Zara and Princess Polly.
  • Etsy is in. While they love their fast-fashion, Gen Z also loves to support independent businesses and artists on Etsy, especially when it comes to gift buying. Etsy was number eight on Gist’s list of top stores for the first nine months of 2021 and rose to number five for the holiday shopping season.
  • Target has seen a precipitous increase in online purchase behavior the last two years among Gen Z consumers. On Gist’s list of top stores, it’s shot up from number seven in October/November 2019 to number two the same period this year, second to Amazon.
  • Walmart isn’t popular among Gen Z’ers. On Gist, Gen Z shoppers are twice as likely to shop at Target than Walmart.  
  • Mexican fast-food chain Chipotle has risen on Gist’s list of top stores from number 23 in October/November 2019 to number nine this year.
  • With Chipotle’s rise among Gen Z’ers, McDonald’s is left in the dust when it comes to fast-food receipts scanned by Gist. They are twice as likely to eat at Chipotle and three times as likely to eat at Chick-fil-A than at Mickey D’s.

“On Gist, you are what you buy,” said company founder Walter Haas.Our 2021 shopping survey revealed an amazing dichotomy about Gen Z consumer values: local-creator focused (Etsy) meets mass TikTok-style fast-fashion (Shein, Princess Polly).”

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