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Vans Gains Favor Among Teens as Athletic and Streetwear Brands Dominate Footwear Preference

Vans has seen a nearly unprecedented rise in popularity among teens, trailing only Nike, according to the most recent Piper Jaffray Taking Stock with Teens survey.

The semi-annual report, which surveyed 8,600 teens averaging 16 years old, found athletic and streetwear brands continue to dominate the mindshare of Generation Z, with stronger growth among female teens. While 85 percent of male teens still prefer an athletic brand of footwear, that number is down a percentage point from last year. Meanwhile, 71 percent of female teens have a preference for athletic footwear—up four percentage points from last year’s survey.

While teen spending remained mostly flat, up 1 percent year-over-year, clothing, shoes and accessories still represent a full 38 percent of young people’s yearly spending. According to the survey, the average teen estimated they spent about $2,500 a year, totaling $830 billion a year for the age group, and amounting to roughly 7 percent of all retail sales. Of retail sales to teens, around 8 percent goes to footwear.

However, with Generation Z, not all brands are created equal. A growing number of teens shop with brands in mind, with 45 percent saying that brand is most important—compared to 38 percent last year.

Nike continues to reign supreme over all other footwear brands, ranking first among favored brands, with 41 percent support. Still, Vans and Adidas have taken a significant amount of mindshare from Nike in recent months—Nike’s share is 10 percent lower than it was for the spring 2017 survey. Vans actually eclipsed Nike in popularity among upper-income females for the first time in the survey’s history.

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Vans, the largest VF Corp. brand with almost $3 billion in sales, has maintained a hold on the No. 2 spot for teens, with a 10 percent gain in favorability since spring 2017. Its 19 percent approval among teens, overall, is the closest a brand has come to competing with Nike in years, and it is officially the fastest growing brand in the history of the survey.

The growth in popularity for Vans is driven primarily by a dramatic improvement among Generation Z females, with 26 percent preferring Vans footwear. This represents an 8 percent an increase since the first half of this year, and an eyebrow-raising 15 percent since spring 2017.

Additionally, Adidas continued its quest to unseat Nike as the world’s go-to footwear and apparel brand with encouraging results but, amazingly, Crocs saw its favorability triple among teens.

Meanwhile, the combined mindshare of the top three brands in the poll (Nike, Vans and Adidas, respectively) increased among all teens, to 74 percent, a 2 percentage point increase over the spring and 5 percentage points over last year.