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Piper Jaffray Survey Finds ‘Lowest Teen Spending Levels’ in 8 Years

U.S. teens are becoming increasingly conscientious about their spending as rumblings of a recession mushroom into a roar.

According to a Tuesday’s semi-annual “Taking Stock With Teens” survey from investment bank and institutional securities firm Piper Jaffray, self-reported spending by teens decreased 4 percent in fall of 2019, as compared with this time last year. That’s because nearly one third (32 percent) of teens—or their wallet-wielding parents—have come to believe that the economy is getting worse, compared with fall of 2018, when only one quarter (25 percent) of respondents said the same.

The results were gleaned from a survey of 9,500 teens across 42 states, averaging 15.8 years old. According to Piper Jaffray, Gen Z shoppers, who range from four to 24 years of age, contribute approximately $830 billion to U.S. retail sales annually.

“Our Fall Teen Survey continues to validate several characteristics of this digitally-native demographic: 83 percent of teens have an iPhone, 52 percent of teens claim Amazon as their favorite online shopping website, and we saw an acceleration of VSCO and TikTok mentions,” Erinn Murphy, senior research analyst for Piper Jaffray, said. “Importantly, however, we saw the lowest teen spending levels in eight years.”

In addition to spending less, teens are also spending differently than their millennial predecessors. The two most challenged product categories were handbags and cosmetics, which teens are consistently shirking in favor of meals, footwear and apparel. In fact, female teens in 2019 represented a new survey low, spending just $90 per year on average on handbags, compared with peak teen spending of $197 per year in 2006.

For male teen shoppers, food is the No. 1 spending category, with 23 percent of respondents saying that eating out is how they choose to spend their hard-earned allowances. Meanwhile, 27 percent of female teens said that clothing receives the majority of their wallet share.

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Overall, teens ranked Amazon as their No. 1 online retailer, and the online giant received more than half (52 percent) of the vote with young shoppers. Nike’s website came in No. 2, but received just four percent of the vote—13 times less than Amazon.

When it comes to sartorial trends, teens are increasingly embracing the mass casualization that’s taken hold of retail trends over the past five years. Top-ranked footwear brands for young shoppers include Nike (42 percent), Vans (20 percent), Adidas (13 percent), Converse (4 percent) and Foot Locker (3 percent).

Casual and athleisure brands also drove apparel spending this fall. Nike also took the No. 1 spot in clothing purchases, dominating at 23 percent. Runners up included American Eagle (10 percent), Adidas (6 percent), Hollister (4 percent), PacSun (4 percent). Athletic apparel brand Lululemon hit an all-time survey high, taking the No. 7 spot compared with No. 11 in fall of 2018.