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Teens Flock to Crocs, While Nike’s Mindshare Drops

This might seem like fake news, but Crocs—that quintessential ugly shoe—is rising in favor with teens, and though Nike continues to top the podium of Gen Z’s favorite apparel brands, it’s losing mindshare to the likes of smaller rival Adidas.

The fall iteration of Piper Jaffray’s semi-annual Taking Stock with Teens survey, which polls 8,600 teens averaging age 16, shows Gen Z’s growing affinity for brands. From 33 percent six years ago, the number saying brand is the most important purchasing driver is now at 45 percent. That’s encouraging news amid an ongoing debate over whether brands even matter to younger generations anymore.

Teens ranked Crocs the 13th most popular of all footwear brands this year after ranking 27th last year and 38th in the spring of 2017, according to the survey. In just one year, the foam resin shoe brand has managed to triple its mindshare, Piper Jaffray said.

Headline-creating Nike is the brand most teens favor for clothing (22 percent) and shoes (41 percent), but Adidas is catching up to the world’s largest athletic apparel brand. Fourteen percent say it’s their go-to brand for shoes and another 6 percent prefer Adidas clothing.

Perennial favorites Lululemon and Vans continue to rank high on the list of teens’ favorite clothing and shoe brands, though members of Gen Z spend most of their money on food at places like Chik-Fil-A—their favorite eatery—and Starbucks, their No. 2.

Since Piper Jaffray’s spring survey, another 3 percent of the Gen Z crowd say their favorite website is Amazon, bringing the online retailer’s mindshare to 47 percent of teens. Nike, American Eagle, Urban Outfitters and PacSun round out the top five in this category, each with just single-digit percentages.

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Teens are of two minds when it comes to social media. They say that Snapchat is their favorite (46 percent vs. 32 percent for Instagram) and yet their Instagram usage slightly edges out Snapchat, 85 percent to 84 percent who use the service at least once monthly. This could reflect Instagram’s robust investments in image and video-friendly sharing, the features for which Snapchat originally was known.

Gen Z’s fall spending is up versus spring but on par with purchasing trends a year ago, according to Piper Jaffray. “Our fall survey showed overall teen spending as flat with the prior year. That said, teen spending continues to expand in categories like video games and food,” said Piper Jaffray senior research analyst Erinn Murphy.

“Females now indicate they spend 3x more on beauty than accessories,” Murphy added. “Within fashion, we see a strong brand cycle emerging led by athletic, streetwear and 1990s brands ranging from Vans, Supreme, Tommy Hilfiger and Adidas.”

Piper Jaffrey noted teens’ interest in luxury brands such as Off-White, Balenciaga and Gucci is growing alongside the affinity for throwback streetwear.