Skip to main content

Gen Z Teens Are Really Into Secondhand Shopping

Fashion is leading the way as teen spending continues to recover from last year’s lows, and a growing percentage of this slice of Gen Z now buys and sells secondhand goods.

Investment bank Piper Sandler published the results of its 42nd Taking Stock With Teens survey Tuesday. The semi-annual research project gathered input from 10,000 teens with an average age of 15.8 years. Piper Sandler conducted the survey from Aug. 17-Sept. 16.

Overall self-reported spending grew to $2,274 per year, according to the report. This total represented a sizeable increase from last fall’s all-time low of $2,150 and the spring’s $2,165, but remains below the $2,300 reported in spring of last year—then the lowest spend since 2011.

For the first time since Fall 2014, Piper Sandler said, clothing proved the highest priority among teens, accounting for 22 percent of wallet share. “Food” came in a close second at 21 percent. Video games, movies and personal care, meanwhile, all saw their wallet share contract.

Overall, apparel and footwear spending grew in the mid-single digits, with female teens leading the way. Female spending on accessories climbed 10 percent year over year.

Nike again proved young shoppers’ brand of choice, with 57 percent identifying it as their top footwear brand—a notable bump from 52 percent a year ago. Vans came in a distant second with 11 percent, down from 17 percent in fall 2020. Adidas also lost share, with 9 percent of respondents ranking it No. 1, a two-point drop from a year ago. Converse, however, picked up share, climbing from 3 percent to 7 percent.

Related Stories

The Swoosh also took the top spot in apparel, with 27 percent of teens selecting it as their preferred clothing brand. American Eagle again took second with 7 percent, slightly down from last year’s 8 percent.

“Within apparel, athletic is still the dominant trend with Nike and Lululemon taking new highs,” senior research analyst Erinn Murphy said in a statement. “Within footwear, while Nike reigns supreme, Converse and Crocs gained share whereas Vans slipped. Michael Kors took back its No. 1 ranking as a preferred handbag brand. Simultaneously, we are seeing a silhouette change with looser fitting denim, high-waisted mom jeans. We believe apparel replenishment will continue into 2022 as the consumer continues to replenish.”

Amazon maintained its dominant position online, with 52 percent of teens citing it as their preferred e-commerce site. The increasingly popular women’s e-tailer Shein—now the most-mentioned brand on TikTok—solidified its second-place position with 9 percent of teens ranking it No. 1. Nike, knocked into third place a year ago, maintained its 5 percent share.

Piper Sandler highlighted several brands in particular that it said were gaining share, including Pacsun. The youth retailer, No. 3 among clothing brands and No. 4 among shopping websites, has taken several steps in recent months to cater to its Gen Z base, including rapidly expanding its gender-neutral category, initiating a long-term partnership with A$AP Rocky—the rapper released his second Vans collaboration just last month—and teaming up with Emma Chamberlain, teens’ top-ranked influencer, per Piper Sandler. It now accepts cryptocurrency as a form of payment.

The return to classroom education has been a bright spot for some retailers. “With 91 percent of teens coming back to school in-person, we are not surprised to see time allocation in mall-based specialty pick up,” Murphy noted.

The investment bank again highlighted teens’ penchant for secondhand shopping, which dovetails with the cohort’s status as “conscious generation” citing environmental challenges as their “top social issue,” Murphy said. According to the survey, 51 percent of teens have purchased and 62 percent have sold secondhand—four-point and seven-point increases, respectively, from the spring. The researchers again estimated that teens allocate 8 percent of their shopping time to resale.

And though Snapchat remains teen’s preferred social app with 35 percent share, TikTok, at 30 percent, is quickly rising, and knocked Instagram into the No. 3 spot with 22 percent share, a 3 percent decline.