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What Teens Want: Nike, ’90s and Secondhand Fashion

Though self-reported teen spending remains near an all-time low, female Gen Zers are leading an ever-so-slight recovery, with upticks in clothing, handbags and skin care in particular.

The investment bank Piper Sandler released its 41st semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens report Wednesday. The survey, conducted from Feb. 19-March 24, polled 7,000 teens with an average age of 16.1 years.

According to the report, self-reported spending averaged $2,165 per year, just above the fall’s all-time low of $2,150. Overall spending totaled $2,300 a year ago, which was then the lowest spend since 2011.

Where there has been a recovery in spending—clothing and accessories—female teens are the ones blazing the way. These consumers are particularly likely to be shopping online, with 96 percent of females reporting doing so, up from 88 percent last year. Online shopping among males, now at 92 percent, remains roughly in line with where it stood a year ago, 91 percent.

Amazon once again came out on top when it came to e-commerce preferences, pulling in 56 percent of the vote. Chinese women’s e-tailer Shein remained No. 2 at 7 percent after bumping Nike down to third place in the fall.

“In the wake of COVID-19 and given these consumers are digitally-native, we are not surprised to see online adoption at its highest ever this spring,” Erinn Murphy, a senior research analyst at Piper Sandler, said in a statement.

Within apparel, athletic brands continue to dominate fashion preferences. Nike, in particular, remained firmly on top, taking 27 percent of the teen vote. American Eagle (7 percent) again nabbed second place, while PacSun (6 percent) moved from No. 5 to No. 3. Lululemon and Adidas took the fourth and fifth slots at 4 percent each while Under Armour showed “improved mindshare.” Nike maintained an even stronger lead in footwear, receiving 56 percent of the youth vote, followed by Vans (12 percent), Adidas (9 percent), Converse (6 percent) and Foot Locker (2 percent).

“Simultaneously, we are seeing a revival of the 1990s fashion trend flannel shirts, baggy pants, mom jeans & eclectic hair trends all in vogue,” Murphy noted.

Despite the concerns of a few voices on TikTok (which is teens’ No. 2 social platform, with 30 percent share), thrifting emerged stronger than ever. Thrift/consignment ranked as teens’ 10th favorite brand/retailer, compared to 23rd last spring and 13th in the fall. In all, the youths reported allocating 8 percent of their shopping to secondhand. Forty-seven percent of respondents said they had purchased and 55 percent reported having sold secondhand goods.