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Pandemic Reins in Gen Z Spending, New Survey Says

Gen Z may be the rising group of most influential consumers, but the coronavirus has dampened even their willingness to shop.

A study released Wednesday by Piper Sandler, entitled “Taking Stock With Teens,” revealed that the generational cohort—which contributes $830 billion to U.S. retail sales annually—is reining in spending.

The group has cut down on shopping by 13 percent year over year, Piper Sandler analysts said, with many teens isolated in their homes and unsure of what the coming months might bring. Overall spending fell to $2,300 from 2019, which is also the lowest spend since 2011.

Nearly half (47 percent) of young consumers believe that the economy is getting worse, versus about one-third who said the same in the fall. The coronavirus now ranks second to sustainability in teens’ top political and social concerns.

Perhaps in reaction to their newly minted stay-at-home lifestyles, Amazon is continuing to grow in popularity with high-school and college-age consumers.

The marketplace has become the most popular online shopping destination with young shoppers, 53 percent of whom placed it at the top of their list compared with 50 percent last year. That’s a full 10 times higher than the second highest ranking brand for online commerce, Nike.

Teens’ top clothing brands for spring of 2020 include Nike in the No. 1 spot, with 25 percent of the vote; American Eagle at No. 2 with 10 percent; Adidas at No. 3 with 5 percent; and Hollister and Pacsun taking the No. 4 and No. 5 spots, respectively, with less than 5 percent of teens’ votes. Lululemon reached a new survey peak this year, coming in No. 6 for the first time.

Gen Z may be the rising group of most influential consumers, but the coronavirus has dampened even their willingness to shop.
Vans’ popularity with young adults shows little sign of slowing down. Photo by Bert Ferranco on Unsplash

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In the footwear arena, shoppers also overwhelmingly prefer Nike, with 47 percent placing the athletic brand at the top of their list. Vans came in No. 2 with 20 percent of the vote; Adidas ranked No. 3 with 11 percent; and Converse and Foot Locker took the No. 4 and No. 5 spots, with under 5 percent.

“Our Spring Teen Survey was conducted during a time of significant upheaval as the world (and U.S. teens) grappled with the realities of COVID-19,” Erinn Murphy, the firm’s senior research analyst, said in a statement. “In fact, we believe the majority of our responses came from teens taking the survey from their own homes.”

According to Murphy, today’s teens are more connected than ever before, spending an average of 12 hours on social media each week—a figure almost certainly augmented by their time spent at home in quarantine. This new reality has also prompted a bump in casual dressing, she said, allowing Nike to rise to the top and giving Lululemon the opportunity to gain traction this year.