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Teens “Champion” ‘90s Streetwear Revival as Nike Fades, Supreme and Vans Grab Wallet Share

Gen Z teens are just saying “no” to Nike in favor of hot surging streetwear brands like Champion, Vans and Supreme, and throwback ‘90s labels like Tommy Hilfiger, according to Piper Jaffray’s 35th semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens survey.

No wonder Nike is making splashy investments in digital platforms that it hopes will offer an edge with connected consumers, of whom teens constitute a rapidly growing and influential percentage.

Representing $830 billion in annual spending, teens are fueling the athleisure trend that won’t seem to die, choosing active shoe brands for four out of their top-five favorites. Though Nike’s dominance and “share of mind” is shrinking, it still grabbed the top spot (42 percent), followed by Vans (16 percent), Adidas (14 percent) and Converse (4 percent)—and a quick scan of what pedestrians young and not-as-young are wearing out and about confirms these brands’ popularity. DSW, which got 3 percent of the vote, was the sole multi-brand footwear retailer to crack the top five.

On the apparel side, Nike again comes out on top (23 percent, a steep drop from 31 percent in the fall survey), despite its waning popularity, and though rival Adidas grabs a comparatively smaller 6 percent (No. 3 spot) of surveyed teens’ vote, that figure represents double growth (from 3 percent) for the German active label. Note that Adidas comes in at No. 1 for guys and No. 2 for female teens as the top new brands they’re wearing.

American Eagle Outfitters—which has fought to remain relevant by debuting new retail concepts, evolving its product line and taking a public stance on teen-centric issues like gun control, body positivity and diversity—landed the second spot among clothing brands, with 10 percent of the vote. Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters rounded out the top five, tied with 5 percent apiece. For the first time since 2002, all-American brand Ralph Lauren dropped out of the top 10. In January, the brand poached Alice Delahunt from luxury stalwart Burberry to manage its global digital platforms and online consumer engagement initiatives.

Champion jumped from No. 44 to No. 10 in popularity among upper-income ($100,000/household) teen males, with 4 percent of these consumers indicating they’re starting to wear this label; among teens of all income groups ($56,000/household), the brand moved from No. 40 to No. 25. The brand is riding this resurgence by opening its first brick-and-mortar store, choosing Los Angeles’ trendy La Brea neighborhood.

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Three percent of teens from wealthier households cited Supreme as a preferred brand, tied with H&M and lululemon, though it moved from the No. 10 spot in the fall to the No. 7 spot. Vans landed the No. 2 spot on the preferred list among upper-income teens; 16 percent indicated it as a favorite brand, ahead of Adidas (14 percent) but behind Nike (42 percent).

When it comes to where they shop online, Gen Z, much like the rest of America, overwhelmingly gravitates to Amazon, which attracted 44 percent of surveyed teens. This likely is because parents share their Amazon and Prime accounts with their teenage progeny, getting their kids hooked on the retail giant’s famously seamless experience at an early age. Nike (6 percent) and American Eagle Outfitters (4 percent) trailed distantly, and just 3 percent said they shopped at Urban Outfitters (3 percent,) which has been noted for certain aspects of omnichannel prowess. Another 3 percent said they shop Forever 21’s website.