Piper Sandler Completes 41st Semi-Annual Generation Z Survey of 7,000 U.S. Teens

  • 20+ years of research U.S. teens GenZ insights
  • Overall teen “self-reported” spending increased slightly to $2,165 per year; seeing emergence of female-led spending cycle led by apparel
  • Teens care about social/political issues naming Racial Equality as No. 1 & the Environment as No. 2; Black Lives Matter as No. 3
  • Snapchat remains No. 1 (31%) favorite social media platform, followed closely by TikTok (30%); Instagram loses share as the No. 3 player
  • Athletic brands dominate fashion preferences as 38% of preferred apparel brands are “athletic” with notable gains in Nike (No. 1 apparel & footwear brand), lululemon at No. 4 & gains for Under Armour
  • Food returns as teens’ No. 1 wallet priority at 23%

COVID-19 Teen Spending & Shopping Behavior Insights

  • In the next six months, teens intent to dine-in & fly on a plane is higher, intent to visit a retail store is lower than last Fall
  • 33% of teens are currently part-time employed
  • 69% of teens plan to take the vaccine when it is their turn (up from 64% last Fall)

MINNEAPOLIS–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#PSCTeensPiper Sandler Companies (NYSE: PIPR), a leading investment bank, has completed its 41st semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens® survey in partnership with DECA. This survey highlights discretionary spending trends and brand preferences from 7,000 teens across 47 U.S. states with an average age of 16.1 years. Generation Z, which contributes approximately $830 billion to U.S. retail sales annually*, represents an influential consumer group where wallet size and allocation provide a proxy for category interest.


This year’s Spring 2021 survey was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey was conducted from February 19 to March 24; 58% of teens have returned to school in either a hybrid format or in person this Spring while 42% remained fully virtual. We received the highest amount of responses from the South at 48% of the mix and 10% of the responses from the Northeast—similar to Spring and Fall 2020.

For the survey infographic and more information, visit pipersandler.com/teens

“Our Spring survey gave rise to a number of themes emerging for GenZ as we think about the path to reopening. We are seeing a female-led spending recovery with upticks in spending on clothing, handbags and skincare in particular. Within apparel, athletic is still the dominant trend with Nike & lululemon taking new highs and Under Armour seeing improved mindshare. Simultaneously, we are seeing a revival of the 1990s fashion trend flannel shirts, baggy pants, mom jeans & eclectic hair trends all in vogue.

“GenZ is a conscious generation as teens this Spring cite Racial Equality & the Environment as their top-two social issues. We have also seen “thrifting” emerge as a strong trend as thinking secondhand is becoming second nature to teens. In fact, 47% of teens have purchased and 55% have sold secondhand.

“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. Snapchat & TikTok are the top-two social media platforms. While Amazon remains the No. 1 website, we are seeing a rise in female-centric platforms like SHEIN, Revolve and Princess Polly,” said Erinn Murphy, Piper Sandler senior research analyst.

Spring 2021 Key Findings

Spending & Shopping Behavior

  • Areas of wallet share contraction included: Concerts/Events & Car (remains below multi-year average)
  • Areas of wallet share expansion included: Clothing & Accessories (especially for females)
  • Amazon remains teens’ No. 1 preferred online shopping mindshare at 56%
  • Skincare spending for females ranks ahead of makeup spending
  • TikTok influencers have significantly reshaped skincare brand preferences; 86% of females use online influencers as a source of discovery for beauty brands and trends
  • Video games hold ~16% of teen wallet share; 53% of gamers plan to purchase the new console system in the next 2 years
  • Teens allocate 8% of their shopping to secondhand; 47% of teens have purchased & 55% have sold secondhand – thrift/consignment stores ranked No. 10 as favorite brand/retailer, compared to No. 23 in the Spring 2020 survey

Brand Preferences

  • Chick-fil-A remains No. 1 restaurant for 7 consecutive surveys; Starbucks maintains No. 2 and Chipotle remains No. 3
  • 49% of teens either consume or are willing to try plant-based meat with Impossible Foods as the No. 1 choice, followed closely by Beyond
  • For more than 10 years, Nike remains No. 1 apparel brand; Nike also holds No. 1 spot for footwear brand and preferred athletic apparel & footwear brand
  • PacSun moves up from No. 5 apparel brand to No. 3; adidas falls to No. 5 – lowest level since Fall 2017
  • 96% of females claim to shop online vs. 88% last year, while 92% of males claim to shop online vs. 91% last year
  • Lays is most preferred snack brand among teens at 11%, followed closely by Campbell’s Goldfish (9%)
  • Ulta maintains No. 1 preferred beauty destination against Sephora for fifth survey in a row (46% share vs. 39% LY); 80% of female teens willing to spend more for “clean” or natural beauty
  • Tarte remains top-ranked cosmetic brand for 7 consecutive surveys; e.l.f. registers all-time high in survey at No. 2 preferred makeup brand
  • CeraVe holds No. 1 spot as top skincare brand for the second survey in a row; The Ordinary remains in the No. 4 spot similar to Fall and up from No. 14 last Spring
  • Teens spend 32% of their daily video consumption on Netflix, down slightly from 34% in Fall 2020, followed by YouTube (No. 2) and Hulu (No. 3)
  • Half of the list of favorite social media personalities is dominated by YouTube and TikTok content creators
  • 88% of teens own an iPhone and 90% expect an iPhone to be their next phone, both record survey highs

The Piper Sandler Taking Stock With Teens® survey is a semi-annual research project that gathers input from 7,000 teens with an average age of 16.1 years. Discretionary spending patterns, fashion trends, technology, and brand and media preferences are assessed through surveying a geographically diverse subset of high schools across the U.S. Since the project began in 2001, Piper Sandler has surveyed more than 201,800 teens and collected over 49.7 million data points on teen spending.

* Source: Fung Global Retail & Technology

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