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Apr 8, 2021
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US teens still love Nike, embrace 90s trends and clean skincare - report

Apr 8, 2021

American teens have been increasing their spending slightly in the past year as the emergence of a female-led spending cycle driven by apparel has made an impact.

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

That's according to the latest report on the spending habits and priorities of teens/Gen Z from Piper Sandler. The twice-yearly report, which is now on its 41st edition, said the spending increase has come despite the pandemic with a self reported figure of $2,165 in discretionary spend per person.

It also said that sports brands dominate fashion preferences as 38% of preferred apparel brands are “athletic” with notable gains in Nike (the top apparel and footwear brand), Lululemon at number four, and gains for Under Armour.

The investment bank spoke to 7,000 US teens and also found that other priorities are social and political issues, such as racial equality, the environment and the Black Lives Matter movement, which are in first, second and third spots on the priority list.

Meanwhile, Snapchat remains the favourite social media platform (31%), followed closely by TikTok (30%). But Instagram lost share in third position.

Interestingly too, in the next six months, teens’ intent to dine-in and fly on a plane is higher, but their intent to visit a retail store is lower than last autumn. Some 33% of teens are also currently part-time employed.

Piper Sandler spoke to teens across 47 US states with an average age of 16.1 years and said, Generation Z “contributes approximately $830 billion to US retail sales annually, [and] represents an influential consumer group where wallet size and allocation provide a proxy for category interest”.


“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,” it said. Ad it added that while athletic is the key theme, “we are seeing a revival of the 1990s fashion trend flannel shirts, baggy pants, mom jeans and eclectic hair trends all in vogue”.

The results showed that Amazon remains teens’ preferred online shopping destination with a 56% mindshare score. But given the large number of peer-to-peer shopping apps, it’s perhaps no surprise that teens allocate 8% of their shopping to secondhand

Some 47% of teens have purchased and 55% have sold secondhand. Thrift/consignment stores ranked number 10 as favourite brand/retailer, compared to number 23 a year earlier.

Looking at brand preferences, as mentioned, Nike is the top footwear brand on 56%, followed by Vans at number two on only 12%. Behind them are Adidas, Converse and Foot Locker.

In clothing, Nike is number one at 27%, with American Eagle second on 7% ahead of PacSun, Lululemon and Adidas (down to fifth from third this time). 

Top handbag brands are Louis Vuitton on 18%, ahead of Michael Kors on 16%, Kate Spade on 14%, Coach on 13% and Gucci on 6%.

Meanwhile, skincare spending for females now ranks ahead of make-up spending. TikTok influencers have “significantly reshaped skincare brand preferences” and 86% of females “use online influencers as a source of discovery for beauty brands and trends”.

Top beauty destinations are Ulta on 46%, Sephora on 24%, and Target, Walmart and Amazon all in single-digits. The top cosmetic brand is Tarte on 10%, slightly ahead of e.l.f. at an all-time high, Maybelline, L'Oréal and Too-Faced. 

The top skincare brand is CeraVe on 35%, Cetaphil on 10%, ahead of Neutrogena, The Ordinary and Curology. And 80% of female teens are willing to spend more for “clean” or natural beauty.

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