Food, Brands Lead Teens’ Spending, Shopping Decisions

As a group, teenage members of Generation Z—defined by Pew Research as those born since 1997—account for approximately $830 billion in U.S. retail sales annually, and their spending habits and brand preferences provide valuable information for businesses trying to reach them. To that end, investment bank and asset management firm Piper Jaffray has released results from this fall’s 36th semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens survey, drawing insights on discretionary spending trends and brand preferences from 8,600 teens across 48 U.S. states. The respondents’ average age was 16.

“Our fall survey showed overall teen spending as flat with the prior year. That said, teen spending continues to expand in categories like video games and food. Females now indicate they spend three times more on beauty than accessories,” says Erinn Murphy, Piper Jaffray senior research analyst. “Within fashion, we see a strong brand cycle emerging led by athletic, streetwear and 1990s brands ranging from Vans, Supreme, Tommy Hilfiger and Adidas.”

Piper Jaffray’s survey found that overall teen spending was down five percent from the spring and up one percent from a year ago. Looking at spending and shopping behavior, food is the No.1 spending category at 24 percent, with Chick-fill-A the top restaurant brand, followed by Starbucks.

Brands have become a more important part of teens’ shopping behavior—45 percent say a product’s brand is most important when making a purchase versus 33 percent six years ago. The most notable brands making gains with teens include Vans, Adidas, lululemon and Crocs, while Amazon has consistently been teens’ favorite website in the survey.

For an infographic, podcasts and more information about the survey, click here.

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