Teens’ Spending Is Down But Preferences Emerge

Today’s teenagers are spending less as their worries about the economy grow. Data from investment bank and institutional securities firm Piper Jaffray’s “Taking Stock With Teens” survey found that teens’ self-reported spending is down four percent year-over-year to $2,400; the lowest level since Fall 2011. Approximately one-third of teens (32 percent) believe the economy is getting worse, up from 25 percent one year ago. As teens represent $830 billion in U.S. retail sales annually, shifts in this consumer group’s behavior can have significant effects in numerous sectors.

“Our Fall Teen Survey continues to validate several characteristics of this digitally-native demographic: 83 percent of teens have an iPhone, 52 percent of teens claim Amazon as their favorite online shopping website and we saw an acceleration of VSCO and TikTok mentions,” says Erinn Murphy, Piper Jaffray senior research analyst. “Importantly, however, we saw the lowest teen spending levels in eight years. The two most challenged categories were handbags and cosmetics as females reprioritize their spending with eating out and footwear/apparel. Broadly, the casualization of fashion continues: Nike gained share within its No. 1 rank and lululemon hit a new survey high as the No. 7 preferred apparel brand. Within footwear, Crocs also achieved a new survey record as the seventh-preferred footwear brand.”

Who they buy from factors into what they spend money on. Food is the top spending category for male teens (23 percent), while clothing captures 27 percent of female teens’ wallet share. Amazon holds the majority of online shopping mindshare at 52 percent—13 times higher than the No. 2 ranking Nike. Video games are on the upswing, capturing nine percent of teen spending in the latest survey, compared to eight percent a year ago, while cosmetics spending among female teens is down 21 percent year-over-year. The survey also found that 91 percent of female teens preferred shopping for beauty in-store vs. online—consistent with historic trends—89 percent of them use online influencers as a source of discovery for beauty brands and trends. Kylie Jenner ranks as the No. 2 “top influencer” and is the only beauty influencer in the top 10 this Fall. Additionally, female teens say they spend an average of $90/year on handbags, a new survey low.

Looking at the brands teens prefer, “preppy” brands such as Sperry, Ralph Lauren and Vineyard Vines continue to cede share to athletic brands—36 percent of preferred apparel brands are “athletic,” up from 34 percent last Fall. Also, Chick-fil-A remains the No. 1 restaurant in the past four surveys; while Starbucks retains a double-digit share. Teens spend 37 percent of their daily video consumption on YouTube, ahead of Netflix at 35 percent, and iPhone ownership remains at 83 percent, with 86 percent of teens expecting an iPhone to be their next phone.

Click here for more of the survey's findings.

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