Nike has retained its No. 1 spot in the minds of U.S. teenagers for more than a decade, and strengthened that lead by 200 basis points year over year to 27%, according to Piper Sandler's most recent semi-annual teen survey. Under Armour is gaining, placing in the top 10 for the first time since fall 2019, above its 14th spot a year ago.
The '90s are the retro focus, with baggy pants taking second and crop tops sixth among popular fashion trends. While leggings (and specifically Lululemon) ranked first, jeans also ranked sixth, "mom jeans" ranked third and "ripped jeans" ranked eighth, per the report.
E-commerce is holding steady among Generation Z, with about 22% shopping online. The youngsters remain dependent on their parents for 61% of their discretionary spending, which rose 1% from the last survey to $2,165. Amazon is benefiting from that, with 56% saying the e-commerce giant is their favorite online retailer, up from 53% a year ago. The number of Prime memberships among these teens' households rose some 5% since last year.
"The category dominance in the teen segment is underappreciated, in our view," researchers said, adding, "Prime adoption and the maturation of the teen cohort should serve as a powerful tailwind for many years to come."
Unsurprisingly given the average age of 16.1 years in this survey, cash remains teens' top payment method, followed by Apple Pay. Venmo is their most used payment app.
This mobile generation is mostly on the iPhone, with ownership up to 88%, the highest in the survey's history, up from 85% a year ago. Moreover, 90% of teens said their next phone will be an iPhone, up two percentage points from last year, also the highest level recorded by Piper Sandler.
The pandemic is having its effect on teen consumption. From spring 2019 to fall 2020, female apparel demand fell 16% and male apparel demand fell 18%. In the spring, female spending rose 9% year over year, though male spending fell 15%, mirroring the gender differences in the post-Great Recession recovery.
Fear of the coronavirus may also be affecting rental sales, Piper Sandler said. (Concerns about COVID-19 rose to fourth place from the last survey's fifth place, per the report.) The firm has asked about secondhand apparel only since last fall; in this survey, it grabbed 8% of time allocated to shopping. Nearly half (47%) of upper income teens have bought from a secondhand marketplace or thrift store, and 55% have sold something through such channels. Depop rose to No. 10 on the list of "Favorite Websites for all teens," and sneaker marketplace StockX ranked fifth among males.
But affinity for rent-and-return services was down, both sequentially and year over year for all teens. "We believe this is attributable to the pandemic, and we are curious to see if these sentiments are sticky in a post-vaccine world, as everyone is seemingly more cognizant about germs," Piper Sandler said.
In a development of importance to brands, this generation's attitudes around social issues is particularly strong, the researchers found. Their top concern is racial equality (with 20% saying they have advocated for that), followed by the environment. The Black Lives Matter movement was specifically mentioned by many of the teens surveyed, placing third among their concerns.
"GenZ is unique in that they appear to care more about social justice & the environment versus former generations," according to the report.