Here's what Gen Z is spending on

Gina Acosta
Executive Editor
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Beauty spending by Gen Z hit a new high for females at $368 per year led by skin care, up 18% year-over-year.

Generation Z is spending more on retail than ever before, and food, beauty and video games make up the majority of their purchases, according to a new survey.

Piper Jaffray's 35th semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens survey highlights discretionary spending trends and brand preferences among 6,000 teens across 40 U.S. states. 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.

“Our spring survey has shown an uptick in teen spending, which we believe mirrors the economic expansion we are experiencing broadly. Within a teen’s wallet, food is the top priority but video games (for males) and beauty (for females) are gaining share,” said Erinn Murphy, Piper Jaffray senior research analyst. “We are seeing strong signs of a brand cycle led by 1990s and streetwear styles with adidas, Vans, Supreme and Tommy Hilfiger as the most notable positive brand movers.”

Spending & Shopping Behavior

  • Food reaccelerates as teens’ No. 1 spending category, returning to its 24% peak.
  • Male spending on video games reaches a new peak at 13%, closing in on fashion.
  • Beauty spending hit a new high for females at $368 per year led by skin care, up 18% year-over-year.
  • Department stores and legacy channels continue to shed share as online hits new highs.

Brand Preferences

Streetwear has seen the largest incremental gains led by Vans (No. 1 footwear brand) and Supreme (No. 7 apparel brand); 1990s revival underway with Champion and Tommy Hilfiger.
Nike mindshare declines; adidas is firmly No. 3 brand (14% share footwear, 6% apparel).
Ralph Lauren moves out of top-10 brand list for males, formerly a top-10 brand since 2002.
Intent to buy iPhone reaches a new high – 84% of Gen-Z will choose the iPhone next (compared to 82% last fall). eBay mindshare declined to its lowest level recorded at 1.8%, compared to 3% in fall 2017.

The Piper Jaffray Taking Stock With Teens survey is a semi-annual research project that gathers input from approximately 6,000 teens with an average age of 16.4 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 Jaffray has surveyed more than 161,000 teens and collected over 42 million data points on teen spending.