Teens Shelled Out Just $275 on Shoes This Year as Spending Plunges to 20-Year Low

Teenagers spent only $275 on footwear this year as consumer spending in the demographic hit its lowest levels in two decades.

According to Piper Sandler’s 40th biannual “Taking Stock with Teens” report, nearly half (48%) of respondents — comprising a pool of 9,800 people across 48 states with an average age of 15.8 years — believe the United States economy is getting worse as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact discretionary spending trends and brand preferences.

The survey showed that teen spending dropped 9% to about $2,150 this year. Footwear spend experienced a 6% decline, while apparel spent fell an even larger 11% to $507 year over year.

For 10 years, Nike has ranked at the top of the list of clothing brands, and it further strengthened its lead at 27% share. (The second-ranking label is American Eagle at an 8% share.) The sportswear giant similarly took the No. 1 spot in footwear, representing 52% of teen preference, and Vans came in at second with a 16% share.

The findings also revealed that teenagers’ intent to dine in at restaurants and fly on a plane in the next six months is higher than it had been in the past six months, while their expectations of visiting a retail store is lower. What’s more, Gen Zers are spending less and less time in department stores and specialty boutiques as online shopping takes a larger share of their wallets. The report showed that 54% of teens cited Amazon as their favorite e-commerce destination, followed by fast-fashion site Shein, which took the No. 2 spot from Nike for the first time (albeit both had a 5% share).

Among the factors affecting teen spend this year, said Piper Sandler researchers, is the “new normal” return to school for high school and college students. The survey, which was conducted from Aug. 19 to Sept. 22, found that 47% of students went back to school virtually this year, while another 29% of respondents are studying in a hybrid format. What’s more, 23% of teens indicated that COVID-19 has impacted their ability to find work, with 33% of teens reporting that they had a part-time job (versus 37% in the spring and 35% last fall).

“While we are not surprised that overall teen spending was down again given the economic backdrop, we are seeing wallet share priorities change, including increased share for video games and furniture or room accessories and decreased share for food and concerts or events,” added senior research analyst Erinn Murphy.

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