Sustainability, Color and Uniqueness Driving Gen Z Sales: Which Fashion Players Are Benefiting Now?

Fresh, colorful apparel and accessories and sustainably-made, thrifted products are must-have items for Gen Z shoppers as the world opens back up following the COVID-19 health crisis.

College students from Ohio State University said during a recent panel that bright colors and denim, as well as convenience and novelty, are driving their shopping trips following the opening back up of stores over the last couple months. The students also favor moving away from loungewear and into “party clothes.”

“People are looking forward to the opportunity to express themselves in their own colorful, unique way,” wrote analysts from Cowen Research in a note released Monday. Cowen, along with CBUS Retail, a group of local retail executives and leaders in Ohio, recently hosted a panel with the students from Ohio State to discuss the future of retail.

Based on the information from the students, Kohl’s and Target are among the analysts’ favorite stocks that should benefit from the back-to-school shopping season, in addition to Revolve Group and Aeropostale. Tapestry’s Kate Spade brand and retailers Express and Zara are other top brands cited by the students.

“Target was described as a favorite one-stop shop with affordable prices and Kate Spade was called out for having fun, novel, and colorful prints, which is a fitting trend for the re-opening,” the analysts wrote. “Students also pointed to accessories demand, which should benefit Tapestry in the near-term.”

At Kohl’s, the analysts see its denim offerings as appealing to shoppers, in addition to the upcoming launch of Sephora at 200 stores.

“We think Kohl’s is positioned to be a big winner for BTS and drive outsized gains,” the analysts wrote, also citing the upcoming child tax credits that should also help spur spending there and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, TikTok is still the online influencer du jour, the students said during the panel.

“TikTok is where Gen Z and Millennials go for inspiration from influencers on the latest trends. Our panelists also pointed to a dynamic of following social media to be influenced, a sign of wanting to assimilate to trends, but also layering in their personal twist,” the Cowen analysts wrote. “Gen Z and Millennials want a balance of trendy but limited edition products and exclusivity is also important to brand equity.”

Finally, sustainability, transparency and secondhand shopping are ideals that Gen Z shoppers hold high and translate into how they spend their money. The RealReal, Aeropostale and Poshmark are best positioned to take advantage of this, the analysts wrote.

The Ohio State students said they understand that responsibly-sourced goods may cost more, but they are willing to pay for them. They appreciate when retailers and brands communicate with customers about how their goods are made.

The students also value second hand merchandise as one way to maintain sustainability — and be fashion forward.

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