Teen spending has been impacted by COVID-19, according to the 41st semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens® survey from Piper Sandler Companies in partnership with DECA. The average age of the teens surveyed was 16.1. Teen “self-reported” spending increased slightly to $2,165 per year, while overall, Generation Z contributes about $830 billion in retail sales to the U.S economy. One-third of the teens work part-time.

The Spring 2021 survey, conducted this February and March, shows 58% of teens attended school in person or a hybrid format, while 42% studied virtually.

Erinn Murphy, Piper Sandler senior research analyst, says the spring survey shows the recovery is being led by teen girls, “with upticks in spending on clothing, handbags, and skincare in particular. And Murphy adds, while Amazon remains the No. 1 website, we are seeing a rise in female-centric platforms like SHEIN, Revolve, and Princess Polly.”

In general, Murphy says, “GenZ is a conscious generation” They cited Racial Equality and the Environment as their top two social issues. She adds, “We have also seen “thrifting” emerge as a strong trend as thinking secondhand is becoming second nature to teens. In fact, 47% of teens have purchased, and 55% have sold secondhand.”

Key spending findings for teen girls

  • Spending on clothing was up 9% y/y (year-over-year), the strongest y/y gain since 2015. Athletic apparel is their most popular clothing choice, but there’s a “revival of the 1990s fashion trend flannel shirts, baggy pants, mom jeans & eclectic hair trends all in vogue.”
  • There was a “modest recovery” in overall beauty spending. They spent more on skincare than makeup. TikTok influencers have significantly reshaped skincare brand preferences; 86% of females use online influencers as a source of discovery for beauty brands and trends
  • Handbag spending was up 4% y/y, Y, reversing a multi-year low

General trends

  • Food returns as teens’ No. 1 wallet priority at 23% share, but it’s down from 25% in Spring 2020. If you own a restaurant, note that 15% of teens consume plant-based meat, with Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat tied as their top choice
  • Video games are 9% of teen wallet share: 53% expect to purchase a NextGen console
  • When watching videos, their top choice is Netflix, followed by YouTube and Amazon Prime.
  • Snapchat is their favorite social media platform. TikTok is a close second. Instagram lost share and ranked third.
  • Cash remains their top payment method, followed by Apple Pay. Venmo is their most-used payment app.
  • 46% believe the economy is getting worse, down from 48% who felt that way in the Fall 2020 survey. 25% think it is getting better.
  • 69% plan to get vaccinated when it’s their turn