Survey shows teens’ shopping habits

It concluded that teens prefer to spend on value brands and cheaper items.

by Jennifer Bissell

Valerie Streif, a University of Minnesota post-secondary student from Wayzata, goes shopping about once every two months âÄî a significant cutback from when she was younger.

“When I was in middle school, [IâÄôd go] once or twice a month,” Streif said. “I probably spent $150 to $200 a month shopping.”

Now Streif says sheâÄôs trying to cut back to save money for college and her car, but she also said the economic climate has played a role.

TeensâÄô fashion budgets have fluctuated back and forth in the past two years, but a survey released earlier this month by investment and securities bank Piper Jaffray shows teens today prefer spending their fashion budgets on value brands and overall cheaper items.

“If I was in middle school now, I wouldnâÄôt go shopping as much as I did,” Streif said. “[My parents] talk about saving a lot more than they did probably, when I was younger.

“Now itâÄôs kind of like everyoneâÄôs cutting back.”

The semi-annual survey, “Taking Stock with Teens,” showed that both upper-income and average-income teensâÄô fashion budgets have remained flat since the spring. However, upper-income teens are still spending 14 percent less year-over-year, while average-income teens are spending 0.6 percent more year-over-year.

The survey polled approximately 6,000 students nationally with an average age of 16.3 years.

Mall of America spokesman Dan Jasper said he wasnâÄôt aware of teens shopping less at the mall since the recession had hit.

“ThatâÄôs a [retail] segment thatâÄôs remained healthy for us,” Jasper said. “We have more than 80 retailers that really cater to the teen shopper, so itâÄôs a significant portion of our business.”

Since last year, sales and foot traffic at the Mall of America have actually increased by 9 percent and 4 percent respectively, Jasper said.

“WeâÄôre actually weathering the tail end of the recession here relatively well,” Jasper said. “And weâÄôve put a lot of strategies into place to help us maintain this growth in sales.”

American Eagle, PacSun, Zumiez, Volcom, Quiksilver, Hurley, Vans and TillyâÄôs were indicated as upper-income teensâÄô favorite brands, according to the survey.

For average-income teens, Hollister showed a big improvement, American Eagle showed a small improvement and Aéropostale entered the top-five preferred brands for the first time since fall 2008, according to the survey.

Nike was listed as a favorite brand for both income levels.

“Given the current economic times, I think that price is certainly something that everyone is thinking of,” Aéropostale spokeswoman Susie Choi said. “I think that teens are more aware than ever.”

Recently, Aéropostale has changed their model of business to be more fashion-focused than essentials-focused. Choi said this, coupled with relatively inexpensive prices, is why the brand has improved its recent standing with teens.

“They look to value us,” Choi said. “They think itâÄôs no longer cool to wear something just because itâÄôs expensive.”

“WeâÄôve seen that teens are far more aware of the macroeconomic environment,” Choi said. “TheyâÄôd rather drive a Prius than drive a Porsche these days âĦ We align our marketing initiative to match those priorities.”

Cassie Hendricks, a first-year student at the University, said her family doesnâÄôt spend as much money shopping as they did when she was younger.

She said the family prefers to spend money on vacation âÄî spending “more toward the future” instead of just “in the moment,” she said.

Hendricks said that now that sheâÄôs older, her parents donâÄôt spend as much money on clothes for her. If she were younger now, her parents would be spending less money on her than they did in the past.

“I donâÄôt think that when my parents took me shopping they would have spent as much necessarily,” Hendricks said. “TheyâÄôd probably spend less just because of the way the economy is, and even now, at this point, when we go shopping we donâÄôt spend as much.”