Findings from Minneapolis-based investment bank and asset management firm Piper Jaffray’s 25th semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens market research project point to a seasonal pause in discretionary spending contrasted by strong intent to spend across multiple categories and household income levels.
“Our spring 2013 survey results suggest teens have a heightened sense of awareness surrounding seasonal spending fluctuations and broader macroeconomic sensitivities,” said Steph Wissink, co-director of research and senior research analyst at Piper Jaffray, in a press release. “Spending has moderated across discretionary categories for both upper-income and average-income teens when compared to the prior year and prior season. Yet nearly two-thirds of respondents view the economy as consistent to improving and just over half signaled an intent to spend more on key categories of interest, particularly fashion and status brand merchandise.”
As taken from press materials, selected findings from the survey in fashion, beauty and personal care, restaurants, digital media, gaming and wireless communication include the following:
• The fashion category accounts for roughly 40 percent of teen budgets, consistent with prior survey cycles. Spending among upper-income teens was down modestly to the prior year and season while average-income teens indicated a slight increase. Implying the pause in spending may be temporary, approximately 53 percent of upper-income teens plan to spend more on fashion apparel in the coming periods. Parent contribution to teen spending contracted by nearly 10 percentage points in the spring survey, with 55-60 percent of teens indicating their parents contribute more than half of their spending. Within the fashion category specifically, insights into key trend changes include declining demand for fast fashion, the emergence of a refined classic or preppy aesthetic and a preference for fashion athletic wear.
• Teens are exhibiting changes in shopping behaviors that will likely reshape the way brands target this demographic, including shopping less frequently and shopping online instead of in specialty and department stores. Approximately 79 percent of females and 76 percent of males shop online and respondents indicated that roughly 18 percent of their spending is online. Nearly 70 percent of teens indicate they prefer to shop the Web sites of their favorite store-based retailers. In addition, teens prefer labels to logos and seek value in their purchases, as shown by the rise of spending in the outlet and off-price channels. Approximately 70 percent of teen girls and 55 percent of teen boys shop at off-price stores and 55 percent and 42 percent, respectively, indicated it is popular to do so. The shift toward digital is proliferating softlines, hardlines and media purchases. Streaming accounts for 46 percent of movie rentals and online music provider Pandora accounts for 22 percent of preferred music sources.
• Teens have cited “friends” as the strongest influence over their purchase decisions for the duration of the survey’s history, but “Internet” is quickly rising in profile. Approximately 53 percent of females and 52 percent of males indicate that social media impacts their purchases, with Facebook being the most important, followed closely by Twitter and Instagram. But the popularity of Facebook is waning among teens, with 33 percent citing it as the most important, down from 42 percent six months ago.
• Beauty spending among upper-income teens declined 3 percent year-over-year and increased 2 percent sequentially. For average-income teens, beauty spending increased 1 percent year-over-year and 4 percent sequentially. For the second consecutive survey, average-income beauty spend is now at parity with upper-income spending. MAC was cited as the No. 1 cosmetics brand for upper-income teens for the fifth survey in a row and Cover Girl ranks at the top of the list for average-income teens. Teens continue to demand greater diversity of cosmetics offerings, likely spurred by several emerging cosmetics brands coming to market with new and superior innovations.
• Teens are increasingly choosing organic food options, with 42 percent eating organics versus just 33 percent two years ago. This trend is likely to support ongoing demand for natural and organic grocery, as teens age into young adults and establish independent households. When eating out, 57 percent of teens prefer limited-service restaurants, up steadily from 43 percent four years ago. When identifying their preferred dining segment, 41 percent select quick-service, 36 percent casual dining and 15 percent fast-casual options. In addition to classifying by segment, preferred restaurant brands also provide insight into various cuisine profiles. For American cuisine, teens favor Cheesecake Factory; for Italian, teens favor Olive Garden; and for Mexican-inspired fare, teens favor Chipotle Mexican Grill.
• Mobility and connectedness are driving nearly 91 percent of teens to purchase a smartphone for their next wireless device, with approximately 60 percent biased toward Apple and 21 percent likely to buy an Android device, consistent with prior survey cycles. Survey results point to teens prioritizing unlimited data plans as the most important service plan feature when choosing a carrier, with Verizon and AT&T identified as having the “best” networks. Approximately 48 percent of teens own an iPhone, up from 40 percent six months ago. Tablet ownership also continues to grow, with 51 percent of teens owning a tablet computer, up from 44 percent in fall 2012, with 68 percent of teens identifying Apple’s iPad as their owned device.
• Teens represent more than one-third of video game players and gaming accounts for 6 percent of teen spending. Interest in traditional gaming consoles remains strong entering a new console cycle. Awareness of next-generation consoles was 73 percent among teens who play video games at least monthly. Approximately 52 percent of teens intend to purchase a next generation console. Buying and selling used video games remains a critical component of the gaming industry, with 63 percent of gamers buying used games and 29 percent of teens trading in old games to fund new software and hardware purchases.
The Taking Stock With Teens survey is a semi-annual research project based on input from approximately 5,200 teens with an average age of 16.3 years. Teen spending patterns, fashion trends and brand and media preferences were assessed through visits to a geographically diverse subset of high schools in 10 U.S. states and through a national online survey of a wider group of teens from 37 different states. The survey is conducted in partnership with DECA, an international association of high school students. The spring survey was completed March 1–April 3, 2013.