Taking stock with teens: Longstanding study of Gen Z teens offers insights into the sector’s spending trends in a variety of retail categories

by | Apr 19, 2024 | Public Relations

Teenagers have always been a tough crowd to market to, but never as complicated as today’s Gen Z batch, the most digital-savvy, highly informed group yet. But if any research group has developed an understanding of the year-to-year patterns of teens, it’s investment bank Piper Sandler Companies, which has accessed more than 61 million data points around teen preferences and spending in its 23+ years of researching them. 

The firm released its 47th semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens survey, in partnership with global high-school-student network DECA, based on its survey of more than 6,000 teens, revealing that the group is spending more than last fall when the last survey was taken, but not nearly as much as before the pandemic, and also showcases the brands that teens are spending the most with in key retail categories.

Gen Z spending

“Our spring 2024 survey offers an in-depth look at how Gen Z is impacting our overall economy through their spending habits,” said Abbie Zvejnieks, senior research analyst at Piper Sandler, in a news release. “Our survey results indicate a slight increase in teen spending sequentially from fall 2023, but self-reported spend is down 6 percent year-over-year, well below pre-pandemic levels. We are seeing some significant shifts in brand preferences including the rise of smaller, innovative brands which are taking share from incumbents. We think social media has led to an accelerated trend cycle including an increased emphasis on key products, and brands will have to be nimble to keep up.”

Gen Z spending

Clothing and footwear

Nike remains the number one brand for all teens in both apparel and footwear, however Nike is beginning to lose share across categories to players such as On Running, HOKA and New Balance. Lululemon Athletica remains the number two athletic apparel brand among upper-income teens, but we are seeing up and coming players such as Alo Yoga and Vuori start to gain some share.


The core beauty wallet reached its highest level since spring 2018 at $339 with growth across all categories. e.l.f. Beauty continues to dominate the space, ranking number one among teens in addition to ranking in the top 10 skincare brands and beauty destinations. Teen beauty consumers continue to prove their preference of in-store shopping vs. online with 85 percent showing a preference for in-store purchases.

Technology and social media

While TikTok remains the number one favorite social media platform, Instagram made a strong improvement this spring, taking the number two spot from Snapchat. Netflix returned as the leader in daily video consumption for teens with 29 percent share.

Restaurants and food

The firm’s spring survey features a new category which measures preferences of coffee, tea or beverage chains. Starbucks ranked first among teens with 37 percent share. Chick-fil-A remains the number one favorite restaurant. In the energy drink space, Celsius over indexes with teens (~17 percent teen mindshare compared to ~12 percent market share), while Red Bull and Monster under index.

Download a report summary here.

Richard Carufel
Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 17 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders. Reach him at richard.carufel@bulldogreporter.com; @BulldogReporter


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