Research: Piper Jaffray’s Latest American Teen Check-In

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AT&T Summerbreak teens

Get ’em while they’re young has long been a mantra of marketers the world over, but the tough economy of the past decade have made backpack cords a little more difficult to untie. Research firm Piper Jaffray has been trying to understand the fickle changing tastes of teens since 2001 when it started interviewing them twice a year about their spending, technology and leisure habits.

So what sells like teen spirit? Its latest report finds that while American teens may not be spending as much in general as they were a year ago (down 2.4%), what they are spending on is food and athleisure. Part of the reason teens have less money to throw around is because parents aren’t giving them as much allowance. Parents’ contributions to teen pocketbooks is at 63%, down from 68% a year ago.

Eating out is almost 25% of kids’ budget, topping fashion by five points. The top restaurant preferred by U.S. teens is Chick-fil-A, with Starbucks, which has remained in the top spot for 12 of the last 14 surveys, falling to second. Chipotle, which was first the two other times Starbucks was not, is now third. Starbucks is #1 with teens of average income.

McDonald’s is not high on the list for teens, as it “remains below peak levels seen in prior survey periods,” while Piper Jaffray also saw “strong moves from Five Guys and Red Robin,” analyst Nicole Miller Regan told CNBC.

What is top of mind for teens is the athleisure fashion category, and when it comes to a preferred apparel brand, 41 percent of teens name an athletic apparel brand; that’s up 15 percentage points from a year ago and 6 points from the previous survey.

The #1 athleisure brand preferred by teens: Nike, with Adidas showing the strongest growth (those Stan Smith shoes are still going strong) and Under Armour not even making the Top 10 list for preferred brands. However, UA has the dubious distinction of being number one on the list for brands that male teens think of as ones no longer worn by teens. American Eagle and Forever 21 received 10% and 5% mindshare, respectively.

The 90s are still hot, with leggings (especially by lululemon), chokers and Converse sneakers the top three trends among upper-income females. Upper-income boys surveyed revealed that they no longer care prefer clothes from brands such as Under Armour and GapRolex continues to be the watch brand of choice for upper income boys, garnering 37% mindshare in this category, followed by Michael Kors and Fossil, which displaced Apple from the third spot it held last fall.

When it comes to the online shopping, Amazon is the go-to spot for these teens while Nike came in second. Amazon, though, has a 43% share while Nike is only 5% (and that’s a drop from the 8% it had in the fourth quarter of last year).

When it comes to social media, Snapchat is still the king of teen eyeballs: 81% of the teens surveyed said they check Snapchat at least once a month while 79% check out Instagram at least once a month.

Also scoring high for preferred tech is Apple‘s iPhone. Of those surveyed, 76% owned iPhones and 81% expect their next phones to be iPhones.

More details in the infographic below:

Piper Jaffray teen brand preference survey April 2017

Photo via AT&T’s @SummerBreak — a social-based, real-time reality series created for Millennial and Gen Z audiences.

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