At least one group of shoppers is enthusiastically visiting the malls this holiday season—and they don’t seem too bothered that pesky inflation is eating away at their discretionary dollars.
They’re Gen Z. And the way they shop matters.
This group of consumers born between 1997 and 2012 is among the fastest growing in the country, along with millennials. Together, this demographic is expected to grow to 70% of the population by 2028, versus 60% today, according to a note from Quinn Equity Research.
“One of the highlights of this Black Friday was the huge turnout of Gen Z in stores,” said Christine Classey-Zumo, apparel industry analyst at market research firm NPD. “Younger consumers flooded the mall, viewing Black Friday as a social event. They came early, they came with their friends, they came shopping.”
She said the prevalence of younger shoppers on Black Friday and during the Thanksgiving shopping weekend surprised her. “It’s something I haven’t seen in previous years,” she said.
Mall operator PREIT, which owns 18 shopping centers primarily on the East Coast, has confirmed that Generation Z consumers are out of service.
“Over Black Friday weekend, we saw shoppers of all ages, but we definitely saw a strong showing from a young crowd, and some of the strongest anecdotal sales reports came from top Gen Z brands and fashion stores,” said Joe Corradino, CEO of PREIT. .
It could also explain why in-store shopping outperforms the online option on Black Friday.
The National Retail Federation estimates that more than 123 million people Visiting physical stores during Black Friday and weekend, up a solid 17% from 2021, while the number of online shoppers grew at a much slower pace of 2% to 130.2 million. Overall, the group said, 196 million Americans shopped during the five-day holiday period from Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, up 10% from last year.
“For Generation Z, it wasn’t just about shopping. It was about hanging out and having fun together as a group.
When it comes to apparel, a particular weakness of younger consumers, Gen Zers show a tendency to be more price-neutral—but they discriminate deeply about the brands they buy.
Industry experts credit social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram for creating the “it” labels of the moment, which include expensive sportswear brand Lululemon — a pair of leggings can cost $120 or more — and the expensive fashion brand favored by Gen Z Aritzia and mid-priced clothing chains like Garage, Pacsun, and Aerie.
“Promotions are not a magnet for these shoppers,” said Classi-Zummo. “One in three shoppers between the ages of 18 and 24 look to social media first for their shopping research,” she said, citing the results of the annual NPD survey.
At the same time, this generation is also open to finding inspiration in other channels including browsing in stores. And we saw that during Black Friday.
While older consumers are more price sensitive, especially in inflationary environmentChasing discounts isn’t always top of mind for trend-hungry teens.
but with Prices are at their highest levels in 40 yearsGeneration Z’s approach to shopping has changed slightly.
“They’ll get the must-haves on their wish list, no matter the price, and they’ll probably bring back the nice items,” Classi-Zummo said.
Other than clothes, what did GenZers buy over the weekend on Black Friday?
“Most beauty and electronics products,” said Brian Mandelbaum, CEO of consumer data firm Aten. Top retailers are Best Buy, Sephora, Ulta, and TJ Maxx.
“Generation Z and their spending, in general, is my judgment,” said Mandelbaum. “They aren’t burdened by bills as much, so they don’t think as much about inflation and prices.”
He said millennials spend most of their spending on discount home decor and department stores, including Amazon, Kohl’s, and Target.
“Beer fan. Travel specialist. Amateur alcohol scholar. Bacon trailblazer. Music fanatic.”