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Millennials Get All The Attention, But Gen Z Is Who You Should Pay Attention To

Image via Jonas Leupe on Unsplash

Millennials are the demographic cohort that gets all the (typically negative) attention, but they're now smaller than the cohort born after them, Generation Z. A Bloomberg analysis of United Nations data found Gen Z represents nearly one-third of the world's population. Given their growing influence on the global economy, it's important to understand their spending habits and brand preferences.

Investment bank Piper Jaffray did exactly that yesterday as they released their 38th semi-annual Taking Stock With Teens® survey. The survey of 9,500 Americans with an average age of 15.8 years provides a look inside the minds of Gen Z, which is by far the largest portion of the U.S. population.

In a sign they may have lost money buying a couple shares of Uber or Lyft, overall teen “self-reported” spending fell 4% year-over-year and 10% from the spring to the lowest level since fall 2011. Don't tell Fed Chair Powell, but 32% of teens surveyed believe the economy is going to get worse, compared to 25% who thought so a year ago.

So where does Gen Z prefer to shop? Their favorite clothing and shoe brands are Nike, American Eagle, Vans and adidas. When shopping online, Gen Z overwhelmingly prefers Amazon. Amazon accounts for 52% of their online shopping versus only 4% for Nike's website, which comes in a distant second. People have to eat, too. Gen Z ranks Chick-fil-A, Starbucks, Chipotle and McDonald's as their go-to restaurants.

Gen Z's technology preferences are shifting as well. Possibly because it takes a few hours to find something to watch on Netflix, they now prefer YouTube as their top source for daily video consumption. Surprisingly, cable ranked higher than both Hulu and Amazon Prime for daily video consumption. Gen Z's most frequented social media site remains Instagram for the third-consecutive survey. Snapchat and Twitter are more popular than Facebook, who may have ended up a much different company had they not acquired Instagram in 2010. In a sign of Apple's near monopoly on the cell phone industry, iPhone ownership stands at 83%, with 86% of respondents expecting an iPhone to be their next phone.

With Gen Z becoming an increasingly integral part of the economy, companies that ignore their preferences and habits likely won't be around long enough to get tagged in their next Instagram photo.

Leftover Crumbs

  • You have to be an algo to keep up with this market. Markets were all over the place yesterday as we approach trade talks between representatives from the U.S. and China tomorrow through Friday. Markets started the day on a sour note following news the U.S. added additional Chinese firms to its trade blacklist. Markets then rallied following a report the Chinese sent one of its "largest and broadest teams" thus far in the trade war. Following Fed Chair Powell's press conference where he announced the Fed will begin non-QE QE4, the markets spiked, but it was short-lived. The buying euphoria abruptly ended, sending markets to the lows of the day into the close as the Trump administration announced visa bans on Chinese officials linked to the mass detention of Muslims in China. Maybe it's time to announce QE5?

  • That money could've gone to buybacks. Perhaps in an attempt to diversify from its airline business, which has had a rough year, Boeing has agreed to invest in Virgin Galactic, a startup that hopes to send customers into space next year. Boeing is investing $20 million through its HorizonX Ventures into the startup founded by Richard Branson. The deal is contingent on Virgin Galactic going public by the end of the year through a business combination with Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings Corp. “This is the beginning of an important collaboration for the future of air and space travel, which are the natural next steps for our human spaceflight programme,” said Branson

  • It's not just plastic straws on their way out. Unilever, one of the oldest multinational companies, aims to halve its use of non-recycled plastics by 2025. Research has shown younger consumers consider the environmental impacts of the products they purchase. Unilever CEO Alan Jope said “Plastic has its place, but that place is not in the environment. We can only eliminate plastic waste by acting fast and taking radical action at all points in the plastic cycle.” 

  • Can you use Geoffrey Dollars? After more than two years since filing for bankruptcy, Toys “R” Us is finally back, sort of. Just in time for the holiday season, Toys “R” Us has relaunched its website. However, once you select an item to purchase, it redirects you to Target's website to complete the check out. The CEO of Toys “R” Us' parent company, TRU Kids, said they selected Target due to its strong supply chain and "understanding of the category." The companies declined to disclose how revenues would be split.

  • Will that be accretive to non-GAAP earnings? In an unusual move, Google dropped $2.1 million for 40 acres of land it intends to turn into a tree nursery. According to a Google spokesperson, the trees that come from the nursery would be used for current and future office parks. They'll need them because Google plans to build an 8 million square-foot campus near downtown San Jose as well as mixed-use communities in various Silicon Valley cities. Google's expansion plans don't come without opposition, though, as many are sick of “The Google effect” on local real estate.