That’s according to a December survey of 1,200 U.S. consumers between ages 18 to 35, said research firm Cowen & Co. Those results were benchmarked against the 1,500 consumers who were surveyed between ages 35 and older.
The Cowen & Co. retail research team, which includes John Kernan, John Blackledge and Oliver Chen, said the younger consumer cohorts face “unique economic factors” that will impact their life cycle, attitudes and consumption.
“We believe the retail environment going forward will be reflective of rapid changes in styles, trend influencers and a heavy emphasis on price-value from Gen Z and Millennial consumers,” the report concluded.
The report makes clear that value is king with 57 percent of the total population ranking price as the most important quality when shopping for apparel, accessories and footwear.
According to the analysts, the best-positioned stocks are the “deep-value” retailers. Cowen has an “Outperform” rating on shares of Burlington Stores, TJX Cos. Inc., Ross Stores, Walmart Inc. and Costco.
The survey found that Millennials were also more likely to be influenced by social platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Pinterest. And while they are influenced by the brands that they follow on the social platforms, they are “also more likely to purchase a product from a new brand they discover” on one of the sites.
When shopping online, 33 percent of respondents between ages 18 to 24 and 25 percent of those between ages 25 to 34 said Amazon was their preferred channel. For apparel, 33 percent of those between ages 18 to 34 said they begin their search for a new apparel item on Amazon. Only 16 percent cited Google Search as the place where they are most likely to begin their search.
Nike is the dominant athletic brand preference, but when indexed to dollars sold at retail, Adidas and Vans have a competitive presence in the minds of consumers between ages 18 to 24. Calvin Klein was the apparel leader, preferred by 26 percent of those surveyed, while Michael Kors was the brand preference for accessories among the Gen Z and Millennial crowd.
The brands mostly likely to be followed on Facebook are women’s apparel, beauty products, personal-care products, and jewelry and accessories. Those areas were similar for Instagram. In contrast, men’s apparel and shoes were the top categories followed in Twitter, while beauty and cosmetics had the top brand followers on Snapchat. The overall leading verticals on Pinterest were beauty and cosmetics at 43 percent, accessories and jewelry at 40 percent, and apparel, also 40 percent.
The survey also looked at factors influencing consumption. The conclusion was that what influenced purchase behavior beyond “need” or “want,” were “user reviews” for those in the Gen Z and Millennials demographic base. The Cowen report also noted that the reliance on user reviews likely benefits Amazon, which has hundreds to thousands of reviews for many of the items it sells.
Given that social media has created rapid changes in trends, speed has become a critical theme. Those companies that make the right “speed investments” in design and merchandising, supply chain capabilities, and shorter lead times and development cycles will be best positioned for high merchandise margin and returns on capital in fiscal year 2018 and beyond.