Millennials and Gen Z Picking Their Wardrobes Online

Published on17 SEP 2018

Younger shoppers increasingly are buying their clothes, shoes and apparel online and leaning on social media over shopping apps to discover new brands and deals. These are among the key findings from Goldman Sachs and Conde Nast’s 2018 Love List, an annual survey of younger fashion-forward consumers. We caught up with Goldman Sachs Research’s Alexandra Walvis to discuss how Millennials and Generation Z are exerting greater influence over retail trends.

How are Millennials and Generation Z changing retail as we know it?

Walvis: Millennials have been an influential force in fashion for a number of years now, but as they age and reach their peak earning and spending years, they’re able to flex the muscles of their wallets even more as they shift dollars to the brands and retailers they love the most. The Millennials who participated in our survey indicated they’re buying a wide range of products online and with social media playing a bigger role in their shopping process. Gen Z – today’s teenagers through 23-year olds— has less spending power than Millennials, but possess a healthy influence over the digital and social landscape.

How is the social media impacting the way people shop?

Walvis: Social media apps are increasingly gaining mindshare at the expense of shopping apps – a trend that is especially pronounced among Conde Nast’s “It Girls,” who have a higher focus on fashion than the mainstream, identify as influencers and tend to be more affluent. Instagram is the key driver, with the app over-indexing among women, Millennials and It Girls. Men have the highest affinity towards Facebook in our sample, while Gen Z favors Snapchat. 

What’s the biggest change you’ve seen among consumers overall in this year’s survey?

Walvis: By a large margin survey respondents said they were shopping more online and less in stores. Clothing and shoes were the highest growth areas in online shopping, and we found that men are continuing to spend more money online than women. The survey also showed that Amazon has been a big beneficiary of this trend. Respondents listed Amazon as their preferred retailer in mainstream fashion, and we were surprised to learn that Amazon is dominating a number of categories where it’s not even an official partner of top brands. This includes handbags, briefcases and luxury products. But one caveat here is that fashion-forward consumers are still spending a greater portion of their dollars in-store than mainstream spenders, while giving less mindshare to Amazon. 

What key fashion trends did this year’s survey reveal?

Walvis: People are increasingly opting for casual wear. In fact, active fashion is now mainstream fashion. The survey showed that large athletic brands are becoming increasingly dominant – not only in the athletic category – but also in broader designations like clothing, shoes and bags, where more formal brands have historically played a larger role. This trend features Nike in particular consolidating market share, although Adidas’ rise has been impressive and is happening among men, women and even It Girls as the casualization of the wardrobe accelerates. Beyond athletic brands, several heritage brands with expertise in denim gained momentum. In our national sample, we saw improvement in affinity for Levi’s, Calvin Klein, Wrangler, and Ralph Lauren; Guess joined the top twenty list this year for It Girls.