The athletic apparel and athletic footwear categories again grew mindshare among the Gen-Z generation, led by increased interest from girls, according to Piper Sandler’s 41st Biannual Taking Stock With Teens Spring 2021 Report.*

Nike and Lululemon were again the big winners in the active lifestyle space. Other brands increasing in popularity among teens were Crocs, Shein and PacSun, while Vans and Adidas lost ground.

The survey found teen spending still impacted by COVID-19. 

In its Spring 2021 survey, teens “self-reported” spending reached $2,165 per year, down 5 percent year-over-year but up 1 percent versus Fall 2020. In Piper’s Fall 2020 survey, teens “self-reported” spending reached an all-time survey low of $2,150, down 9 percent year-over-year.

However, the study showed signs a recovery could be underway with an increase in women’s spending. Piper’s Spring survey saw the female spend rally 9 percent year-over-year while the males spend continued to lag, down 15 percent year-over-year. Piper noted that the movement is similar to the 2008/09 recession. From Fall 2009 to Spring 2012, female clothing spend rallied 24 percent versus the 15 percent rally for males.

Athletic Apparel Mindshare Remains Strong, Led by Nike
Purchasing intent climbed across both the athletic apparel and athletic footwear categories. Among upper-income teens across genders, 38 percent of respondents preferred apparel brands that are “athletic,” up from 37 percent last Spring and the same 38 percent from its Fall 2020 survey. The peak was 41 percent in Spring 2017.

Overall apparel spending was $508 a year, down 3 percent year-over-year but flat sequentially. Females were found to outspend males by $175 in the category, according to the  survey. Female spending was ahead 9 percent year-over-year versus a decline of 16 percent year-over-year seen in males.

Among brands in apparel mindshare, Nike was the leading brand in apparel, at 27 percent, flat sequentially but gaining 200 basis points year-over-year. Nike has led the apparel category for more than ten years. American Eagle remained at the number two spot but shed a 300 basis point share year-over-year; Hollister slipped to number six. PacSun moved up from five to three, while Adidas fell to five, its lowest since Fall 2017. Lululemon moved up to the four in apparel mindshare at a 4 percent share versus six at 3 percent share a year ago. Shein was a notable gainer, making its debut in the top-ten list at eight, up from 11 in the Fall 2020 survey.

Athletic Footwear Purchase Intent Gains Traction
Stronger gains in purchasing intent were seen in athletic footwear due to a significant boost from an increased preference for Nike by female teens. Among upper-income female teens, 82 percent preferred an athletic brand of footwear, up 400 basis points year-over-year, reaching a new survey high. Among male teens, 88 percent preferred an athletic brand of footwear, up 100 basis points from 87 percent in Spring 2020.

Overall footwear spending was $270 a year, down 5 percent year-over-year led by a high-single-digit decline in male spend. Female spend on footwear was stable. In the footwear category, males outspend females by almost $70 a year.

Among brands, Nike gained a substantial share in footwear mindshare, up 900 basis points year-over-year to 56 percent versus 47 percent last year, taking share from Vans and Adidas. Vans was still in the second position, but share slipped 800 basis points to 12 percent. Piper said Vans’ retreat was likely disproportionately hurt by lack of in-person school.

Adidas remained in the third position in footwear mindshare but lost 200 basis points of share. Converse gained 200 basis points year-over-year, solidifying its position at four.

Crocs moved up meaningfully, ranking at number eight in footwear mindshare, up from 12 last Spring and nine last fall. Dr. Martens continued its upward climb to number six, improving from number eight last year. Birkenstock’s mindshare moderated. Under Armour, at 10, moved back into the Top 10 for the first time since Fall 2019, improving from number 14 a year ago.

Brand Highlights

  • Nike has been the leading apparel brand in Piper Sandler’s survey for 10 and a half years and further strengthened its lead in the Spring 2021 survey at 27 percent share – up 200 basis points versus last year. More impressive, as a preferred footwear brand, Nike represents 56 percent of teen preference gaining a substantial 900 basis points share. Nike ranks as the top trend for male teens with popular responses including Air Force 1s and Jordans. It is the number one preferred athletic apparel & footwear brand for teens.
  • Adidas fell to five in apparel mindshare, at 4 percent, its lowest level since Fall 2017. In the spring 2020 survey, Adidas was in third, at 5 percent. In footwear, Adidas remained at three but lost 200 basis points year over year to 9 percent mindshare. On the upside, Adidas ranked first among Top Brands Starting To Be Worn among upper-income teens, at 11 percent, up from second, at 10 percent, a year ago. Adidas did not rank among the top-ten brands starting to be worn among upper-income females after landing at 7 in spring 2020.
  • Under Armour’s brand saw green shoots across the survey. In addition to climbing back into the top-ten footwear brands for all teens (the first time since Fall 2019 and ahead of its No. 14 rank last year), it moved to the No. 4 apparel brand for all male teens – up from No. 10 last year. While still cited as the brand “no longer worn” by male teens, its percent share improved, moving down from 23 percent last year to 17 percent this year. Finally, as a preferred athletic brand, it ranked No. 4 among upper-income teens, up 100 basis points year over year, with improvement driven by all genders
  • Lululemon was the fourth preferred apparel brand in the survey – moving up from six in Spring 2020. Among all females, it ranked No. 4 gaining 200 basis points year over year. Among upper-income females, it ranks second behind PacSun at 10 percent share. It ranked No. 10 among upper-income males versus No. 7 last year. Leggings/Lululemon are the No. 1 trend for females in school. Lululemon is the No. 2 athletic apparel brand for upper-income teens and the No. 3 athletic apparel brand for average-income teens (gaining 300 basis points year over year).
  • Vans remained at third as preferred footwear brands, at 12 percent, althouth down from 16  percent sequentially and 20 percent in spring 2020. Vans ranked fourth in brands starting to be worn among upper-income male teens, at 4 percent, the same position held over the last four surveys. Among upper-income female teens, Vans no longer ranked the top-ten brands starting to be worn after standing at eight a year ago.
  • Crocs moved to the No. 8 spot–up from No. 12 in last Spring’s survey and a rebound from Fall’s No. 9 ranking. Seasonally, Crocs ranks the best in our Fall surveys and lower in Spring given the time of year of the survey. We believe the strong performance coming out of Winter in this Spring’s survey is an indication that teens are turning to Crocs for year-round comfort. We saw higher interest among females vs. males and higher among average-income (No. 7) vs. upper-income teens.
  • Amazon was again the most widely used retailer among teens with 56 percent of respondents citing Amazon is their favorite online retailer (compared to Shein at 7 percent). This is up from 53 percent in Spring 2020.

The Top 10 Lists by category in the Active Lifestyle Space, according to Piper’s Spring 2021 Report, are:

  • Favorite Apparel Brands (all teens): Nike, 27 percent; American Eagle, 7 percent; PacSun, 6 percent; Lululemon, 4 percent; Adidas, 4 percent; Hollister, 3 percent; Urban Outfitters, 3 percent; Shein, 3 percent; H&M, 2 percent; and Thrift/Consignment Stores, 2 percent.
  • Favorite Footwear Brands (all teens): Nike, 56 percent; Vans, 12 percent; Adidas, 9 percent; Converse, 6 percent; Foot Locker, 2 percent; Dr. Martens, 2 percent; New Balance, 1 percent; Crocs, 1 percent; Birkenstock, 1 percent; and Under Armour, 1 percent.
  • Top Fashion Trends (upper-income male teens): Nike/Jordans, 15 percent; Athletic Wear, 13 percent; Flannels, 8 percent; Hoodies, 8 percent; Shoes, 4 percent; Sweat Shirts, 3 percent; Layering, 2 percent; Jeans, 2 percent; Shorts, 2 percent; and Baggy/Saggy Pants, 2 percent.
  • Top Fashion Trends (upper-income female teens): Leggings/Lululemon, 23 percent; Baggy/Saggy Pants, 9 percent; Mom Jeans, 8 percent; Nike/Jordans, 7 percent; Crop Tops 6 percent; Jeans, 5 percent; Athletic Wear, 3 percent; Ripped Jeans, 2 percent; Brandy Melville, 2 percent; and Hair Trends, 2 percent.
  • Top Brands Starting To Be Worn (upper-income male teens): Adidas, 11 percent; Champion, 9 percent; Nike, 9 percent; Vans, 4 percent; Under Armour, 4 percent; Hollister, 4 percent; American Eagle, 3 percent; PacSun, 2 percent; Lululemon, 2 percent; and Patagonia, 2 percent.
  • Top Brands Starting To Be Worn (upper-income female teens): Shein, 9 percent; PacSun, 7 percent; Lululemon, 5 percent; Zara, 5 percent; Urban Outfitters, 4 percent; Brandy Melville, 4 percent; American Eagle, 4 percent; Princess Polly, 4 percent; Nike, 3 percent; and Champion, 3 percent.
  • Top Brands No Longer Being Worn (upper-income male teens): Under Armour, 17 percent; Adidas, 12 percent; Gap, 11 percent; Nike, 9 percent; Puma, 4 percent; Skechers, 4 percent; Hollister, 4 percent; Reebok, 4 percent; Old Navy, 3 percent; and Champion, 3 percent.
  • Top Brands No Longer Being Worn (upper-income female teens): Justice, 20 percent; Hollister, 12 percent; American Eagle, 10 percent; Forever 21, 7 percent; Gap, 6 percent; Old Navy, 4 percent; Abercrombie & Fitch, 4 percent; Aeropostale, 4 percent; Brandy Melville, 4 percent; and Adidas, 3 percent.
  • The top five favorite athletic clothing brands among upper-income teens: Nike, 55 percent; Lululemon, 19 percent; Adidas, 9 percent; Under Armour, 5 percent; GymShark, 2 percent. Among upper-income males, the top-five were Nike, 66 percent; Adidas, 12 percent; Under Armour, 8 percent; Lululemon, 3 percent; GymShark, 1 percent. Among upper-income females, the top five were Nike, 44 percent; Lululemon, 37 percent; Adidas, 4 percent; Under Armour, 3 percent; Athleta, 2 percent.
  • The top five favorite athletic footwear brands among upper-income teens: Nike, 76 percent; Adidas, 13 percent; New Balance, 2 percent; Under Armour, 2 percent; Brooks, 1 percent. Among upper-income males, the top-five were Nike, 70 percent; Adidas, 18 percent; New Balance, 2 percent; Under Armour, 2 percent; Brooks, 2 percent. Among upper-income females, the top-five were Nike, 82 percent; Adidas, 8 percent; New Balance, 1 percent; Hoka One One, 1 percent; Under Armour, 1 percent; Brooks, 1 percent.

*Piper Sandler surveyed 7,000 consumers with an average age of just under 16 from 47 states with an average household income of $ 76,750. The survey, released Wednesday, was conducted between February 19 and March 24. 

Photos courtesy Nike