Investment bank and securities firm Piper Sandler released the first COVID-19-era look at teen consumer sentiment. The company has been checking in with teens for 20 years in a survey series called Taking Stock With Teens to understand young folks and their $60 billion impact on the U.S. economy.

Broadly, spending is down some this fall. Respondents to Piper Sandler’s surveying of nearly 10,000 teens said their spending was down 9 percent year-over-year and down 5 percent since spring. For one, this pandemic has made finding work slightly more difficult; 23 percent of respondents said so.

What are teens buyers’ favorite brands? Two of the top five are franchises. The No. 1 restaurant brand was Chick-fil-A; Dunkin’ was No. 4. Starbucks and Chipotle were big favorites, especially for upper-income teens. As for the plant-based future, 18 percent of teens said they consumed plant-based meat and favored Impossible Foods above all.

Among retail, trends continue to shift online with 54 percent of respondents saying Amazon was their favorite. SHEIN, a women’s clothing ecommerce brand, surged to No. 2 this year.

But teens still love the mall. Eighty-four percent of respondents said they visited a retailer since the pandemic started; 72 percent dined in a restaurant. In the next six months, 81 percent of respondents said they planned to visit a retailer and 77 percent planned to dine in a restaurant.

What’s important to teen consumers has shifted dramatically since spring. In 2019 and spring 2020, the environment was the No. 1 issue for teens, with 16 percent of respondents in those surveys saying so. This fall, 19 percent said racial equality was the most important political and social issue. The environment was No. 2 with 9 percent, Black Lives Matter was No. 3 with 8 percent and the election was No. 4. The coronavirus was No. 2 in spring, but sank to the No. 5 issue top of mind for teen consumers.

Their spending categories remain fairly standard. Boys spent 21 percent of their money on food, 17 percent on video games and 16 percent on clothes. Girls spent 27 percent on clothes, 21 percent on food and 11 percent on personal care.

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