Retail

Gen Z shoppers grew up online but don't like to shop there. This holiday, they'll be at the mall

Key Points
  • Generation Z shoppers, age 22 and below, are less likely than millennials and Generation X to shop online, according to a survey from The NPD Group.
  • These young shoppers don't have credit cards or as many funds, and they enjoy the experience of shopping with others.
  • More than 20% of millennials will start holiday shopping on Black Friday, while the majority of baby boomers plan to begin holiday shopping before Thanksgiving.
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Generation Z may be the first generation to have grown up with cellphones and laptops, but that doesn't mean they'll do their holiday shopping online.

The young generation is less likely than millennials and Generation X to shop online, according to a report from The NPD Group based on online surveys of 3,485 consumers in September.

This is in part due to the younger generation's lack of credit cards and funds, as well as how they see shopping as a form of entertainment, said Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisor of The NPD Group.

"College students are coming home, and now they have the opportunity to shop with either family or friends," Cohen said. "The mall isn't just about shopping."

He added that they like to use the mall as a spot to hangout and grab a bite to eat.

Younger shoppers are also still in "discovery mode," said Stephanie Wissink, a Jefferies analyst. They're still forming their opinion on brands.

"The discovery process in stores is a lot more immersive," Wissink said. "The trial, the try on, the socialization of having others shopping with you."

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More will shop online than in-store this holiday season: Retail analyst

The oldest Gen Z-ers are 18 to 22 years old, and are starting to earn and spend their own money. Although they plan to spend the least of all generations, one-third of them plan to spend more this year than last. About one-third of them also plan to start shopping on Black Friday — the highest of all the generations.

The preference of these young shoppers to head to physical shops is good news for brick-and-mortar stores, which have been struggling recently due to price competition and e-commerce investments. Ahead of Halloween last month, costume shoppers ditched brick-and-mortar stores for online options, with Amazon getting 85% of sales in the online costume market, according to 1010data's eCom Market Benchmark report.

The majority of millennials, ages 23 to 38, will shop online, NPD found. More than 20% of millennials will start holiday shopping on Black Friday — second only to Gen Z-ers. Millennials are more likely than all other generations to shop at dollar stores (19%) and purchase electronics (46%).

Despite having fewer people than either Gen Z or the millennials, Generation X shoppers, ages 39 to 54, could make a big difference this year. The often overlooked group plans to spend more than all the other generations. Gen X shoppers are the most likely to buy clothing and accessories at 68%, and entertainment items at 44%. They're also the most likely to buy from mass merchants and online pure-plays. This generation is in their big earning years, and have more people to shop for, Wissink said.

"They're shopping for three different generations — themselves, their children and their parents," she added.

Generation X shoppers also tend to have wide social networks they want to buy gifts for, including friends and colleagues, Cohen said.

The early shoppers will be Baby Boomers, ages 55 to 73. The majority of the generation, 57%, plan to begin holiday shopping before Thanksgiving. They're more likely than any other generations to shop at department stores and national chains, as well as purchase wine or liquor as gifts.

Meanwhile, the Silent Generation, ages 74 to 91, will be the latest shoppers and only half of them plan to shop online.

Older shoppers tend have a listing process, which may be why their shopping comes later.

"There's still a planful orientation around the older generations whereas younger generation tend to be more impulsive," Wissink said.

During popular shopping times like Black Friday, the younger generations also have the energy to withstand the crowds, Cohen said.

"They love to be a part of the action."

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Key Points
  • Kohl's will have a holiday pop-up shop in New York this weekend, while Macy's Story spaces have a fresh holiday theme.
  • Retailers, in a bid to win the season, are trying to offer consumers something they can't find on the internet.
  • Both Macy's and Kohl's shares have plummeted this year.