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Gen Z and Millennial Shoppers Buy into Physical Stores image

Gen Z and Millennial Shoppers Buy into Physical Stores

By Mark Seavy

A growing number of Gen Z and Millennial consumers are showing a preference for in-store shopping, rounding out what has become an omnichannel business, according to a report by the fashion publication Drapers.

The survey of 2,000 Gen Z and Millennial consumers showed 53% of them ranked in-store shopping as their preferred means for buying items, Drapers said (up from 39% in 2022). Just 32% of respondents listed online as their preferred shopping method, down from 45% in 2022.

However, 92% reported their shopping habits also include the use of mobile applications, signaling the importance of an omnichannel strategy for selling goods.

“It is clearer than ever that Gen Z and Millennials use every shopping channel interchangeably and will switch on a whim,” the report said. “The journey to purchase is not linear and omni-commerce is here to stay. Fashion retailers and brands need to ensure that their proposition is seamless, and equally strong across all channels. If there is not a strategy for omnichannel, you will lose out.”

As a result, retailers are moving quickly to strengthen both their online and brick-and-mortar businesses as needed.

Primark, for example, expanded to offer click-and-collect services at 57 of its locations in the U.K. in 2022. Lounge Underwear has added four outlets in the London area. And online sportswear brand Gymshark opened its first physical store in London in late 2022 and is adding a second location this summer in Westfield Stratford, U.K.

“Brands and retailers will want to explore how to ensure shoppers are being served across all channels, whether that means full omnichannel operation or partnerships, pop-ups, and in-person events,” Drapers said.

Yet despite showing increased interest in physical stores, mobile phones remain a “critical” part of Gen Z and Millennials’ shopping, according to the report. About 70% of respondents said they browse items on their mobile device, but a smaller number (53%) make purchases on their phones. And while 34% of those surveyed said they browse in stores, 37% said they make a purchase there.

Much of the lure of the in-store experience is the potential for discovering new brands and products, Drapers said. Social media has also become an important source for finding new brands.

Among Gen Z consumers, respondents’ use of Instagram for fashion “inspiration” dropped to 55% of those surveyed (down from 61% in 2022). Among Millennials, that figure fell to 50% (down from 65% in 2022). Usage of TikTok grew, however, both for Gen Z (increasing to 63% from 50%) and for Millennials (increasing to 38% from 26%).

“Social platforms, as well as marketplaces, are increasingly relevant commercial channels for fashion retailers,” Mark Adams, General Manager and SVP for EMEA at eCommerce platform BigCommerce, told Drapers (BigCommerce participated in the survey). “But it is not just about selling there. Omni-commerce implies a high attention to serving shoppers tailored, relevant content across platforms and to take a mobile-first approach to adapt to how those generations consume online.”

As brand owners and their licensing partners adjust to this changing retail landscape, so too are mall operators.

Westfield Garden State Plaza in Paramus, NJ, took over J.C. Penney’s former 200,000-square-foot location in 2018 and revamped the space, filling it with Lululemon, Adidas, Under Armour, and other retailers. Additionally, it recently opened a new 20,000-square-foot Playskool location-based entertainment (LBE) facility. A similar 30,000-square-foot LBE space inspired by Hasbro’s Nerf brand will be open on the floor above Playskool starting in mid-August.

“The malls have to transform into a destination… that offers retail, dining, and entertainment,” said Wesley Rebisz, Senior General Manager at Westfield Garden State Plaza. “Like any industry, we are evolving and staying current to give people what they want.”

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