the great paradoxes of Gen Z

A big gap between Patagonia and… Shein.

They are the actors of tomorrow, leaders, managers, consumers, workers, etc., and they are said to be far from the aspirations of their elders in almost all subjects. Like them, the younger generation is less full of paradoxes when it comes to consumption. Several studies by McKinsey* reveal this, including one published last November in The State of Fashion.

As The Economist explains so well, drawing on some of these studies: “A good starting point for dissecting the mindset of young consumers is to consider the economy that shaped them.” This is also what emerged from the latest ADEME studies where the French saw a desire to reform the economic and political software, but nevertheless remained anchored in a consumerist model inherited from the 30 Glorieuses. In proper remembrance Solene MadecCEO and co-founder of the Belle agency, in an interview for our Drivers of Change section.

First and least, millennials and subsequent generations are the first to accumulate less wealth than their elders of the same age (baby boomers and Generation X). In China, young people are particularly affected by unemployment and decide to lead a more modest lifestyle than their parents, McKinsey explains. However, these young people never seemed so shopaholic and brand friendly, so the research firm renamed them: always on the customers (always a willing buyer).

Hungry on their screens for more than 4 hours a day, Gen Z’s shopping habits, like their lives, are driven by the attention economy: shopping online has never been so fast and easy. Not inclined to wait, young people want their purchases to disappear without a hitch and for their delivery to be as fast as possible. As the study correctly points out, payment facilities further stimulate this consumption: the market research company Forrester found that most users of “buy now, pay later” applications have approximately 20 years. The shopping technologies developed by platforms like Instagram allow its users to make purchases without leaving the social network. Trends often start late, TikTok has allowed many small brands or products to experience dazzling success and repeated stock-outs.

In this universe, luxury brands have come into their own because their items have become a safe haven for Generation Z. Their first luxury purchase takes place at age 15, compared to 19 for her about thirty years. 79% of Gen Z and Millennials say they are taking steps to manage their finances (more work, more credit), compared to 64% for Gen X and 53% for Baby Boomers.

According to McKinsey, the younger generation, especially in China, is increasingly looking for good deals and promotions, which partly explains the boom in second-hand products for luxury purchases in particular. “Regardless of their age, consumers say resale prices are driving this change in buying behavior. A 2022 survey by US resale platform ThredUp found that 63% of respondents said they mainly shop to save money.

This has prompted many brands to launch their own second-hand sales service. From Patagonia to Dr. Martens, the study says. Kering invested in Vestiaire Collective in 2021 (which makes sustainable fashion today) and Amazon partnered with retailer What Goes Around Comes Around to sell second-hand handbags from luxury brands.

We’ve also noticed that consumers are looking for a more accessible type of luxury. What do the new luxury brands entering this market have to offer. They are aimed at consumers who want to find high-end pieces, but are more accessible than ultra-luxury offerings. Like Chanel, whose younger generation bought its attractive perfumes and beauty products, the House recently offered itself a spectacular price increase that left many aspirants on the floor (of tweed), even for second-hand.

According to the research firm, this new category of brands has experienced renewed interest. So he gives the example of the Jacquemus brand named after the French designer of the same name, Simon Porte Jacquemus. A creator who knows how to free himself from the traditional communication codes of luxury houses to reach young audiences. A “disruption” that paid off.

As high-end luxury brands have “premiumized” their merchandise and raised their prices, some entry-level luxury consumers have turned to more affordable brands, but the storytelling remains high-end and aesthetics.”, says McKinsey.

The fashion industry recorded a 21% increase in revenue in 2020-2021. The firm predicts that the luxury sector will outperform the rest of the industry, with wealthier people continuing to spend and a sector that continues to attract and hire young customers: the luxury sector is expected to grow to between 5 and 10 % by 2023, “driven by strong momentum in China (expected growth between 9 and 14 percent) and the United States (expected growth between 5 and 10 percent).“Between inflation, geopolitical tensions and strong exchange rate pressure, “Europe should only benefit from a moderate growth in sales of the luxury sector (between 3 and 8%)”.

At the same time, younger generations say they are more concerned about sustainability issues: half of Gen Z consumers in China said they want to buy less quickly in a recent sustainable consumption survey, says McKinsey. . Companies are increasingly responding to this call: “In recent years, many have increased the publication of sustainability-oriented initiatives, although evidence of progress on these initiatives is limited.”, the study pointed out.

Should we be happy or sad to see fast fashion paragons like Shein and H&M talking about sustainability? In France, Jean-Philippe EvrotGeneral Manager Communication & Marketing of Don’t Call Me Jennyfer estimated in an interview with Word of Advertiser in January 2022: “It’s not because we’re a fast fashion brand, that everything isn’t perfect, that we shouldn’t see these issues and fix them. The new generation will hold the keys to tomorrow, our role is not just to offer them clothes or media. (…) It is also our duty to raise their awareness and inform them about this issue, without moralizing.

Shein, a Chinese ultra fast fashion brand, is nevertheless one of the emblematic brands of Generation Z. So, when we interviewed Jérôme Fourquier, political scientist and director of the opinion and business strategies department of ‘IFOP, in En Théorie in contradiction of this young person who claims to be more conscious and “green”, but nevertheless calls the dark shops with an image that is ultimately a bit capitalistic and not very “eco-friendly”, he replied that he, like others, was crossed. through a certain number of paradoxes: “To be able to say and adopt some practices that go in the direction of more ecological attention and at the same time also use this kind of service. And maybe also by clearing our conscience by telling ourselves that in big cities delivery is done by bicycle instead of by car, so there is no pollution.“He also pointed out the bad effect of Vinted, where 70% of the money collected by users is reinvested in buying new ones.

In the same way, Amazon, Lidl and McDonald’s are companies in tune with a segment of society. 50% of 18-35 year olds say they go to McDonald’s at least once a month (IFOP study), despite the image of junk food and American imperialism.

So it’s easier to understand young people than to say that they are finally… like us.

*no public money was spent by the government for these studies

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