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August 24, 2021

Gen Z, the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history, will not only buy fashion that meets their needs to both 'fit in' and express their beliefs, but also plan to spend more on clothes this year, according to a survey. This makes retailers who offer assortment and inclusivity more in demand.

National retailer rue21's survey also showed that more than half its Black and Hispanic customers intend to spend more on clothing — nearly 20% more, in fact — this year than last, when compared to white customers.

  • 13.2 million social conversations indicate Black, Hispanic Gen Z will shop with different goals in mind this back-to-school season; Black Gen Z twice as likely to buy fashion that ‘impacts people’ today vs. 2019
  • 13.2 million social conversations indicate Black, Hispanic Gen Z will shop with different goals in mind this back-to-school season; Black Gen Z twice as likely to buy fashion that ‘impacts people’ today vs. 2019

The retailer teamed up with CulturIntel to gain insights into the fashion motivators of this often underserved demographic ahead of back-to-school shopping. CulturIntel analyzed more than 13.2 online conversations over the past year, while rue21 surveyed its 5.2 million loyalty customers for specific data related to basket sizes, product choices and desire to shop in-store and online. The insights represent the first major publicly released effort to better understand this growing demographic that represents 43% of Gen Z, with 22% expected population growth in the next five years.

"Forty-percent of our customers are multicultural, and we've built an inclusive brand that takes the time and effort to truly know our customer and meet the fashion desires of the most multicultural generation in history," said rue21's CEO Bill Brand. "This customer wants to curate their own look in a way that is unique, on-trend and impactful for their peers."

CulturIntel's findings include:

  •     Black and Hispanic customers care more about fashion that gives them the ability to project their values than overall Gen Zers.
  •     Top fashion motivators differ across cultures; Hispanic Gen Zers want fashion that makes them 'belong' vs. Black Gen Z'ers who care more about fashion to impact people. In 2019, CulturIntel analyzed Gen Z fashion motivators for New York Fashion Week and found that only 8% of Black Gen Zers bought fashion as a way to have a social impact on peers.

"That data has been flipped over the course of the pandemic and subsequent social movements; Black Gen Zers top fashion motivator is to impact people," said CulturIntel Cofounder and Hispanic Entrepreneur Lili Gil Valletta. "This was one of our most exciting analyses to date, as rue21 is the first major retailer that wants to understand this growing demographic's unmet needs, and so we didn't know what to expect. Our research took into account the intent and cultural context of the multicultural Gen Z digital voice, to not only understand what this demographic is saying but 'why' they are saying it."

CulturIntel's algorithm discovers patterns in topics, unmet needs, and sentiment drivers from all available real-time, unsolicited and authentic digital discussion.

"It's clear that the pandemic and corresponding social movements of 2020 have ignited a stronger sense of identity in multicultural youths," Valleta said. "The diverse Gen Z customer is leading the fashion movement and they have increased buying power —brands need to pay closer attention."

Top Multicultural Gen Z Findings:

  •     Gen Z customers buy fashion for some kind of external validation, but the multicultural segment cares more about how their fashion impacts people (27% vs. 21%).
  •     When defining their identity, keeping a trendy wardrobe is their first priority over being eclectic or unique (41% vs. 32%). Overall Gen Z is motivated most by being eclectic (37% vs. 32%).
  •     Black and Hispanic Gen Z view fashion as  a channel to express belonging 1.2 more than overall Gen Z.
  •     Personal uniqueness is the top way multicultural Gen Z impacts people (27% vs. 18%), while overall Gen Z believes style is the most important way to impact people.

rue21 Back-to-School Survey's Top Findings:

  •     Customers plan to spend 36% more on Back-to-School clothes this year than last, and multicultural customers plan to spend much more.
  •     53% of Black customers plan to spend more (+17% compared to overall)
  •     52% of Hispanic customers plan to spend more(+16% compared to overall)
  •     Overall, 45% expect to shop more in-stores than last year, but 60% of Hispanics plan to shop more in-stores.
  •     37% expect to shop less Online this year
  •     Of top product items, 80% are shopping for jeans; 72% shopping for screen T's

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