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Department stores are closing and beloved mall fixtures are going bankrupt — and yet research suggests that the future generation of shoppers still vastly prefers to buy at brick-and-mortar stores rather than online.
A new study, released by IBM and the National Retail Federation, polled more than 15,000 consumers between the ages of 13 and 21 from 16 different countries, and found that despite being the first “digitally native” generation, 67 percent of Gen Z-ers shop in-store most of the time. What’s more, another 31 percent occasionally buy from brick-and-mortar stores, which means that a whopping 98 percent of the new generation still appreciates shopping IRL.
And while 74 percent of those surveyed spend their free time online, only 17 percent said they use that time to “shop and browse.” That means more Gen Z-ers are using their online hours to text and chat, watch Netflix, play games, and even study than to shop. According to National Retail Foundation president and CEO Matthew Shay, it’s the “hands-on experience of shopping in a store” that attracts younger consumers. (They also may be less likely to have credit cards, or be anxious about handing over them over: Less than 30 percent feel comfortable sharing payment information online.)
So why are department stores and mall brands dying?
Simply put, Gen Z-ers find them boring af. Over half of the participants polled pointed out that they want stores to offer fun, engaging experiences so the shopping experience doesn’t feel stale. They also don’t have much brand loyalty; 52 percent said they’d switch from one brand to another if quality dipped.
That likely explains the current domination of fast fashion brands like Zara and H&M, where styles and store layouts are constantly changing, as well as the success of pop-up shops. The one recently hosted by Kylie Cosmetics is a perfect example of an activation that motivated thousands of Gen Z-ers to flock to the mall — even though the brand is shoppable online.
Question is, is it too late for malls and Macy’s to step up their game and lure a generation of teens who actually do want to shop in stores?