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The Top 15 Retail Brands Among Gen Z & Millennials

Our brand tracker reveals which retail brands have the highest YScore+ among young shoppers…


Using YPulse’s exclusive youth brand tracker, we’ve told you which brands Gen Z and Millennials think are the coolest, are winning BIPOC young consumer affinity, and have the highest YScore+ among Gen Z. Now, on the brink of the biggest shopping weekend of the year, we’re tapping the data to tell you about the top retail brands among Gen Z and Millennials.

Young shoppers have had a massive impact on the retail landscape in recent years—contributing to the shift in ecommerce and digital sales. YPulse’s recent shopping and retail behavioral research found that half of young consumers prefer online shopping to in-store shopping, so it’s important for brands to know which retailers they are going to for all their shopping needs. Our brand tracker, which is available to Pro subscribers, measures 13-39-year-olds’ affinity for over 400 brands in North America (and over 800 in Western Europe) across 20 distinct diagnostics. Today, we dug into the data to determine which retail brands have the top YScore+ among young consumers right now. Here are the top 15:


From the top: Amazon, Target, and Walmart dominate both Gen Z and Millennials’ top rankings. Clearly, convenience is a huge allure to these generations when it comes to shopping, and affordable one-stop-shops have one them over. The majority of young shoppers told us they were participating in Amazon’s Prime Day this year, and when we previously asked young consumers their favorite places to shop for clothes, Amazon, Target, and Walmart all made the top rankings—while Amazon and Target also made the top brands they think are the coolest. Some may be surprised to see the relatively “uncool” Walmart at the top of both gens’ rankings. But the reality is that young consumers genuinely like shopping at Walmart, and their affinity for the brand is evident. In 2020, Walmart actually topped our “Favorite Places Young People Are Buying Clothes” ranking. When we look at the reasons why young consumers are naming Walmart as a favorite place to buy clothing, budget and affordability are the main themes. Our brand tracker also asks about young peoples’ favorite brands, and analyses their open end responses, and among those who name Walmart as their favorite brand, “cheap,” and “price” are frequent reasons. Besides affordability, some young people tell us they rely on Walmart’s clothing for “comfort” and because they have a “variety” of options. It’s also important to note that the retailer has built up their digital and social presence significantly: We told you about how the hashtag #WalmartJeans went viral on TikTok, they also launched an interior design channel on TikTok specifically for Gen Z, are continuously launching star-studded live shopping events and livestream concerts, and partnered with Netflix, which is being dubbed “the largest online destination” for the streaming platform’s merch—so clearly they know just how to keep young shoppers intrigued and wanting more.

Moving down the list: While Ulta Beauty appears on both generations’ rankings, Gen Z scores the brand higher. Sephora also appears in Gen Z’s  rankings, and not on Millennials. Last month, we told you that Gen Z females were more interested in certain beauty trends compared to Millennial females, and chances are they are flocking to these retailers to buy the latest and greatest trendy beauty products. In the last year, Ulta Beauty and Sephora have also made serious efforts to diversify their offerings by pledging to initiatives like 15 Percent Pledge, where they have agreed to make space on their shelves for Black and BIPOC-owned brands, proving they care about young people’s values and the issues most important to them.

Another retail brand that appears in Gen Z’s rankings and not Millennials is Dick’s Sporting Goods. The retailer has certainly done a lot to target Gen Z in the last year: Over the summer, they tapped Gen Z TikTok creators who “advised on the concepts, the looks, the language, and the music” for the brand’s back-to-school shopping campaign. Dancer Jean-Victor Mackie, lifestyle blogger Nicole Laeno, and viral musician Ricky Desktop were among the featured stars who helped design three major campaign videos and experiential activations across social media. The creators also made original content for TikTok and Instagram featuring products from Dick’s. The brand also hosted a “lock-in” where a group of young TikTokers spent the night and made content inside a Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Tennessee. YPulse’s Social Media Deep Dive trend data shows that entertaining content is the top reason TikTok users visit the platform, and enlisting young creators to help lead a campaign is one way brands can ensure that they’re meeting Gen Z and Millennials where they’re at. Meanwhile, to attract more in-store shoppers, they also launched Dick’s House of Sport, a new concept store featuring rock-climbing walls, turf fields, fitting rooms with treadmills, plus several more amenities. YPulse’s Retail’s New Reality trend research shows that 76% of young consumers say shopping should be an experience, and we’ve told you how brands have used in-person retail stores and pop-up stores to create lasting impressions with young people beyond just the products they’re buying. By recruiting young creators to be the face of their brand and incorporating fun in-store experiences, Dick’s Sporting Goods is keeping Gen Z’s attention.

On the flip side, brands that appear on Millennials rankings and not Gen Z’s are Canadian Tire and PetSmart. Since the scores are among young consumers who are aware of the retail brands, those who are aware and are fans of Canadian Tire clearly have given it very high ratings. For PetSmart, it’s likely that Millennials are just more likely to be buying their own pet supplies than Gen Z, and of course, we know they really love their “fur babies.” Last year when we asked young people about their pets using our on-demand research tool PULSE, we found that the majority of Millennials are pet parents, and with many of saying pampering their pets makes them happy, they regularly buy presents for their pets, and they’ve been spending more than usual on their pet because of COVID. Their affinity for PetSmart is clearly healthy.

Overall, the top retail brands that are doing the best with Gen Z and Millennials clearly know how to reach them through convenient, affordable, and plentiful offerings. But to get on their top retail ranking, finding ways to stay relevant with young consumers is clearly needed.

YPulse Pro users can access all the brand tracker data here.

Don’t have a YPulse Business account? Find out more here.

*YPulse’s brand tracker monitors the brand health of over 1000 brands across North America and Western Europe on a weekly basis to reveal 13-39-year-olds’ affinity for brands across industries. The brand data looks at 20 youth-centric diagnostics, carefully chosen and tested metrics including which brands they think are cool, reflect who they are, are talked about, and more. These measures roll up into YScore+, a snapshot of how your brand is perceived in the minds of young consumers. These are the retail brands with the highest YScore+ among those who are aware of the brand. The brands on this list are among the retail brands included in the North American brand tracker as of 11/2021. Rankings are subject to change as brands are added and removed.