When it comes to buying clothes, young Europeans want affordability, style, and quality. Here’s where they say they’re finding it…
- COVID and the current cost-of-living crisis have made young Europeans even more cost-conscious consumers
- Their favorite places to buy clothing reflect the premium they place on affordable clothing
- But their favorite retailers also show that being on-trend and part of the cultural conversation matter, too
Gen Z and Millennials’ shopping habits have always been driven by affordability. But the past few years have made them even more cost-conscious. While COVID impacted their finances (and therefore their shopping habits), this year, a cost-of-living crisis is sweeping across Western Europe, forcing Gen Z and Millennials to tighten their purse strings and eliminate nonessentials from their monthly budgets. Just last week, the inflation rate hit double digits in the U.K. for the first time since 1982. Meanwhile, wages have stagnated while housing costs have risen—and all of this is hitting Gen Z and Millennials the hardest. Young Brits pay more than twice as much as older generations for living expenses and over half of U.K. consumers now plan to cut back on clothing purchases, alongside other nonessentials. Meanwhile, YPulse found that economic concerns are among the biggest issues young Europeans say they’re facing today.
At the same time, fast fashion brands and mass merch retailers have been providing affordable and accessible everything to these gens for their entire lives, fundamentally altering their cost expectations. Now, affordability has turned into a source of pride instead of shame, with over half saying that it’s more of a brag to talk about how little you spent on an item rather than how much. All of this is also being driven by social media, which has rewritten the rules of fashion for Gen Z and Millennials, a topic YPulse explored in our WE Fits For The Feed trend report. In addition to getting their fashion inspiration from the likes of Instagram and TikTok, trending #aesthetics and #cores (think #cottagecore or #darkacademia) are helping fuel the demand for cheap access to trendy outfits—even if only to post a photo of them on their feeds.
So where are all of these price and trend demands being met? In our recent WE Shopping and Retail behavioral report, we asked young Europeans the open-end question, “What is your favorite place to buy clothing?” Here are their top 15 answers:
Favorite Places to Buy Clothing
Among 13-39-year-olds in Western Europe
- Mall / Shopping center
- JD Sports
Affordable retailers dominate young Europeans’ list of favorite fashion retailers
With the exception of just a few retailers, including Nike and Adidas, young Europeans’ list of favorite places to buy clothing is dominated by fast fashion, underscoring just how much affordability is influencing their purchasing habits—even if it goes against some of their values. In fact, in our recent WE Fashion Preferences and Style survey, 64% of young Europeans agreed that fast fashion is bad for the environment—but 61% say they shop fast fashion and don’t feel guilty about it. Meanwhile, nearly three in five say they buy fast fashion because it’s all they can afford.
Mass merch retailers also make an appearance on their list, including Amazon and Primark. And as we found in our WE Mass Merch Mentality trend report, affordability is the top reason young Europeans say they’re shopping at these retailers, and 42% say they shop mass merch because they can find surprisingly good products there for cheap. While these retailers are always prioritizing price, some are taking this a step further to support young Europeans during the cost-of-living crisis. Primark, for instance, recently promised to freeze the price of its children’s clothing collections to help parents save money.
But these retailers are also tapped into style and cultural trends
Of course, young Europeans’ favorite places to buy clothing aren’t driven entirely by price. These retailers are also producing the clothes Gen Z and Millennials actually want to wear—and many say they also provide quality alongside style and price. In fact, three in five say buying from fast fashion is the best way to wear the latest trends, and two-thirds agree that fast fashion stores have good quality products. Meanwhile, 42% say they shop mass merch because they can find surprisingly good products there for cheap. And though YPulse’s brand tracker shows that young Europeans think luxury and specialty fashion brands are the coolest, fast fashion retailers such as SHEIN, ASOS, and Zara also make the list.
Proving just how cool they are, many of the brands on their favorite places to buy clothing list are leveraging cultural trends to reach these gens. Zara, for instance, recently dropped a digital collection to be worn in the metaverse and released a sustainable capsule collection composed of a silk-like material made from carbon emissions. Zara’s just one of the many fashion brands dipping their toes into sustainable fashion: Asos recently released a second “circular design collection,” which features 40 products from things like upcycled cotton scraps, recycled brass, and more while Primark has promised to become more sustainable by 2027.
YPulse Western Europe Business users can access the full WE Shopping and Retail behavioral report and data here.
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