Spending rises among upper-income teens

Affluent lead the way in return to stores

Lakeside High School students Ali Shel­nut and Madison White say they love to shop.

 

On Thursday after school, they could be found making purchases at Soho in Surrey Center. Ali, 16, said she loves buying jewelry and dresses.

“I just like clothes. I have a bank account, and I do use my mom’s money sometimes, but sometimes I use my money,” said Ali, who saves money from birthdays and holidays.

They could be part of a returning affluent teen market. According to the 22nd semiannual Taking Stock With Teens survey by Piper Jaffray, spending by teenagers has improved at the upper-income level, though it shows continued weakness for average-income teens. Among upper-income teens, fashion spending accounted for 38 percent of their budgets, up 1 percent from spring 2011.

Teen spending on food and restaurants was near the highest level since early 2000, with upper-income teens increasing weekly restaurant spending by 2 percent. Portable device spending continues to accelerate, with 83 percent of teens reporting they were likely to purchase a smartphone for their next device.

Teens preferred value-priced merchandise at all income levels, but not necessarily the lowest cost.

Madison, 16, said her mother gives her money for shopping. She doesn’t have a bank account, so she pays in cash. She has been spending more as she gets older because she wants to keep up with trends.

“You’ve got to stay in style,” she said.

Their favorite stores are Dillard’s, Soho, Village, Forever 21 and Francesca’s Collec­tions in Columbia.

Sears at Augusta Mall has seen an increase in teen spending, said store manager Stanley Wilson.

He wasn’t allowed to give exact figures, but he said higher-end merchandise such as the Kardashian Kollection have become popular.

“I’m having good sales in my juniors department,” Wilson said. “Some of our premium lines, we are noticing increased sales, which is unusual. Teenagers are coming in buying some of the higher-end electronics typically purchased by major breadwinners.”

Teens are buying LCD and plasma TVs and iPod accessories, he said.

Leigh McCormick, a buyer and sales associate at Soho, said teen spending remains consistent but that more teens are coming in shopping by themselves.

“They’re definitely having a lot more independence. They’re using their own debit cards. They’re not having their parents right behind them paying for it,” she said. “A lot of the parents are giving their
daughters a wardrobe allowance and making them more responsible for their clothes buying.”

Also, more teenagers are working and “want to buy cute things,” she said.

Josh Perkins, the director of retail operations at PeachMac, said the iPod Touch is the most popular item among teens. They are also buying entry-level iPads.

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