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Teen Spending Stays Traditional

Food, clothing account for more spending than gadgets

November 5, 2015 | Demographics | Mobile

It’s no secret that teens have their hands on a lot of digital devices. eMarketer estimates that there are 17.2 million people ages 12 to 17 in the US who own and use a smartphone at least monthtly. And 62.1% of the US population ages 12 to 17 use a tablet at least once per month, whether they own their own device or not.

Tablet Ownership Among US Teens, Spring 2013-Fall 2015 (% of respondents)

Figures from Piper Jaffray are similar. The investment bank reports that around three in five US teens with an average age of 16 have a tablet this fall. iPhone ownership is bigger, at 67%.

But teens are likely not buying these devices for themselves, based on the same research. Just 8% of US teen spending covered gadgets and electronics, Piper Jaffray reported.

US Teen Spending Share, by Category, Sep 2015 (% of total)

Instead, a significant share of teen spending remains allocated to more traditional areas: 22% goes toward food, and another 20% to clothing. No other category comes close—9% of spending falls under accessories, personal care and cosmetics, and other 9% can be attributed to shoes. Only 2% of US teen spending is put toward books and magazines.

Interestingly for marketers who worry that millennials will grow up and have no interest in cars, spending on autos was almost equal to outlays for gadgets.

Entertainment spending was relatively low, but teens are not giving up video games. Piper Jaffray reported that 79% of those who owned a tablet or mobile phone played mobile games.

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