As malls across the country prepare for the holiday season, Gen Z shoppers are emerging as a significant force in the shopping landscape. According to the “The Rise of the Gen Z Consumer” report from the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), Gen Z’s unique preferences and behaviors are not only shaping the retail industry but also having a profound impact on the economy.
Gen Z shoppers are standing out for their preference for physical stores rather than relying solely on the convenience of online shopping. Nearly 97% of Gen Z survey respondents who shop at brick-and-mortar stores also shop online (95%), according to the ICSC report. Of those who shop in-store, 30% do so to get products immediately, while 28% are driven by the tactile experience to see, touch and try products.
For Gen Z, a trip to the mall isn’t just about purchasing gifts; it’s about having an experience that involves the convenience of gathering, shopping, and dining with friends in person. Savvy decision makers will need to bridge the gap between this generation’s online and offline shopping behaviors to take advantage of this growing opportunity to earn their loyalty.
“You had to be there”
JLL research reveals that Gen Z is leading the charge when it comes to in-store shopping during special sales days. Whether it is Thanksgiving, Black Friday weekend, or Super Saturday, more Gen Zers say they will head into stores compared with other generations.
It’s not just the deals they’re after; they crave the excitement of the bustling mall atmosphere during the holiday rush. In fact, the report shows that 49.6% of Gen Z shoppers prefer malls, compared to the average of 40.8% for other generations. It’s clear that Gen Z is gravitating towards the mall this holiday season for the experience, from the festive music and twinkling lights to the aroma of seasonal treats wafting through the air.
Gen Z, known for their strong sense of community, cherishes the opportunity to spend quality time with friends while browsing for the perfect gifts. The holiday season represents a time to bond, share fashion advice, and enjoy a meal together, creating cherished memories amidst the glittering holiday decorations.
However, their penchant for physical stores isn’t solely driven by social desires. It’s also a response to their unique shopping habits and behaviors, influenced by various factors like the state of the economy, social media, and brand ethics. According to the ICSC report, speed, convenience, and efficiency are the top drivers of in-store shopping. 46% of Gen Z shoppers value quick and easy checkouts, 39% value being able to get what you want in-store immediately, and 23% appreciate the ability to buy online and pick-up in-store.
Social still matters
Physical ambiance isn’t the only thing drawing Gen Z to malls. Social media continues to play a significant role in shaping their holiday shopping habits. According to the ICSC report, Gen Z shoppers favored platforms like Instagram and TikTok, with 46.5% turning to Instagram and 38.5% to TikTok for holiday shopping inspiration.
Instagram, with its visually appealing posts and shoppable tags, provides a curated shopping experience tailored to their tastes. Influencers and brands using Instagram to showcase holiday fashion, decor, and gifting ideas are making it an indispensable tool for Gen Z’s shopping journey. TikTok’s quick, entertaining videos, on the other hand, offer creative gift ideas, budget-friendly hacks, and firsthand shopping experiences that create a more interactive drive to retail. The platform’s algorithm ensures that users discover content that resonates with their interests, making it a valuable resource for holiday inspiration.
JLL recognizes this trend and is partnering with influencers across the country to craft “holiday haul” video content that positions their local centers as the ultimate source of style and gifting inspiration.
With smartphones in hand, Gen Z is discovering a newfound sense of purpose at the mall. Armed with recommendations from their favorite influencers and social media platforms, they are engaging in immersive experiences that bridge the online and offline worlds, such as embarking on a treasure hunt to seek the perfect gifts for their loved ones.
As they make purchases, they’re doing so with intention, preferring to shop with brands that align with their values of authenticity and ethical practices. They seek retailers that champion sustainability, diversity, and social responsibility. More than half (53%) of Gen Z shoppers prefer to buy from brands that support mental health, and 47% prefer brands supporting sustainability initiatives, 47% prefer brands supporting racial and gender equality, according to the ICSC report. They are more likely to support businesses that prioritize fair labor practices and eco-friendly initiatives. In doing so, they use their purchasing power to advocate for a better world while fulfilling their holiday shopping needs.
The future of holiday mall shopping
The impact of Gen Z’s shopping habits on the economy is undeniable. Their preference for in-store shopping is injecting life into malls and physical retail, helping to revitalize these spaces in the digital age. Shopping malls that adapt to meet their demands—be it offering immersive in-store experiences, exclusive deals, and a seamless blend of offline and online shopping options—are likely to reap the benefits, including their sustained loyalty.
In a world increasingly defined by digital interactions, Gen Z’s commitment to the in-store experience serves as a testament to their desire for genuine connections and meaningful moments. The holiday season isn’t just a time for exchanging gifts for this demographic; it’s an opportunity to create lasting memories with friends, engage with their favorite social media platforms, and support brands that share their values. By creating new holiday shopping traditions, shopping malls can use nostalgia and innovation to leave a lasting impact on the retail industry for generations to come.
Gen Z’s holiday shopping habits are proving to be more than just a trend; they symbolize an opportunity to tap into community, their sense of individuality, and harness the power of conscious consumerism, ushering in a new era of retail during the most wonderful time of the year.