Shopping of Gen Z - First Class and Second Hand


The purchasing behaviour of Gen Z is at first glance very contradictory. On the one hand, they have no problems with having the cola bottle delivered by bottle mail. On the other hand, they are ready to go extra ways to pick up leftover food that was previously ordered with apps like ‘Too good to go’. Sometimes they “flex” (specify) them with luxury brands, sometimes they go in search of second hand clothes at the “clothes circle” or at Humana. In the first part of the Gen-Z Shopping study by the rheingold Institute, we shed light on the young people’s longing for first-class full care on demand. In the second part we describe how they try to save the world through ascetic no waste and second hand strategies.

1. Full Supply and On Demand Mentality – ‘I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it’ (lyrics by Ariane Grande, American singer and actress)

Like no generation before it, Gen Z grows up with a basic sense of total availability and full care. The smartphone is also a digital magic wand for them when it comes to consumption: everything is freely available anytime and anywhere on demand and with “one click”. Young people experience early on that their desires are often anticipated before they have even arisen. On the one hand, the personalised algorithms serve them the potentially wishable. On the other hand, parents often act as their children’s wish agents and educate them in the sense of co-determination. Even in infancy, they are therefore allowed to participate in the decision-making process on the purchase and use of products.

Money, too, often seems to be available on demand beyond precarious households. Many of the respondents did not receive a fixed budget or pocket money to budget with. Rather, they were and are fully financed by their parents. Cash on request and without overdraft interest often ensures paradisiacal conditions in the children’s and youth rooms.

Especially the online purchase supports the feeling of full service Eldorado with total availability: “you get everything behind”, “and don’t have to wait anywhere because it’s too full”.
The influencer also offer inspiration and relief, because they serve as royal tasters for the young people, who test interesting products over a longer period of time in everyday life and then recommend them.

2. Buying means influence – Gen Z sees itself more as an investor than as a customer

Gen Z sees shopping as an important developmental step. Because being able to go shopping yourself means freedom and an increase in personal influence and world design.

Basically, the self-image of young people when shopping has changed. They see themselves not in the role of a customer, but in the position of a powerful investor. With every purchase, they not only want to own a product, but also make a difference. The purchase is thus experienced by them as a kind of proof of favour, which, like the deliberate withdrawal of favour by not buying the brand, is supposed to have a political or educational effect on a brand or a company. Since the young people feel that they are actually building the brand, they also expect to be courted by it all the time.

Especially fashion and beauty products with their promises of transformation support the way to growing up and to the formation of one’s own identity. In this context, for example, a visit to the Snipes outlet for streetwear and sneakers can be experienced as a kind of first club visit with music and cool people. The shop should then also be designed accordingly: with the latest digital features, such as virtual samples or dressing with light changes. The sellers are therefore not seen as representatives of the trade, but as personal “development coaches” who support the young person with advice and encouragement.

3. Un-in-the-world flexing (specifying) with luxury brands gives appreciation as a person

Luxury brands such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Supreme are popular. They show that one can draw from the full. Valuable sneakers from Kanye West or the latest Apple smartphones are status symbols that make an impression. Unabashed and proud, the youngsters not only announce high-quality luxury products or It-Pieces, but also by using certain apps like “How much is your outfit worth?” This makes it easy to tax a person’s value and status. The higher price, more extraordinary or special, the better. Through poses, selfies in all situations and flexen, the consumer-loving Generation Z secures the applause of its friends and the feeling of being really seen and valued. “The brand or your smartphone expresses what you are and what you can afford.”

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The rheingold expert

Nicole Hanisch

Nicole Hanisch


Nicole Hanisch, a certified psychologist, is a member of the rheingold management and has been successfully working for the institute for several years. Her research interests are in the areas of trade and food & beverages. Tel .: +49 221-912 777-11 E-Mail: hanisch@rheingold-online.de