Rue 21 taps cultural intelligence firm to provide GenZ insights

Marianne Wilson
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More than half of Rue 21’s Black and Hispanic GenZ customers intend to spend more on clothing — nearly 20% more — this year than last, when compared to white customers.

That’s one of the findings of a study that represents a partnership between the teen apparel retailer and culture intelligence firm CulturIntel. Rue 21 teamed up with CulturIntel to gain insights into the fashion motivators of its Black and Hispanic and Gen Z customers ahead of back-to-school shopping.

“Forty-percent of our customers are multicultural, and we've built an inclusive brand that takes the time and effort to truly know our customer and meet the fashion desires of the most multicultural generation in history," said Bill Brand, CEO, Rue 21, which operates more than 652 stores in 45 states. "This customer wants to curate their own look in a way that is unique, on-trend and impactful for their peers." 

CulturIntel analyzed more than 13.2 online conversations over the past year, while Rue21 surveyed its 5.2 million loyalty customers for specific data related to basket sizes, product choices and desire to shop in-store and online. The insights represent the first major publicly released effort to better understand this growing demographic that represents 43% of Gen Z, with 22% expected population growth in the next five years.

[Read More: Rue21 to open 15 stores — here’s where]

The study found that Black and Hispanic customers care more about fashion that gives them the ability to project their values than overall Gen Zers. It also found that top fashion motivators differ across cultures:  Hispanic Gen Zers want fashion that makes them 'belong' vs. Black Gen Z'ers who care more about fashion to impact people.

That data has been flipped over the course of the pandemic and subsequent social movements; Black Gen Zers top fashion motivator is to impact people," said CulturIntel co-founder and Hispanic entrepreneur Lili Gil Valletta. "This was one of our most exciting analyses to date, as Rue21 is the first major retailer that wants to understand this growing demographic's unmet needs, and so we didn't know what to expect. Our research took into account the intent and cultural context of the multicultural Gen Z digital voice, to not only understand what this demographic is saying but 'why' they are saying it."

Top multicultural Gen Z findings from the survey are below.

  • Gen Z customers buy fashion for some kind of external validation, but the multicultural segment cares more about how their fashion impacts people (27% of multicultural vs. 21% non-multicultural).
  • When defining their identity, keeping a trendy wardrobe is their first priority over being eclectic or unique (41% vs. 32%). Overall Gen Z is motivated most by being eclectic (37% vs. 32%).
  • Black and Hispanic Gen Z view fashion as a channel to express belonging 1.2 more than overall Gen Z. 

When it comes to back-to-school shopping, the survey found that GenZ customers plan to spend 36% more on clothes this year than last, and multicultural customers plan to spend much more.  Fifty-three percent of Black customers plan to spend more compared to 17% of GenZers overall.

Overall, 45% of Gen Z customers expect to shop more in-stores than last year, but 60% of Hispanics plan to shop more in-stores. Also, of top product items, 80% are shopping for jeans and 72% are shopping for screen T's.