Troubling trend: Even teens are cutting back on spending

U.S. teens are a mighty economic force, controlling an estimated $125 billion in sales annually. And should this sometimes profligate population ever start trimming its purchases, the retail world would tremble. According to a new study, that day has arrived.

The study, from Piper Jaffray, found that teens are concerned enough about the economy to begin cutting back on spending the average $5,000 a year that usually wafts from their wallets like Axe bodyspray from a gym locker. Many are postponing or bypassing purchases of items such as cosmetics, clothes and casual-dining restaurant meals. The study found that fashion spending among the group has dropped a brutal 14 percent.

Not included in this decline, however, are what pass for essentials in this demographic, including music, video games, movies and smart phones. In fact, video games now account for eight percent of teen spending, up from three percent in 2003. Apple Inc. (AAPL) appears immune to the drop in spending; 84 percent of those surveyed owned iPods, and iTunes has an astounding 97 percent share of the tunes purchased. Fast-food restaurants and Starbucks (SBUX) also continue to draw teens looking for inexpensive places to eat and hang out.

The economic downturn has hit this age group hard, with unemployment spiking to almost 22 percent last month. I'm guessing Mom and Dad are sucking up the jobs at McDonald's (MCD), leaving the teens all, like, whatever.

Thanks to Natalie Zmunda, Ad Age.

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