In the U.S. alone, fashion is a multi-billion dollar industry. And so one thing is certain – even in times of economic uncertainty, Americans are going to consume fashion. But what kinds of fashion are consumers flocking to? And what does that mean for apparel retailers? 

In recent years, fast fashion retailers – those who produce a high volume of clothing and experience rapid inventory turnover – have become a regular subject in the fashion dialogue. CivicScience dove into the most recent data to find out what’s trending among consumers when it comes to fast fashion in 2023. 

2-in-5 Gen Z Adults Regularly Shop Fast Fashion

As the data show, U.S. adults who shop fast fashion retailers once a month or more have held steady at 16% since 2022. For context, this figure is still higher than our 2019 data (14%), suggesting that regular fast fashion shoppers who may have turned to these options during the peak of the pandemic show no sign of defecting, amidst the current cost-of-living crisis.

That said, infrequent fast fashion shoppers (shopping once every few months) decreased by two percentage points since last year. Time will tell whether or not this spells a downward trend for the industry.

Those fueling the fast fashion fire are women (19% are weekly-to-monthly shoppers) and Gen Z adults aged 18-24 (42% are weekly-to-monthly shoppers).

Frequent fast fashion shoppers are also much more likely than infrequent and non-shoppers to prioritize comfort and trendiness, and they are highly influenced by social media, contributing to sustained interest in companies such as Shein, Zara, H&M, and others in this space. 

Shein and Temu – the Future of Fast Fashion?

Considering the fact that newcomer online-only retailer Shein and e-commerce marketplace Temu offer such low-priced apparel and accessory items, it’s interesting that the data shows price being a low priority for those who shop fast fashion the most. Rather, it’s likely that the advantage of these retailers lies in the capability for customers to buy multiple items at low cost, as seen in popular Shein “haul” videos from social media influencers.

What does interest look like for these two companies? As it stands, the majority of U.S. adults have never heard of either online company, so there is plenty of room to grow. A total of 16% of respondents have used Shein, while 10% say the same for Temu. However, Temu does show a higher percentage of consumers who are interested in trying it (11%), as it offers more than just low-cost apparel and is an online marketplace similar to Amazon. 

Once again, 18- to 24-year-olds and women lead the way with purchasing from Shein and Temu (40% of Gen Z adults have purchased from Shein and 20% have purchased from Temu). TikTok users are more inclined to make purchases as well – just over 30% of daily TikTok users have experience purchasing from Shein, while an additional 28% are interested.

Generally speaking, new clothes are top of mind for consumers. Currently, more than 50% of U.S. adults are not interested in buying clothes second-hand from online retailers (n=6,237). However, counterintuitively, fast fashion buyers make up the majority of people who are interested in purchasing second hand clothing online, suggesting there is a market for retailers such as ThredUp and H&M’s new resale program among this crowd.

Amazon Has Americans’ Hearts…and Purse Strings    

When it comes to retailer favorability, online giant ranks highest among top fast fashion retailers for those shopping for clothing and apparel. Old Navy comes in a close second, followed by Target, Walmart,, Gap, H&M, Zara, Urban Outfitters, and Forever 21. 

Of course, favorability is not one-size-fits-all. While 42% of women are favorable toward buying apparel on Amazon, just 34% of men say the same. Men and women both rank, Zara, and Urban Outfitters similarly.

What does all of this mean for the future of fashion consumption? 

For the time being, fast fashion is here to stay. It offers affordable options for those who are committed to keeping up with trends. So while sustainability may have been a buzzword in the fashion world in years past, today’s consumer is more concerned about their own bottom line.

Interested in learning more about these and other consumer retail trends? Let’s chat.