I visited 2 busy malls in Southern California on Black Friday and saw how Gen Zers and millennials are saving the shopping extravaganza

I visited 2 busy malls in Southern California on Black Friday and saw how Gen Zers and millennials are saving the shopping extravaganza


When I arrived at the palm tree-lined Irvine Spectrum Center shortly before 8:30 a.m., I was greeted by a stream of cars scouring open parking spots.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



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And despite the relatively early hours, the mall was already bustling with people.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


But there weren’t as many families or couples as I had expected.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


And this young but powerful demographic seemed to dictate the number of customers inside each shop.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


Stores like Nordstrom and Anthropologie were quiet with only a handful of shoppers.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


But the same couldn’t be said for Lululemon.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


Similarly, the lines just to get into Urban Outfitters and Swish Studios — a sneaker and streetwear shop — were almost a dozen people long …

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


… and consisted mostly of young shoppers.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



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Stores like Garage and Levi’s were also packed with these younger consumers.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


But at this hour, some Gen Z-beloved brands like Brandy Melville, Tilly’s …

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


… Pacsun, Vans, and H&M were relatively quiet with only a handful of people filing in and out.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


None of these stores had lines out the door yet.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


But they all had belt barriers set up in anticipation for larger crowds later in the day.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


To my surprise, Old Navy had a robust crowd with a long checkout line, although the age of customers here looked more varied.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


I had no doubt the outdoor mall would be significantly more packed later in the day, likely with a more varied demographic.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


But in the morning, Gen Zers looked like they were dominating the mall.

The Irvine Spectrum Center on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


At South Coast Plaza, the largest luxury mall on the West Coast, the scene was somewhat similar.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


Source: South Coast Plaza

… including high-end retailers like Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Hermes, and Chanel.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



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But when I arrived a few minutes past 9:30 a.m., only a handful of people, if any, were milling around these luxury stores.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


It was quiet at the likes of Celine, Rolex, and Burberry.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



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This should be no surprise: Many premium brands don’t have Black Friday deals.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



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And high-income shoppers aren’t as impacted by inflation, which means there’s less urgency to hunt for discounts, Neil Saunders, GlobalData’s retail analyst, told Insider.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


Instead, like the Irvine Spectrum Center, most of the crowds were centered around a handful of brands that target younger consumers.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


The long checkout lines …

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


… disheveled displays …

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



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… and general bustle at the mall’s Madewell and Zara looked busier than I’ve seen during normal retail hours.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


Instead of teenagters, these stores were primarily filled with what looked to be late-Gen Zers and millennials, although the shoppers at South Coast Plaza often seem to skew older because of the number of luxury retailers.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


Meanwhile, Aritzia was buzzing with customers waiting in a surprisingly long dressing room line.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


And there were plenty of shoppers fluttering around Lacoste, Sephora …

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider


… Bath and Body Works, Uniqlo, and Victoria’s Secret.

South Coast Plaza on Black Friday morning.



Brittany Chang/Insider




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