Deloitte Survey: Back-to-School Shoppers Look for Easy A's

Retailers that promote early deals and take the hassle out of back-to-school shopping will get the extra credit this year, according to Deloitte's "2016 Back-to-School Survey" of parents with children in grades K-12.

On average, parents will spend $488 for clothing, accessories, school supplies, computers and other electronics for their children this year. The earlier the shopper, the higher the budget: Respondents who said they plan to start shopping for back-to-school by the end of July are likely to spend 26 percent more than those who begin in August or later.

While clothing and school supplies still dominate back-to-school lists, electronics are at the top of the class for those families who plan to spend in this category. Survey respondents shopping for technology-related items (29 percent) said they would spend an average of $456 on computers (including software, hardware and accessories), and $286 on gadgets such as tablets, smartphones and wearables.  Additionally, 31 percent say they are buying fewer traditional school supplies because their children are using more technology for school.

"The majority of households say their finances are solid and expect to spend the same or more on back-to-school compared with last year, but it seems the thrill is gone," said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail and distribution practice leader. "Back-to-school is more about function than fun because people automatically expect the deals all the time — they get the savings plus the convenience without a lot of extra work."

Parents raise their hands for a cheat sheet
When stocking up on school supplies, parents may be happy to get some help with their homework this year. More than two-thirds (67 percent) say their spending is influenced more by school recommendations than requests from children. Nearly one-third (32 percent) plan to take advantage of pre-configured supply kits offered by their child's school or PTA. Additionally, 36 percent say the season is less important because they replenish school supplies throughout the year.

Majority of shopping to be digitally-influenced but occur in physical stores
Roughly two-thirds of the budget for traditional categories such as school supplies (66 percent) and clothing and accessories (63 percent), will be spent in-store. The majority of shoppers (61 percent) say they'll research online before making a purchase in a physical store. One-quarter (25 percent) of parents surveyed said they plan to use social media to assist with their shopping, but the No.1 reason to use social media is to find out about promotions (74 percent), followed by coupons (64 percent).

"Retailers are getting the online and mobile views and clicks, but customer engagement often stops there during this season," continued Sides. "Back-to-school shopping has become more surgical and task-oriented as parents customize their own assortment based on discounts, free shipping and pre-purchase options. That puts retailers to the test to create a connection that goes beyond just a deal-driven interaction with an indifferent shopper."

Four in 10 (40 percent) of parents surveyed said they prefer to purchase from retailers that offer an option to buy online and pick up in store, and 30 percent think they'll shop physical stores less this year because the option to buy online and pick up in store is more convenient. Free shipping continues to weigh heavily for online purchases, as 62 percent of respondents say they are more likely to buy from online retailers who offer free shipping.