Survey: Shoppers Will Make 90 Percent of Back-to-School Buys In-Store

The Back-to-School (BTS) shopping season in the U.S. is already in full swing, with more than one-third (37 percent) of consumers having begun their shopping – up from the 29 percent who started at this time last year. Roughly 90 percent of households indicated a selection of brick-and-mortar retail as a shopping venue for the BTS season.

Consumers will shop in a variety of places for their BTS items this year. While discounters are still expected to be the winners, the number of households selecting this shopping venue dropped from 90 percent last year to 80 percent this year. For all 2014 BTS shopping venues, discounters represented a 23.7 percent share of where consumers will shop. Many retailers found in regional malls and open-air centers, such as office supply stores, traditional department stores, electronic stores, and apparel specialty stores, should see increased activity during the BTS season.

The biggest mover was apparel specialty stores which leaped from an 8.4 percent share in 2013 to a 10 percent share this year. The share of online as a BTS shopping venue will be 8.1 percent this year – a drop from last year’s 8.6 percent. Catalogues will comprise a 3 percent share. This means that brick-and-mortar retail, in total, will comprise almost a 90 percent share of BTS shopping.

Furthering the trend of “webrooming” – 73 percent of consumers indicated that they will do research online, and then purchase in a physical store.

“After a tough winter with adverse weather in much of the country, retailers have been enjoying a strong start to summer as pent-up demand has propelled sales,” said Jesse Tron, spokesman for ICSC. “This momentum will continue into the BTS selling season as well, with the vast majority of consumers indicating a strong propensity to shop for school related items. While consumers typically view BTS merchandise as an essential expenditure, we are seeing a strong indication that consumers will be spending on more discretionary purchases as well – a good omen for retail as we progress through the BTS season and into the holidays,” he added.

Total BTS expenditures per household are expected to be $672 this year. Excluding electronics, expenditures on BTS items will be $325 – up sharply from $285 in 2013. The share of consumers expecting to spend more this year jumped to 50 percent – a significant increase from last year when 39 percent expected to increase spending. Additionally, the share that indicated they would significantly increase (over 10 percent) expenditures rose from 12 percent last year to 21 percent in 2014.

For 2014, 20 percent of consumers indicated that a change in fashion trends is a reason that they will change their spending compared to last year – doubling 2013’s indication. This shows a strong increase in discretionary purchasing, as fashion is not an essential expenditure.

Consumers still expect to complete the bulk of their BTS purchases in August (59 percent) – however both July (22 percent and September (19 percent) have taken larger shares compared to 2013 (July 17 percent, August 66 percent, September 17 percent).

Sales were the number one motivating factor for a consumer to purchase at a specific store location at 61 percent. The ability to physically see, touch, or try on the merchandise was second at 52 percent.

The ICSC-Goldman Sachs consumer tracking survey was conducted by Opinion Research Corporation between July 10 and July 13, 2014.
This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds