Survey: Parents to increase back-to-school spend, use physical stores

New York - A majority of parents plan to spend more on their children's back-to-school shopping this year, driven by rising costs or necessity rather than greater spending power. According the Accenture Back-to-School Shopping Survey, which polled 500 U.S. parents of children entering kindergarten through college, nearly all (89%) plan to do most of their back-to-school shopping in a physical store, though many will still use online to browse and search, or "webrooming."

According to the survey, two-thirds of parents (67%) plan to spend between $100 and $500 and 41% plan to spend $500 or more for back-to-school shopping this year. Compared to last year, just more than half (52%) of the parents said they will spend more on back-to-school shopping than last year, 37% plan to spend the same and only 11% expect to spend less. One-third (33%) of parents spending more plan to increase their spending by $250 or more. Among the reasons given for the spending increase, 71% cited higher prices and 56% cited increased school requirements. Nearly one-in-five parents (19%) said they will spend more in order to help their children "keep up with their friends."

The survey results demonstrate the growing importance of the seamless shopping experience. For example, nearly eight-out-of-10 (79%) plan to participate in "webrooming" – browsing online and then going to a store to make their purchase. The top reasons respondents cited for webrooming were: to check if an item is in stock before going to a store to make a purchase (47%); to touch and feel the product before buying (43%); to avoid shipping costs (43%); and to ask the store to match a better price found online (33%).

Other notable findings include:

• The parents of college children expect their spending increases to be higher than the parents of younger children: 28% of parents of college students believe they will spend $500 or more than last year compared to only 6% of parents of K-5 students.

• Among parents expecting to spend less this year, 58% plan to decrease spending by $100 or less than last year. More than half (55%) of these parents said they will reduce their spending because they have less discretionary income and 28% say they will reduce spending because of higher living costs.

• Discount / mass retailers are the number-one shopping destination by far for back-to-school shopping (90%), followed by office supply stores (63%) and department stores (49%).

• Pricing, quality of items and a broad selection to get all or most items at one store are the most important factors for parents when choosing a retailer for back-to-school. Offerings such as loyalty programs, flexible returns and price-matching ranked much lower on the back-to-school shopping priority list.

• Nearly one-quarter (23%) of parents had already done most of their back-to-school shopping by the end of June and 58% of parents plan to do most of their back-to-school shopping between July 16 and Aug. 15. A large majority (81%) of parents will be finished with the bulk of their back-to-school shopping by mid-August.

• Four-out-of-10 parents said that retailers' advertisements and commercials influence their decision-making on when to do their back-to-school shopping. However, they had mixed opinions about the best time to shop for the best deals: 40% spread out their shopping throughout the summer and school-year; 35% shop early in the season; and 23% shop late in the season to get the best discounts.

• The top items on back-to-school shopping lists this year are: general school supplies (88%), clothing and shoes (87%), accessories such as backpacks (71%) and computers, tablets, phones, gadgets and electronics (60%).  Food and grocery spending also rang in at 41% and big-ticket furniture, mainly for college students, at 13%.

• For those parents planning to shop online, most will use their home computer (89%), but nearly one-third (30%) will use a smartphone or tablet (31%).

• When asked why they choose to shop online, searching for deals and the best price are the top reasons, above convenience: 65% expect to save money or find better discounts by shopping online; 59% want to spend more time researching the best prices; 44% prefer the convenience of having everything they need shipped to their doorstep; and 22% hope to avoid a boring shopping trip for the children.

• Half of respondents (51%) said they are likely to use a subscription service from a retailer for school-related purchases.


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