Home Retail Physical Retail Remains Vital for Back-to-School Spending

Physical Retail Remains Vital for Back-to-School Spending

Tom McGee

NEW YORK—As back-to-school shopping gears up, 89 percent of consumers plan to take to shopping centers and malls looking for the latest deals, offerings and experiences related to their school supply purchases.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) released its annual Back-To-School Spending survey and found that the average back-to-school shopper is expected to spend $353.20. Those making purchases for children in grades K-12 expect to spend $309.60 on average, while those buying for college/post-secondary plan to spend $437.80 on average.

Shoppers looking to make back-to-school related purchases are in search of the best deals and promotions being offered. Two-fifths (40 percent) will wait to start back-to-school shopping until they see advertisements or sale prices in stores. Nearly 90 percent say they are influenced by promotions in terms of the amount they spend and the items they purchase.

Tom McGee

“Back-to-school is one of the shopping seasons where we really find people looking for specific items at the best price,” said Tom McGee, President and CEO of ICSC. “Consumers are more informed than ever and research prices and products prior to making a purchase so it isn’t surprising that so many shoppers are waiting for sales and discounts before buying their back-to-school items.”

Discount stores continue to be the most popular venue for back-to-school shoppers with about 69 percent of them shopping those retailers. Office supply stores (37 percent) and department stores (32 percent) will also see strong activity during this back-to-school season.

Additionally, back-to-school shoppers will utilize their mobile devices while in-store shopping for merchandise. Of the 81 percent who will do so, 58 percent will compare prices, 39 percent will download digital coupons, 38 percent will check availability/inventory, and 30 percent will take pictures of items that might be purchased.

When it comes to shopping online, 30% of consumers intend to order items online from retailers with a physical store presence and pick them up at these locations. Already, among shoppers who have used the click-and-collect method, 81% have made an additional purchase(s) at other stores or establishments when picking up their online order.

Other key findings from the survey include:

Physical interaction with goods is the top reason for back-to-school shoppers to visit stores

  • 46% of those shoppers who will visit stores cited the “ability to see, touch, or try on the merchandise”
  • 36% of those shoppers who will visit stores cited the “ability to browse/ease of buying specific items”
  • 35% of those shoppers who will visit stores cited the “convenience of one-stop shopping”
  • 34% of those shoppers who will visit stores cited “avoiding shipping fees”

For many shoppers, bringing their children increases overall expenditures

  • 68% of back-to-school shoppers say that when shopping with their children, they tend to spend more than if they had shopped on their own
  • 28% of back-to-school shoppers were driven to the store by their children.