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Deloitte Survey: Back-to-College Spend to Outpace Back-to-School Spend Twofold

College students have significant influence over parents’ spending budgets; In-store shopping still reigns over online.

NEW YORK, July 19, 2017 — Retailers that promote back-to-college offers and savings this year win big with back-to-college shopping, according to Deloitte’s “2017 Back-to-College Survey” of parents and students. Deloitte expects families with college students will spend approximately $46 billion this summer, which accounts for nearly two-thirds of the anticipated $72.6 billion on both K-12 and college students.

College students have more say over parents’ purse strings and wallets
Anticipated back-to-college spending is on par with last year, with parents surveyed expecting to spend on average $1,347 compared with college students at $1,051. Although parents expect to spend more overall, more than two-thirds (68 percent) anticipate more than half of their back-to-college spending will be influenced by their students. Nearly 6 in 10 (57 percent) students plan to contribute more than half of the budget.

“Back-to-college shopping is prime time for retailers to create fans that can last a decade or more,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution practice leader. “The students appear to have the most influence on what the family buys for back-to-college, so it makes sense for brands to create those loyalists today, and continue to see the payoff beyond the college years.”

College students are budget conscious, but still save funds for fun
The majority (76 percent) of students consider themselves budget conscious, finding ways to stretch back-to-college expenses. The majority of students plan to buy from retailers who offer free shipping (81 percent), buy more used textbooks (76 percent) or rent more textbooks (66 percent) to stretch their funds.

Although students are conscious of their shopping spend, many will still find time and ways to save money to partake in fun and entertainment. The majority plan to include experiential events during their college budget planning. Some activities students budget for include socializing at restaurants, bistros and bars (82 percent); attending cultural events like concerts, theater and movies (58 percent); and socializing at sporting events (50 percent).

Parents and student shoppers alike can’t pass up a good deal either: Roughly half of back-to-college shoppers, both parents and students, plan to increase spending both online and in-store if sales tax reductions or tax holiday are offered.

Despite shifts in preferred shopping venues, in-store remains channel of choice over online
This year’s survey results showed that channel preferences are shifting amongst parents and college students. For both groups, top shopping channels included mass merchants (more than 70 percent of parents and students), on campus bookstores (roughly two-thirds of parents and students) and online-only retailers (more than half of parents and students). Mass merchants, fast fashion apparel retailers and off-price stores are likely to realize the greatest increase as a shopping destination, while traditional department stores and specialty clothing stores are expected to plunge as purchase destinations for both parents and students.

In-store still remains the preferred shopping channel amongst parents and students. Parents expect almost half (49 percent) of their budget will be spent in store while students expect 41 percent in the same channel. However, students are more likely to shop online (35 percent) compared to parents (25 percent).

“The amount people are spending is about the same as last year, but what and where they’re buying may come with a couple of plot twists,” added Sides. “Students are budgeting for experiences, not just buying stuff for the dorm room. People say they’re buying fewer traditional college supplies in light of digital technologies in the classroom. While people expect most of their purchases to happen in the store, about one-quarter haven’t decided whether they will shop online or in store. At the end of the season, even if the same amount of money funnels into college-related spending, retailers that adjust their timing, experiences and assortment may be the only ones who reap the benefits from it.”

This annual Deloitte survey was conducted online May 31 to June 13, 2017, using an independent research panel. The study involved two surveys, polling a sample of 1,025 parents with college-going children and 1,025 college-going students, and has a margin of error for the entire sample of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Deloitte is a leading presence in the retail and distribution industry, providing audit, consulting, risk management, financial advisory and tax services to more than 75 percent of the Fortune 500 retailers. With more than 2,400 professionals, Deloitte’s retail and distribution practice provides insights, services and approaches designed to assist retailers across all major subsectors including apparel, grocery, food and drug, wholesale and distribution and online. For more information about Deloitte’s retail and distribution sector, please visit www.deloitte.com/us/retail-distribution or follow us @DeloitteCB.

About Deloitte
Deloitte provides industry-leading audit, consulting, tax and advisory services to many of the world’s most admired brands, including 80 percent of the Fortune 500 and more than 6,000 private and middle market companies. Our people work across more than 20 industry sectors to deliver measurable and lasting results that help reinforce public trust in our capital markets, inspire clients to make their most challenging business decisions with confidence, and help lead the way toward a stronger economy and a healthy society.

Media contact:

Courtney Flaherty
Public Relations
Deloitte Services LP
+1 203 905 2708

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