Analysis

2017 back-to-school survey

Insights on spending and shopping trends

​Our 10th annual back-to-school survey takes a closer look at spending and shopping trends for the upcoming back-to-school season. This year’s total back-to-school spending is expected to reach $27 billion, department stores fall from the second to the sixth shopping destination, and mass merchants jump to the head of the class.

2017 back to-school survey results

​2017 back-to-school shopping trends

Back-to-school season is the second biggest shopping season of the year touching 29 million households and accounting for $27 billion in sales in the US. In order to capitalize on this short but sizeable shopping season, retailers should look deeply at back-to-school shopping trends and anticipate the behaviors of savvy kindergarten through 12th grade parents.

While we have been producing this survey for 10 years, no two surveys are the same. Each edition brings a new perspective on the trends that are driving back-to-school purchases across the country. This year’s survey takes a closer look at shopping trends by region. Find out which region is spending the most and driving the back-to-school shopping season.

Download this year’s back-to-school statistics and find opportunities others miss. Dig into the data and shape your strategy based on this year’s back-to-school shopping trends.

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Back-to-school trends show surprising turns

This back-to-school shopping season, consumers are focused on different retailers and items to fill their carts. Mass merchants and off-price retailers are becoming the go-to venues while traditional department stores and specialty clothing retailers take a back seat.

  • 81 percent of respondents plan to shop at mass merchants. This is a 24 percentage point jump over of last year.
  • 28 percent plan to shop at off-price stores. This is up from 10 percent in 2016.
  • 28 percent say they’ll shop traditional department stores, which is down from 54 percent last year.
  • Just eight percent of parents plan to visit specialty clothing stores, falling from 25 percent in 2016.

Back-to-school shopping lists are shifting
This year’s survey reveals a category shift among the items respondents intend to buy for their children. Clothing and accessories are expected to account for 55 percent of families’ spending–up 10 percentage points from last year. Meanwhile, computers and hardware will take up just 14 percent of the spending; this is four percent lower than last year.

Undecided shoppers present opportunities for retailers
While many back-to-school shoppers use the internet to support their in-store purchase, one-fifth are still “undecided,” meaning they haven’t decided whether they will be shopping online or in-store. This segment is worth about $5.4 billion (about $549 on average per shopper) and presents an opportunity for retailers to present intriguing offers and communications. Retailers who understand the undecided population’s preferences may gain share of wallet during back-to-school season.

Retailers that bring shoppers in early get an A+ for back-to-school sales
Retailers that attract shoppers to their stores earlier this summer may earn a greater portion of back-to-school sales. Deloitte’s survey found that the 60 percent of shoppers hitting stores before August are likely to spend an average of $532, 16 percent higher than the remaining 40 of parents who start shopping in August or later ($458). As a result of different school start dates across the country, shopping trends also vary greatly by regional location. Shoppers in the South—who buy for 44 percent of all K-12 enrollees—spend early and spend the most, at $554 per child, on average.

Download the back-to-school insights to learn more.

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Insider insight: Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and US retail, wholesale and distribution practice leader has some insight into why this might be, “With today’s technology-based education system there is less need for traditional school supplies, likely contributing to the shift toward more spending on clothing and accessories before children head back to school. Part of this shift may also come from the popularity of preconfigured school supply kits, which 30 percent of families plan to use.

Insider insight: “Retailers should aggressively pursue the ‘undecided’ consumer because they collectively represent nearly $5.4 billion this back-to-school shopping season,” added Sides. “This segment is up for grabs but likely to go to retailers that draw customers in early with promotions and digital experiences that make store visits even more attractive, like inventory visibility or buy online/pick up in store.”

Learn more about the back-to-school and back-to-college surveys:

2017 back-to-school survey press release

2017 back-to-college survey

Spending (in $M) by shopping period

$19B (71%) of expected B2S spend happens during an eight-week shopping window between early July and late August, but peak timing varies by region.

Average consumer spend by channel

In-store purchases still dominate back-to-school shopping, but many consumers are undecided on channel and might be influenced by targeted promotions.

Explore Deloitte's historical back-to-school survey findings:

2016 back-to-school survey

2015 back-to-school survey

2014 back-to-school survey

2013 back-to-school survey

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