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Analysis

Back-to-school survey 2016

Shopping for the “easy A”

As summer comes to a close, parents must do their homework on the subject of back-to-school shopping. Our ninth annual back-to-school survey reveals the latest trends likely to impact spending in the 2016 school season. With school supplies, clothing, and backpacks at the top of the list, find out when and where consumers will shop, how much they will spend and on what products, how digital technologies will influence shopping behavior, and more.

Back-to-school survey 2016

Explore the retail survey findings

Are you prepared for back-to-school shopping season? Move to the head of the class with your knowledge of the latest back-to-school purchasing trends. The much anticipated 2016 Back-to-School Survey provides an in-depth look at the shopping behaviors of parents with school-aged children across the US.

This year’s report shows that:

  • On average, parents will spend $488 for clothing, accessories, school supplies, computers and other electronics for their children this year
  • Consumers who shop earlier will spend more, with shoppers starting before August projecting 26 percent more than those beginning in August 
  • In-store shopping will continue to dominate back-to-school season, with two-thirds of the budget for clothing and school supplies being spent in the physical store
  • Digital technologies and social media will continue to shape the shopping journey, with 61 percent of consumers researching online before they make an in-store purchase

Other significant findings include:

Economic outlook and spending remain steady

The average spend for those who start shopping by the end of July is $537, compared with $424 for those starting in August or later. While 81 percent of respondents say their financial situation is better or the same than last year, over half of them say their spending will likely remain the same as last year (55 percent), 32 percent will likely spend more, and 13 percent will likely spend less.

While clothing and school supplies still dominate back-to-school lists, electronics are at the top of the class for those families who plan to spend in this category. Survey respondents shopping for technology-related items (29 percent) said they would spend an average of $456 on computers (including software, hardware, and accessories), and $286 on gadgets like tablets, smartphones and wearables. Additionally, 31 percent say they are buying fewer traditional school supplies because their child is using more technology for school.

Parents are opting for back-to-school shopping cheat sheets

When stocking up on school supplies, parents may be happy to get some help with their homework this year. More than two-thirds (67 percent) say their spending is influenced more by school recommendations than their child’s requests. Nearly one-third (32 percent) plan to take advantage of pre-configured supply kits offered by their child’s school or PTA. Additionally, 36 percent say the season is less important because they replenish schools supplies throughout the year.

Brick-and-mortar stores rank higher than online as the channel where shoppers intend to buy

Roughly two-thirds of the budget for traditional categories like school supplies (66 percent) clothing and accessories (63 percent) will be spent in-store. The majority of shoppers (61 percent) say they’ll research online before making a purchase in a physical store. One-quarter (25 percent) of parents surveyed said they plan to use social media to assist with their shopping, but the number one reason to use social media is to find out about promotions (74 percent), followed by coupons (64 percent).

Four in 10 (40 percent) of parents surveyed said they prefer to purchase from retailers that offer an option to buy online and pick up in-store, and 30 percent think they’ll shop physical stores less this year because the option to buy online and pick up in-store is more convenient. Free shipping continues to weigh heavily for online purchases, as 62 percent or respondents say they are more likely to buy from online retailers who offer free shipping. Sixty-four percent of shoppers using their smartphone will access a retailer’s website; 61 percent using smartphones will get price info. Only five percent of shoppers expect to use digital payment; 60 percent will use debit cards.

Read the latest news about Deloitte's 2016 back-to-school survey. 

Infographic: Back-to-school 2016

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

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