Back-to-School: Reports reveal what’s hot, what’s not and consumer trends

| by Judy Mottl
Back-to-School: Reports reveal what’s hot, what’s not and consumer trends

Every back-to-school shopping season boasts new trends, strategy moves, demographic shifts and retailer opportunities, and the 2015 back-to-school shopping timeframe is no different.

That’s why the second busiest retail season of the year spurs a constant stream of research and reports providing retail analyst insight on what’s new and what’s not, consumer behaviors and expectations, as well as predictions regarding the sales season compared to years past.

Two of the most respected reports are the annual Deloitte “Back-to-School” survey and the National Retail Federation’s “Back-to-School Spending Survey,” conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. Retail Customer Experience culled through each, snagging various nuggets to help retailers make the most of the remaining sales weeks as a new school year looms.

Deloitte highlights:
The 2015 "Back-to-School" survey was conducted online by an independent research company and polled a sample of 1,015 U.S. parents of school-aged children between July 5 and 8, 2015. All respondents had at least one child attending school in grades K-12 this fall.

  • Shoppers aren’t rushing into stores given a back-log inventory stowed in closets.
  • Shoppers who are mobile savvy may be doing more research on the beach before hitting the stores.
  • 38 percent shopping for students in grades K-12 view the season as less important as those helping college students get supplies, as they tend to buy during the school year as well.
  • Americans' spending for children in grades K-12 and college combined is expected to remain flat this season at $1,747, compared with $1,766 last year.
  • Consumers re-using items is increasing from 26 percent to 39 percent between 2011 and 2015.
  • Consumers are no longer exclusively driven by discounts.
  • Consumers will be "mission-driven" and making most of the purchasing decisions prior to the store, with digital devices in greater play.
  • This year shows a 6-percent jump in smartphone owners using devices for shopping, with 80 percent of shoppers taking that approach.
  • More than half, 51 percent, of shoppers are not familiar with in-store beacon technology, and 32 percent said they had no plans to use it.
  • Just 10 percent will rely on social media for back-to-school shopping, down from 18 percent last year and 35 percent in 2011.

Summary:"Consumers are sending a message to retailers that says the back-to-school shopping season just isn't that important anymore — and that could dramatically disrupt an industry that traditionally relies on this defined period for a significant portion of annual sales," Deloitte LLP Vice Chairman and retail and distribution sector leader Alison Paul stated in a release on the report. "The question for retailers is how to capture the sales that may not fall exclusively in July or August, but increasingly spread throughout the year. If consumers are content with the items they already have, the two-for-one promotion may no longer get them to the register. Instead, retailers will have to provide something more meaningful or exclusive that fits their customers' needs when they are ready to buy."

For more insight check out the report by clicking here.

NRF Spending Survey highlights:
The NRF report reflects a more conservative spend trend this season, similar to Deloitte’s finding. After spending more on supplies and electronics in 2014, parents this year will spend the back-to-school season evaluating what their children really need before buying new items. The NRF’s Back-to-School Spending Survey was conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics:

  • The average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630.36, down from $669.28 last year.
  • Total spending is expected to reach $24.9 billion.
  • For the first time, NRF asked about intentions to use retailer's omnichannel offerings; of those planning to shop online, nearly half (48.4 percent) say they will take advantage of retailers’ online, in-store pick up or ship-to-store options, and 17.3 percent will look for expedited shipping offers.
  • 92.1 percent will take advantage of retailers’ free shipping offers.
  • 76.4 percent of families with school-age children say they will change their spending because of the economy.
  • 92.7 percent will purchase new apparel, spending an average of $217.82.
  • Families will spend $117.56 on new shoes.
  • Slightly more than one-third (35.6 percent) will puchase school items online.
  • 86.4 percent of school shoppers say their children will influence one quarter or more of their back-to-school purchases.

“As seen over the last 13 years, spending on ‘back-to-school’ has consistently fluctuated based on children’s needs each year, and it’s unlikely most families would need to restock and replenish apparel, electronics and supplies every year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a release. “Parents this summer will inventory their children’s school supplies and decide what is needed and what can be reused, which just makes good budgeting sense for families with growing children."

"To ease hectic schedules and long shopping lists, it’s likely that we’ll continue to see consumers try out and regularly use services like free shipping, reserve online and even same-day delivery — options busy parents have been waiting for," Prosper’s Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said.

For additional information, check out the NRF study by clicking here.

Topics: Customer Experience, Department Stores, Marketing, Mobile Retail, Omnichannel / Multichannel, Online Retailing, Trends / Statistics

Judy Mottl

Judy Mottl is an experienced editor, reporter and blogger who has worked for top media including AOL, InformationWeek and InternetNews. She’s written everything from breaking news to in-depth trends. She loves a great pitch so email here, follow on Twitter and connect on LinkedIn.

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