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Back-to-school shopping edges up

News, 04 July 2016

CHICAGO: More than half (52%) of American parents intend to increase their back-to-school spending this year, with just 4% planning to spend less, but the overall BTS market is still worth less than in recent years.

According to a new study from consumer research firm Mintel, which polled 1,830 US parents of pupils who attend elementary schools through to colleges, parents plan to spend more at this time of year than in 2015.

However, total planned BTS spending dropped to $68bn last year after ranging from $73bn to $76bn annually from 2010 to 2014, leading Mintel to conclude that the overall BTS market "remains stagnant".

Not surprisingly, most of the planned spend will be allocated to clothing (66%), but this category is way ahead others with footwear in a distant second (11%), followed by school supplies and electronics (8% each).

When it comes to clothing their offspring, nearly a quarter (23%) of US parents agree that it's important to keep up with the latest fashion trends for the BTS season.

Looking at the factors that influence BTS shopping decisions, the survey found that recommendations by schools are the most important (43%), followed by familiarity with products or brands (42%).

Interestingly, coupons no longer appear to be as influential as in past years because just 36% of respondents cite coupons as an influence compared with 43% in 2015.

Children themselves also play an important role in BTS shopping and the survey found nearly two in five (37%) parents agree that their children have a strong impact on the BTS products they buy.

"Our research shows that parents display an affinity for familiar products, so brands should emphasise marketing back-to-school items that are the same or similar to those that parents once used, while retailers would benefit from promoting products for children that are developed by brands popular with adults," said Ali Lipson, Director of Retail and Apparel, Technology and Automotive Reports at Mintel.

"Retailers can also ease the back-to-school process by promoting digital tools such as shopping registries and apps that provide schools' recommended supply lists, which will help streamline the shopping experience," she added.

The research also indicates that parents are interested in a greater variety of delivery options, with almost half (48%) wanting to see greater availability of free shipping for online purchases.

Meanwhile a fifth (20%) are interested in home delivery for items purchased in-store, while 40% would like faster checkout processes and larger product selection.

Data sourced from Mintel; additional content by Warc staff