Back to School shopping: Starting earlier, with increased spend on most categories

Back to school shopping- spend is up

Back to school shopping

Back  to School shopping is starting earlier and lasting longer in the US, a new report shows. And while two-thirds of consumers plan to start their 2017 Back to School shopping the same time as last year, 28% said they planned to start earlier.

August remains the prime month for Back to School shopping spend with more than 30% of consumers telling researchers from the NPD Group that they started their 2016 shop in August, and more than a third saying they completed it in that month. But last year, 58% of consumers started their shopping before August and nearly a third managed to complete their shopping earlier.

Of course, while most people were shopping earlier, some went in the other direction and deferred their shopping, at least some of it. A third of Back-to-School shoppers didn’t finish until September or later, with some making final purchases well into the school year.

Back to school shopping items - paint, brushes and pencils

Back to school shopping items

Some of those late shoppers will have been taking advantage of discounts and the study also said that around 60% of Back to School (BtS) shoppers only ever buy when goods are marked down. But even with that high degree of bargain-consciousness, when asked about tax-free holidays, more than 40% of consumers make their BtS purchases whenever it is most convenient, regardless of these sale dates.

What it all means, according to the researchers, is that the season has become much less predictable and consequently less easy for retailers to navigate their way around.
“The scope of the Back to School shopping season has expanded due to the endless shopping opportunities, both in-store and online, enabling consumers to spread their spending out and address needs as they arise,” said NPD’s top analyst Marshal Cohen. “As a result, the Back-to-School shopping season is starting earlier, lasting longer, and expanding beyond the traditional thinking of a single peak retail period. This kind of change is the new constant in retail.”

When consumers do begin shopping for the 2017-2018 school year, the majority said they plan to spend about the same or more on most categories, which is good news as people don’t appear to be about to cut back overall, although there are some areas where they’ll spend less.

More than 45% of consumers plan to increase their spending on fashion and school supplies, the top categories for the season.

Spending plans on electronics are more evenly divided with a third of consumers planning on spending more, and 38% planning on spending less. Over a third of consumers plan to spend more on personal care and grooming products this year, but college-focused categories like bedding, kitchen items and small electrics may be less of a priority, with 45% indicating that they plan to spend less on these products than they did last year.

Coverage image photo credits:

Cel Lisboa

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