TAMU Mays Retail Expert: Back-To-School Shopping Second Only To Holiday Spending

By Andrew Vernon, Texas A&M University Mays Business School

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The 2018 back-to-school shopping season is underway, and spending is expected to reach almost $27.6 billion – nearly 50 percent of annual school-related spending for a quarter of U.S. households. The one-month countdown to the first day of classes is under way, as many school districts have a start date of Monday, August 20.

In-store versus online

Brick-and-mortar stores remain in the lead with back-to-school shoppers, but online spending continues to increase. Based on a survey by Deloitte, 57 percent of back-to-school shopping will be conducted in-store compared to 23 percent online, with 20 percent undecided how they will shop. Up from 2017, online shopping has gained ground in sales of school supplies, clothing, and computers. However, in-store sales are up for electronic gadgets. Despite the increasing push from online shopping, 96 percent of parents will head to a physical store at least once during the back-to-school shopping season, according to RetailMeNot.

“While a healthy economy is likely to lift purchasing across all categories, electronics spending is on track to out-pace apparel by 2019. Looking cool is certainly not just about what brand you do or don’t wear, but about what smartphone is in your pocket,” Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, said.

How much time do shoppers allow?

Approximately $18 billion will be spent in the four-week period between mid-July and mid-August, reaching a peak in early August. Nearly 62 percent of parents have started their back-to-school shopping before August. According to a study by Deloitte, early shoppers are likely to spend 20 percent more than those who start late, and 68 percent of consumers intend to finish their back-to-school shopping within a month. However, the longer a person extends his shopping, the more he is likely to spend.

“It’s possible that people who enjoy shopping tend to start shopping earlier and plan to spend more while shopping,” added Christina Kan, an assistant professor of marketing at Mays Business School who researches consumer behavior and psychology.

Time to look for deals?

According to RetailMeNot, 67 percent of shoppers say they look for more savings during the back-to-school season than other times of the year, which is up from 36 percent in 2017. Anticipated spending is up across all major categories, with shoppers looking to spend the most on clothing. For 65 percent of parents, final price is the biggest factor in what they will buy for their kids. Based on figures from the National Retail Federation, households with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of nearly $685 each.

This story originally appeared in Mays Impacts.


Media contact: Kelli Levey Reynolds, Mays Business School, 979-845-3167, kreynolds@mays.tamu.edu.


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