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Deloitte: Back-to-school spending to hit new high as prices rise; stores to rebound

Back-to-school spending for K-12 students is expected to total about $661 per student, according to Deloitte.

Despite rising inflation and other financial concerns, back-to-school seasonal spending is expected to reach an all-time high.

Back-to-school spending (K-12 students) is expected to reach a new high, up to $34.4 billion, or approximately $661 per student, according to the “2022 Deloitte Back-to-School Survey.”  While 57% of shoppers surveyed are concerned about inflation, they remain determined to purchase needed supplies, possibly driving spending per student up by as much as 8%, the survey revealed.

After a pandemic-fueled tech spending spree fueled by remote learning, this year’s back-to-school season is looking more traditional. Spending will likely focus more on clothing (up 18% for respondents year-over-year) and school supplies (up 7%). Technology spending is set to decline 8% this year.

In addition, in-store shopping is expected to see a resurgence according to survey respondents, accounting for 49% of the overall back-to-school spend, up from 43% in 2021. More than half (53%) of spending expected to occur by the end of July.  

Citing what Deloitte called “digital fatigue,” online's share of the back-to-school spending of K-12 parents surveyed decreased to 35% in 2022 from 39% in 2021. Only 35% of parents surveyed plan to leverage social platforms for their shopping this year, compared to 41% in 2021.

Spending Habits
Spending habits are also shifting. Half of K-12 respondents are concerned about their child's current mental health and 36% have purchased products or services in the past year to address this issue.

Environmental sustainability is also top-of-mind for many, with half of K-12 parents surveyed saying they choose environmentally friendly or responsible sourced back-to-school products whenever possible. Those not selecting sustainable products often point to affordability as their biggest concern.

Together, mental health and sustainability priorities tend to lead shoppers to spend more — surveyed parents concerned about mental wellness report spending 8% more than the average back-to-school shopper, while those choosing sustainable options expect spending 22% more.

"Even as economic and inflationary pressures sit top of mind, parents seem resilient and determined to ensure their children get the school supplies needed to succeed this coming year,” said Nick Handrinos, vice chair and U.S. leader, Retail, Wholesale & distribution and consumer products, Deloitte LLP. “Retailers that remain conscious of this determination, while being mindful to address shoppers' ongoing economic concerns, could earn trust and position themselves strongly."

Back-to-college shoppers are expected to spend $28.3 billion, or approximately $1,600 per student, up 10% from those surveyed last year, according to Deloitte’s “2022 Back-to-College” survey. A survey by the National Retail Federation forecasts forecasts that back-to-college spending will total $74 billion. (The 
NRF said it tracks a broader group of consumers when looking at back-to-college compared to Deloitte.)

Digital remains critical to college spending. Spending on technology products is expected to be up 22% year-over-year by respondents, compared to 16% growth in 2021. It is expected to outpace other categories including household appliances and supplies (up 12%), clothing (up 10%), and dorm or apartment furniture and supplies (down 15%).

In-store's share of back-to-college shopping is expected to increase for respondents to 44% in 2022 from 39% in 2021. As retailers continue to offer more tech-enabled shopping tools, parents of college students are ready to leverage them: 59% of respondents will use smartphones for their back-to-college shopping (up from 49% in 2021), 30% will use social media (up from 22% in 2021), and 44% will use emerging technology (up from 29% in 2021 and 26% in 2019).

In other college results:

  • Stockouts are a concern for college shoppers with 68% of respondents expecting to encounter them, leading to 56% of planned spending likely occurring by the end of July.
  • Many college families are equally concerned about their students' mental wellness (49% of respondents). More than one in three (36%) of those surveyed will spend on products or services to address their students' mental health.
  • As many as 77% of surveyed shoppers are likely to leverage credit sources to finance their back-to-college expenses, up from 70% in 2021.

The "2022 Deloitte Back-to-School Survey" was conducted online using an independent research panel between May 20 and June 2, 2022 and surveyed 1,200 parents who have at least one child attending school in grades K-12 this fall.

The "2022 Deloitte Back-to-College Survey" was conducted online using an independent research panel between May 20 to June 14, 2022. The survey polled a sample of 950 parents of children heading to colleges and universities this fall.


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