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IBM report: Consumers defer back-to-school shopping in favor of home-related purchases


Armonk, N.Y. -- Study results released Tuesday by IBM revealed that while U.S. consumers shopped this July and August, they were not buying clothes and notebooks for their children but rather items for the home.

According to IBM’s findings, the biggest retail gains this back-to-school shopping season came from home goods purchases which increased 30% in July and more than 25% in August over their respective months in 2012.

While experts speculate that consumers were holding off on BTS purchases to eye the choices of their peers, social networks appeared to drive purchases with social sales increasing 69.7%. The social influence was especially apparent when it came to apparel, where shoppers referred to online stores through social networks generated 2.2% of all sales in August, an increase of more than 113% over 2011.

Mobile commerce also continued to grow with sales increasing 15.7% in July and 15.4% in August. For home goods, mobile sales reached a high of 20.1%.

"Back-to-school season is proving to be a trigger event that spans across categories beyond just notebooks and backpacks,” said Jill Puleri, global retail leader, IBM. “Retailers that are cashing in are those who understand how this trigger drives sales for home furnishings, as well as for apparel, and can target their inventory levels and promotions accordingly.”

The IBM benchmark revealed the following back to school trends:

  • July online sales increased more than 11% year-over-year while August slowed with sales up 3.9% percent compared to last year;

  • In July, shopper referrals to retailer sites from social networks generated 1.6% of all sales, an increase of 25.1% over last year. This trend continued in August, reaching 1.8%, an increase of 69.7% over the previous year;

  • Mobile commerce remains strong with sales from mobile devices reaching 15.7% in July and 15.4% over the month of August. As for vertical industries the following categories experienced success over this time frame;

  • By category, department store online sales grew 22.1% in July and 28.7% in August. Over this period mobile sales were strong, hitting 19.2% in July and 18.9% in August.

  • Apparel online sales were up 9.2% in July and 9.8% in August. Over this period mobile sales reached 15.1% and 16.4% in August. Apparel stores also experienced strong social commerce, with shoppers referred to their sites from social networks generating 1.4% of all sales in July and 2.2% in August, up more than 113% over 2011, more than any other category.

  • Office supplies/electronics online sales grew by 6.3% in July while dropping by .92% in August. Mobile sales reached 5.7% in July and remained steady in August at 5.9%.

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