Survey: Back-to-school means back to spending


Parents are increasing their back-to-school budgets, although overall spending is stagnant compared to recent years.

According to a new survey of 1,830 U.S. parents of elementary through college students by Mintel, 52% of respondents plan to spend more on back-to-school (BTS) shopping than in 2015. Only 4% plan to spend less, with 44% planning to spend the same. However, overall planned BTS spending dropped to $68 billion in 2015 after ranging from $73 - $76 billion annually from 2010-2014.

Looking at categories where parents will spend for BTS, respondents most frequently said they would buy clothing (66%). Footwear followed in a distant second (11%), with school supplies and electronics (8% each) also well behind. When buying clothes, 25% of respondents said keeping up with the latest fashions is important.

When looking at the factors that influence BTS shopping decisions, recommendations by schools lead the way with 43% of parents ranking it as one of their top three sources for information, up from 32% in 2015. Familiarity with products or brands is also a popular influencer (42%). Coupons, which were the leading influencer among parents in 2015 (43%), appear to be of less importance this year (36%).

Children also play a large role in BTS shopping, with nearly two in five (37%) parents agreeing that their children have a strong impact on the BTS products they buy.

Mintel research also indicates that parents are interested in a greater variety of delivery options in order to streamline the BTS shopping experience. Almost half (48%) of BTS shoppers would like to see greater availability of free shipping for online purchases, while 20% are interested in home delivery for items purchased in-store. Other highly desired improvements parents would like to see when BTS shopping include a faster checkout process and larger product selection (40% respectively).

“Nearly all parents plan to spend the same or more on back-to-school shopping in 2016, likely brought on by the continued pressure of inflation providing relatively little room to cut back on the necessary products,” said Ali Lipson, director of retail and apparel, technology and automotive reports at Mintel. “However, many factors have led to stagnation in overall back-to-school spending. In addition to more schools providing electronics for students, resulting in less spending on technology, back-to-college expenditures have taken a hit. College enrollment has been slowly tapering while higher costs of tuition may be further contributing to leaner budgets for college-bound students.”