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Survey: Stores help drive healthy back-to-school spending


Consumers are not skimping on back-to-school spending this year, and brick-and-mortar retailers have extra reason to celebrate.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) has released its annual back-to-school consumer survey results, finding an overall uptick in spending. The average back-to-school (BTS) shopper is expected to spend $657, with 78% expecting to spend more than the prior year.

This is a significant increase from the 67% of BTS shoppers who planned to spend more year-over-year in 2015 and 50% who planned to do so in 2014. When asked why their spending would increase this year, 48% noted a need to replace wardrobe and school supplies, 44% cited that school requirements have changed and 35% stated that the items they plan to buy are more expensive than last year.

Looking at popular product categories, the study indicates more than three-quarters (77%) of BTS shoppers will purchase school or office supplies, 68% will buy apparel or footwear, and nearly half (47%) will spend on electronics. On average, all BTS shoppers will spend nearly $280 on electronics.

Interestingly, in-store purchases continue to dominate, with 95% of back-to-school (BTS) shoppers planning to spend at physical stores. Ninety-three percent plan to spend at a mall or shopping center. Omnichannel trends are also gaining traction among BTS shoppers. As a result, 97% of BTS shoppers will spend in-store and/or online at retailers with a physical presence.

Sixty-two percent of BTS shoppers plan to conduct research online before shopping. Eighty-six percent will use their mobile device while shopping in-store, primarily to compare prices (58%), retrieve discounts (45%) and view ratings (34%).

The study also finds click-and-collect is resonating with consumers. Thirty-three percent of BTS shoppers will make a purchase online to be picked up in a physical location. And 84% of those shoppers will make an additional purchase when picking up their online order.

When asked why they prefer to spend in physical stores and shopping centers, the top reasons included:

· Ability to physically see, touch or try on merchandise (42%).

· Avoid shipping costs (34%).

· Convenience of one-stop shopping (33%).

Other findings include that the back-to-school shopping season is starting and ending earlier this year, with more consumers planning to spend in July and fewer in September than 2015. Almost one-third of those surveyed have already started spending and 6% have completed all their shopping needs. August remains the most popular time for BTS shopping, with 87 % of respondents planning to do their shopping then. Forty-nine percent of shoppers believe July is the best time for back-to-school deals, promotions and discounts.

“Back-to-school shopping is considered the second biggest spending season of the year and according to ICSC’s survey, this season is shaping up to be the strongest of recent years,” said Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. “As we’ve seen in our other surveys, the majority of consumers intend to shop primarily in stores. At the same time, there is a continued interest in leveraging omnichannel strategies such as click and collect as consumers integrate technology into their shopping experience.”

The ICSC Back-to-School Survey was conducted online by Opinion Research Corp. on behalf of ICSC from July 7-10, 2016. The survey represents a demographically representative U.S. sample of 1,023 adults 18 years of age and older.
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