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Deloitte: The top destination for back-to-school shopping is…

Consumers prefer to shop in brick-and-mortar when it comes to the second-biggest shopping season of the year.

Mass merchant stores remain the No. 1 back-to-school shopping destination, drawing 83% of respondents in Deloitte's annual “Back-to-School” survey, followed by dollar stores (38%), online-only retailers (36%) and off-price stores (32%). (See end of article for the top 10 shopping destinations.)

The ascent of price-based retailers continues to squeeze more traditional retailers out of the higher ranks, Deloitte noted. For example, off-price stores jumped from No. 14 in 2016 to No. 4 this year. Department stores fell from the No. 2 position in 2016 to No. 6 in the last two years of the survey.

While people plan to visit price-based retailers more frequently, those who shop at traditional retailers like department stores, home electronics and office supply stores make larger purchases at these locations compared with other venues like mass merchants.

Household spending on clothing, supplies, computers and electronics for children in grades K- 12 is expected to reach $27.6 billion this year, according to the report. Parents plan to spend an average of $510 between July and September, with most of that occurring in stores ($292) – more than double the amount they plan to spend online ($115). However, respondents remain undecided where they’ll put the remaining 20% of their budget – leaving $5.5 billion up for grabs between online and store retailers.

Additionally, the amount parents say their children influence accounts for $21 billion, or 75% of back-to-school dollars.

“Back-to-school shopping tends to be price-focused as parents look for promotions and mass merchants for the best deals,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader. “But when we look below the surface, we notice several distinctions between high and low-income households and the way people shop for specific items like clothing, technology, and supplies. The potential lesson for retailers is that back-to-school may require them to do more than compete on price alone or try to sell across all categories. Survey results show it may be about delivering the best product or experience to customers in specific categories.”

In other survey findings:

• Back-to-school shopping is expected to peak during late July and early August, and those who begin their shopping before August are expected to spend 20% more than late starters. Nearly seven in 10 (68% ) of shoppers tend to finish their back-to-school shopping within a four-week period, but those who extend their shopping timeframe (sometimes in search of deals) spend more overall.

• The Northeast accounts for the biggest back-to-school spend, at $568 per household. The South has the lowest, at $488.

• Parents’ reliance on tools like laptops and social media may have hit a digital saturation point. Among respondents, 49% plan to use their desktop or laptop to shop, down from 57% last year. Mobile use increased to 53% after trailing desktop/laptop use in 2017.

Parents’ social media use also appears to be decreasing, with 23% saying they plan to use these tools to find promotions, receive coupons and browse products, down from 27% in 2017.

The top 10 destinations for back-to-school shopping are:

1. Mass merchants (83%)
2. Dollar stores (38%
3. Online-only retailers (36%)
4. Off-price stores (32%0
5. Office supply/technology stores (31%)
6. Department stores (27%)
7. Fast-fashion apparel retailers: (26%)
8. Warehouse clubs (20%)
9. Retailer websites (17%)
10. Drug Stores (15%)
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