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Survey: Back-to-school shopping lists to look different this year amid COVID-19

Look for an increased focus on hand sanitizer and other personal hygiene products as consumers prepare their back-to-school shopping lists for fall 2020. 

According to a new survey of more than 6,700 U.S. consumers planning to make school-related purchases this fall from shopping rewards app Shopkick, 63% of respondents say they are thinking differently about upcoming back-to-school spending due to COVID-19 and planning to put less of their dollars toward frivolous purchases and more toward essential items and remote learning tools.

With safety top of mind across the board, 83% of respondents plan to make purchases to protect their children and students returning to school, including hand sanitizer (97%), cleaning wipes (89%), paper products like tissues and paper towels (73%), masks (71%), gloves (44%) and disposable cutlery for lunchtime (44%).

More than three out of four respondents (77%) plan to stock up on essential items (masks, hand sanitizer, toilet paper), citing general hygiene and safety practices (46%), fear of another COVID-19 outbreak (40%), and fear of essential items selling out at the store (10%) as reasons for doing so. 

However, despite social distancing measures, two-thirds (66%) of respondents plan to do their back-to-school shopping in-store. Nearly all (95%) plan to shop in-store at big-box retailers like Target and Walmart, followed by office supply stores (37%), club stores (25%), drug stores (24%), and grocery stores (20%).

Almost four in 10 (38%) respondents plan to dedicate more of this year’s budget toward remote learning tools. Of those, parents of college students (46%) and pre-school-aged children (42%) are most likely to do so.

The majority of respondents plan to get a head start on shopping, with 53% planning to shop one month prior to the first day of school, 22% planning for two months prior, and 17% planning for one week prior. With tighter budgets due to the economic downturn, 80% of respondents say getting the best price is their top priority. Forty percent of respondents say they’ll spend less than $75 per child, followed by 34% who say they’ll spend between $76-$150.
“A heightened focus on safety and savings will guide purchasing behavior,” said Dave Fisch, general manager of Shopkick. “With essential items making their way onto most back-to-school lists, retailers should plan to keep items like masks and hand sanitizer just as stocked and competitively priced as pens and pencils.”

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