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Survey: Inflation impacting back-to-school shoppers

mom and son back-to-school shopping
Back-to-school shoppers plan to spend less this year.

A new survey indicates that as most parents prepare for in-person schooling, they are altering their back-to-school shopping behavior.

According to the 2022 Back-to-School survey of nearly 2,400 households from data and technology company Numerator, almost nine in 10 (89%) respondents expect inflation to affect their back-to-school shopping, with 28% expecting the inflation impact to be significant.

Virtually all (98%) respondents say they will find ways to cut spending. Popular spending reduction strategies include buying items on sale (74% of consumers), looking for online deals (52%), reusing old supplies (50%), using more coupons (41%), switching to cheaper brands (36%), shopping at more dollar or discount stores (28%), and buying fewer items (26%).  

In addition, more than one-third of respondents (35%) plan to cut back spending on shoes and clothes, 26% on backpacks, 24% on electronics, 21% on craft supplies, and 18% on crayons, markers, and colored pencils. Despite widespread intent to cut costs, almost half (48%) of respondents plan to spend more than $100 on back-to-school products, and only 13% expect to spend less than $50.

Nearly nine in 10 respondents (89%) plan to shop at mass retailers for back-to-school supplies, followed by 36% who plan to shop at online-only retailers, 22% at club stores, 12% at drug stores, and 8% at specialty retailers. Among those respondents who plan to shop in-store, the most popular retailers for back-to-school items are Walmart (83% of consumers), Target (64%), Dollar General (23%), Sam’s Club (16%), and Costco (14%).

The survey also reveals consumers are starting their back-to-school shopping earlier this year. One in five (21%) respondents said they had started their back-to-school shopping in June, up three percentage points from 2020. Nearly two-thirds (62%) plan to have their shopping done before August, and an additional 26% plan to finish by August 15.

Looking at how the continuing COVID-19 pandemic is affecting back-to-school plans, the survey finds that 78% of respondents say their children will attend school exclusively in-person this year, up from 64% in 2021 and only 18% in 2020. With COVID-19 concerns at their lowest point since the beginning of the pandemic, respondents are planning to buy fewer face masks (-42 percentage points year-over-year), hand sanitizer (-14 percentage points year-over-year), and disinfecting wipes or sprays (-9 percentage points year-over-year) in 2021.

[Read more: NRF: Back-to-school college spend to hit new high]

Numerator’s 2022 Back-to-School survey was fielded from June 27-30, 2022 to 2,396 parents/guardians with children in grades K-8. The report showcases overall consumer plans as well as comparisons to their back-to-school purchases in 2021.

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