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These two retailers dominate back-to-college sales

College students had some different shopping patterns than their parents.

As the 2023 back-to-college shopping season draws to a close, two retailers stand out as the most popular destinations for customers.

According to the new “Back to College in a Shifting Retail Environment" study from Numerator, Amazon and Walmart were ranked first and second, respectively, in popularity among all categories of surveyed college shoppers.

Amazon was visited by 70% of all student respondents and 68% of parent respondents, as well as by 75% of freshman respondents and 68% of returning student respondents. The e-tailer gained 2.8 percentage points of back-to-college market share year-over-year.

Meanwhile, 54% of all student respondents, 67% of parent respondents, 66% of freshman respondents and 58% of returning student respondents shopped at Walmart. The discounter gained 1.8 percentage points of back-to-college market share year-over-year.

Preferred promotional offers among all respondents were percent off total purchasepercent off, and buy one, get one deals.

Close to half (48%) of all student respondents had planned to shop at Bed Bath & Beyond, but had to shop elsewhere due to store closures

The study identified a number of other interesting findings relating to specific respondent demographics:

  • The top reasons provided for choosing a retailer for back-to-college shopping included good selection (51% of student respondents, 57% of parent respondents) and competitive prices (43% of student respondents, 60% of parent respondents).
  • Parent respondents had larger back-to-college budgets than student respondents (38% of surveyed parents had a budget over $300), and 22% of freshman respondents spent over $500 (compared to 13% of surveyed returning students). 
  • Fifty-seven percent of student respondents and 56% of parent respondents spent the same or more in 2023 compared to the 2022 back-to-college season.
  • By the middle of August, 71% of student respondents were almost done with their shopping, compared to 54% of parent respondents. 
  • New student respondents were most likely to get a head-start on their back-to-college shopping, with 44% saying they started shopping in June. 
  • Among parent respondents, two-thirds (65%) shared decision-making with their students, while 24% made the final purchase decision themselves.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of student respondents have sole payment responsibility for their back-to-college purchases.

Results are based on a survey of 915 parent and student back-to-college shoppers fielded by Numerator on Aug. 7, 2023.

[Read more: NRF: Back-to-school shopping expected to reach “unparalleled” record high]


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