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New shopper insights from Acosta reveal spending growth for 2017 school year

shopper insights

Jacksonville, Fla., (Sept. 19, 2017) – While it’s no holiday season, the end of summer is one of the most popular times of the year for shopping as students return to school. From new clothes and backpacks to school supplies and snacks for lunchboxes, parents spend a great deal on getting their children prepared — with 42 percent planning to spend more for the 2017 school year than last year, according to new research and insights from Acosta, a leading sales and marketing agency in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) and retail merchandising industry. “Unlike the holidays, the back-to-school shopping season is a little more fluid as schools across the U.S. are back in session at various times from early August until mid-September, with the advertising push from retailers beginning as early as July,” said Colin Stewart, Senior Vice President at Acosta. “Acosta’s research showed that 52 percent of shoppers made their first back-to-school purchase before Aug. 1, and although schools are already back in session at this point, retailers will still see sales continue as students are given classroom supply lists and additional details about what they need for their particular areas of study.”

Acosta’s 2017 back-to-school survey also found:

Planned spending for back-to-school shopping sees growth

Forty-two percent of back-to-school shoppers indicated they planned to spend more this year on back-to-school purchases for the children in their household. 

  • On average, shoppers expect to spend $912 on back-to-school items this year. 
  • The biggest back-to-school spenders include Dads (male shoppers average $1,489); Gen Z/Millennial shoppers ages 18-36 (average $1,210); and shoppers with kids ages 7-12 (average $1,202). 

From consumables to durables, back-to-school shoppers are filling their cartsWhile school clothing and writing/paper supplies are top of the list for back-to-school purchases as they apply across all grade levels from pre-K to college, in reality, back-to-school shopping spans a wide variety of categories.  

  • Back-to-school budgets are being spent across categories including school clothing (32 percent); school supplies and backpacks (26 percent); lunch/snack food (18 percent); and computer electronics (16 percent).
  • With 54 percent of shoppers planning to pack their children school lunches each week during the school year, they are buying easy-to-pack items including individually portioned foods (57 percent) and single-serving beverages (52 percent), along with lunchboxes or reusable lunch/snack totes (46 percent).
  • The most popular category was writing/paper supplies, with 80 percent of shoppers who indicated they had purchased or plan to purchase the category across retail outlets including mass merchants (71 percent), office supply stores (30 percent), dollar stores (23 percent) and grocery stores/supermarkets (22 percent).

Back-to-school purchases are influenced by in-store and online factors 

  • Many Shoppers indicated being influenced in-store when making back-to-school purchases, including items on sale at the shelf (58 percent), aisle displays (45 percent), and in-store flyers/ads (42 percent).
  • Retailer online tactics such as emails (41 percent), ads (39 percent), and social media posts (28 percent), were also influential to back-to-school shoppers.
  • Forty-seven percent of shoppers were influenced by coupons for back-to-school purchases. 
  • Shoppers also researched their back-to-school purchases online, with the most popular categories researched including computer electronics (46 percent); skincare or makeup items (38 percent); and school clothing (36 percent) — but fewer of these shoppers (21 percent, 20 percent and 14 percent, respectively) reported purchasing these items online instead of in a retail store. 

Shoppers have a choice of many retail channels when it comes to buying back-to-school items,” Stewart added. “and told us retailers should have competitive pricing and a good selection of back-to-school items to draw in shoppers. The good news is, many shoppers’ purchases are influenced by both in-store and online tactics, as well as broadcast and print advertising, so it’s important to execute integrated marketing efforts." Acosta’s 2017 back-to-school research was completed via an online survey of the company’s custom shopper community panel.