August 5, 2019
By Dennis Kaiser
Physical stores continue to be the most popular format for Back-to-School (BTS) purchases. A survey by ICSC found nearly 87% of BTS shoppers will make purchases in physical stores, a percentage that rises to 95% including those who will purchase online from retailers that also have stores.
“Once again, back-to-school (BTS) shoppers demonstrate a clear preference for retailers with a physical presence, reinforcing the role of the store as the cornerstone of consumer shopping journeys in an omni-channel environment,” writes ICSC. “Though physical stores continue to be the dominant purchasing format, results from ICSC’s 2019 BTS survey illustrate a further rise in click-and-collect, confirming that no matter the time of year, convenience and speed are important elements of the shopping experience.”
The online survey conducted last month notes 50% of adults in the U.S. will buy items for BTS this year. The top items shoppers plan to buy overall are apparel (88%), school supplies (86%) and electronics (59%).
Overall, BTS shoppers will spend an average of $961 on merchandise this year, reports ICSC. On average, those making purchases for children in grades K-12 will spend $583, while those buying for college will spend $984.
Looking at the demographic break-outs, ICSC found that more than half of the money spent on K-12 students will be for electronics and home goods. Meanwhile, shifting to an older age-range, nearly 60% of money spent on college students will be for electronics and home goods.
Even though in the past few years shoppers and purchases have tended to shift to June and July, August is expected continue to be the busiest shopping month according to these metrics.
The survey noted discount retailers, apparel/footwear retailers and dollar/variety store retailers will see the most shoppers. Still, more than four-fifths (82%) of BTS shoppers will visit a mall or other shopping center to make purchases. Once there, they will also engage in other activities.
This year’s BTS shoppers plan to take full advantage of retailers’ omni-channel options. More than half (55%) say that they will use all online and in-store options for BTS shopping, including browsing, purchasing, shipping, picking up and/or returning.
Among shoppers, more than two-fifths (41%) purchased or will purchase online from a retailer with a physical presence and pick up the goods in store. This represents another increase from the prior year, demonstrating the significance of click-and- collect. Last year 39% said they would order online and pick up from the store and in 2017, that same figure was 30%. About four in 10 (41%) shoppers say that they are more likely to use click-and-collect during the BTS season compared to other times of the year.
The noted rise in click-and-collect is unsurprising, given results from ICSC’s click-and-collect consumer survey conducted earlier this year. Nearly half (47%) of click-and-collect consumers in that survey indicated buying online and picking up in store more than they had a year ago.
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