Back-to-school Shoppers Ready to Spend

Consumers are planning to spend substantially more on their back-to-school shopping this year compared to last, with higher prices cited as the main cause.

According to Deloitte’s annual Back-to-school survey, 88 percent of respondents plan to spend the same or more on back-to-school shopping this year. Among the 34 percent who plan to spend more, 58 percent cite higher prices as a leading cause, while an additional 34 percent said their children require more expensive items compared to last year.

Despite their intent to spend more, many consumers plan to maintain a budget (59 percent) as well as look for reduced-sale items (66 percent), with fewer respondents feeling that stores are offering them more value for their money (36 percent, up from 47 percent in 2011). An additional trend finds parents more reliant on their children to split the bill, with 68 percent expecting their school-age children to spend $51 or more on supplies for the fall (up 18 percent from 2011).

“Consumers’ price sensitivity and bargain habits have been hard to break,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman and retail & distribution sector leader of New York-based Deloitte. “Retailers will likely have to give consumers a good reason to fill the baskets in their stores, such as promotions that incentivize volume purchases or return trips. Retailers may need to quickly analyze their customer data and traffic to identify, replenish and market the popular items that can keep the momentum up throughout the season.”

The survey reveals that traditional media and word of mouth will act as the heaviest influences over what and how much consumers buy this year. Television ranks as the leading source of information for parents’ purchase behavior (41 percent), followed by family members (37 percent), newspapers (37 percent) and friends (36 percent). For children, their friends are the go-to source for information (59 percent), with television (41 percent) in second place.

“As children contribute more to the back-to-school budget,and shoppers act on input from friends and family, retailers need to consider the multiplier effect of each consumer interaction,” said Paul. “That should signal retailers to focus on making a customer’s experience with product availability, assortment and service consistent across all digital and store channels.”

Technology will play no small part in directing consumers toward bargains. More than 43 percent of smartphone owners said they use their devices at least half of the time for discounts, coupons and sale information. Among those who frequent social media sites, 70 percent will seek promotions and 49 percent will look for products. Almost 40 percent will seek out reviews on such sites, up from 28 percent last year, and the number of consumers who plan to post reviews jumped from 9 percent in 2011 to 18 percent in 2012.

Deloitte’s Back-to-school survey polled 1,134 parents of school-age chidlren in grades K-12.

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