BTS Spending: Parents Carry Wallet, Kids Have Clout


With back-to-school shopping season upon us, a majority of parents are prepared to loosen the purse strings for their children's shopping needs in light of anticipated rising costs or sheer necessity rather than greater spending power, so finds results of a new Accenture survey.

Moreover, the Accenture Back-to-School Shopping Survey, which polled U.S. parents of children entering kindergarten through college, shows that nearly all (89 percent) plan to do most of their back-to-school shopping in a physical store, though many will still jump online to browse and search (a.k.a., "webrooming").

In terms of the spending variances, the survey found two-thirds of parents (67 percent) planning to spend between $100 and $500, while 41 percent plan to spend $500 or more for BTS shopping this year. When compared to last year, just more than half (52 percent) of the parents polled by Accenture said they will spend more on back-to-school shopping than last year, along with 37 percent who plan to spend the same and 11 percent who foresee spending less. Further, one-third (33 percent) of parents spending more plan to increase their spending by $250 or more. Among the reasons given for the spending increase, 71 percent cited higher prices and 56 percent cited increased school requirements. Nearly one in five parents (19 percent) also admitted that they'll likely spend more in order to help their children "keep up with their friends."

'Seamless Shopping Rules'

The survey results demonstrate the growing importance of the all-important "seamless shopping experience." For example, nearly eight out of 10 (79 percent) plan to participate in "webrooming" – browsing online and then going to a store to make their purchase. The top reasons cited for webrooming are self-explanatory: to check if an item is in stock before going to a store to make a purchase (47 percent); to touch and feel the product before buying (43 percent); to avoid shipping costs (43 percent); and to ask the store to match a better price found online (33 percent).

"The fact that the majority of parents we surveyed plan to participate in webrooming underscores the significance of having a consistent and convenient experience across all retail touchpoints," said Dave Richards, managing director of Accenture's Global Retail practice. "Since many will be heading to the stores to shop after browsing online to find the best deals and check product availability, it is imperative for retailers to introduce mobile devices, train associates to solve problems and support sales."

Accordingly, the onus is on retailers "to add wireless networks to create interactive experiences, and connect in-store shopping experiences with omni-channel capabilities," noted Richards, affirming that retailers have a golden opportunity "to position their stores as the epicentre for product support which is critical to a brand's customer loyalty."

Kids Have the Purchasing Power

The survey also shows that while parents carry the wallet, their children carry purchasing power. Indeed, more than half of parents (54 percent) said their children influence 50 percent or more of the back-to-school shopping decisions. At the same time, survey results indicate that 33 percent of children will be spending some of their own money for back-to-school shopping – $266 on average for college students and $128 on average for K-12 students.

"Retailers should start to pay more attention to the purchasing power children have nowadays, if they're not already," said Richards. "When making their school shopping decisions, parents are feeling outside pressures and will still be very focused on pricing and promotions. However, children know what they want, and a portion of the increase in spending that we're seeing can certainly stem from them making just as many decisions for back-to-school shopping as their parents do."

Accenture gathered results for its BTS survey online in June 2014 using a representative sample of 500 U.S. parents of children entering kindergarten through college (undergraduate degrees).


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