Need Will Drive Back-to-school Buys

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Need Will Drive Back-to-school Buys


Discount stores will continue to dominate as the destination for the majority of consumers’ back-to-school dollars this year, with office supply stores also remaining strong.

That’s among the findings of a new Accenture study, which notes a desire among shoppers to stretch their dollars. “Necessity, not desire, will drive this year’s back-to-school season purchases,” said Janet Hoffman, managing director of Accenture’s Retail practice. “The consumer has spoken and reports that they ‘dread’ these back-to-school shopping trips. Parents will be spending less on themselves to fund these purchases, and they will spend their dollars where they find the right mix of discounts, quality and convenience. Spending will neither be penny-pinching nor excessive, so retailers will need to keep a keen focus on inventory levels and delivering a targeted offer that meets their customers’ needs.”

Among the study’s other key findings:

- Department stores and online-only retailers saw an increase this year, while electronics stores and specialty stores saw a noticeable decline in intended spending.
- 89 percent of parents will shop at discount/mass merchandise stores (87 percent in 2010).
- 56 percent at office supply stores (58 percent in 2010).
- 46 percent at department stores (43 percent in 2010).
- 32 percent at drug stores (32 percent in 2010).
- 24 percent at grocery stores (24 percent in 2010).
- 22 percent at online-only retailers(18 percent in 2010).
- 18 percent at electronics stores (24 percent in 2010).
- 17 percent at specialty stores (20 percent in 2010).
- 13 percent at home stores (15 percent in 2010).

Among what Accenture calls back-to-school surprises in 2011, online shopping is not in the plans for many. Half of parents said that they would do “none” of their back-to-school shopping online, while only 4 percent said “all” or “most” of their shopping would be done online.

Electronics are sliding lower on shopping lists. One-quarter of parents plan to purchase computers, cell phones and other electronic items for their children; down from 36 percent in 2010. Basic school supplies like pens and paper (87 percent) and clothing (80 percent) are at the top of the back-to-school shopping list. Other key items on the shopping list include shoes (67 percent), accessories like backpacks (66 percent) and dorm/apartment furnishings (18 percent).

Accenture expects big-ticket items to be on the low end of demand this year. The majority of parents (59 percent) will spend between $100 and $500 on their back-to-school shopping this year, the study reveals. Only 21 percent of consumers plan to spend more than $500 on back-to-school shopping this year, down from 28 percent in 2010, indicating a decline in spending on the big ticket items for school. Half of parents (53 percent) plan to spend the same amount on back-to-school shopping as last year; 31 percent plan to spend more money than last year; and 16 percent plan to spend less money than last year.

Of those consumers who said they will spend more this year: 38 percent claim schools are requiring more this year (still high but a big decrease from 51 percent in 2010); 58 percent say that the cost of items has increased; and only 10 percent are spending more because they have more discretionary income to spend this year.

Of those consumers who said they will spend less this year: 37 percent cite having less discretionary income (still high but decreased from 44 percent in 2010); 28 percent have more worries about the economy this year and 16 percent feel they have less job security.

Parents said their top three priorities when choosing a retailer for back-to-school products are pricing and discounts (91 percent); quality of the products (69 percent); and in-stock products (49 percent).

When parents are choosing a retailer this year compared to last year, the importance of product quality did go down slightly while the important of convenience and one-stop shopping went up. Store experiences like customer service and loyalty programs once again ranked low on the list of priorities.

Parents are still making sacrifices: 60 percent say that they spend less on themselves at back-to-school time to ensure they can buy their children what they need; 29 percent of parents say that they “dread” back-to-school shopping, even more than the 25 percent of parents who said this in 2010; 19 percent believe that there is more pressure than ever before for kids to have what their friends have. Back-to-school shopping lists are getting larger and more expensive, according to 36 percent of parents.

This online survey was conducted from July 15 to 18 among 624 adults 18 and older who have children entering school this year (kindergarten through college).