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What’s New in Back-to-School Shopping

Insights for retailers catering to such consumers detailed in JLL survey.

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PHOTOGRAPHY: IrenaV/iStock.com

Though back-to-school shopping is a yearly ritual for many Americans, it’s also subject to changes in buying patterns spurred on by a variety of economic factors. So, what’s the scoop for such spending this year? Consultant Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) sought to answer that question by surveying just over 1000 parents online in May.

“Some things don’t change: the Big 3 – Walmart, Target and Amazon – retain their top spots [as top destination for such shoppers,” the JLL report notes. “But there are notable differences among parents in when and how they shop, and how much they plan to spend.”

JLL distilled those findings into a list of Top 10 takeaways:

  1. Back-to-School budgets are bigger: Parents plan to spend 15.7 percent more on back-to-school shopping this year, considerably more than the year-over-year inflation rate of 4.9 percent.
  2. Parents will compensate for higher prices by spending more: More than half of parents (55.2 percent) will budget more to accommodate higher prices for the same number of items they bought last year.
  3. More than half of parents will look for sales: Such shoppers will look for sales and deals this year (69.5 percent) to save money, although conversely, fewer parents said that inflation will affect how they shop for back-to-school.
  4. Most Parents will start early: By July more than 60 percent of parents would have begun back-to-school shopping, but the most popular month for starting remains August.
  5. Parents want ease of delivery: Parents are increasingly turning to delivery to get back-to-school goods. Since the pandemic hit in 2020, parents ordering online for home delivery of their kids’ school lists have soared over 21 percentage points.
  6. Mass merchandisers satisfy most parents’ school lists: The “Big Three” back-to-school shopping retailers – Walmart, Target and Amazon – retain their top spots and relative positions, although the share of parents shopping at Walmart and Amazon decreased somewhat from 2022.
  7. Free shipping more important than cost: More parents prioritized free shipping (24.1 percent) above all other factors when determining where to shop. This is understandable given that more parents will be ordering online this year than in previous years.
  8. The sweet spot for parents – Two-three stops: The lion’s share of parents will visit that many retailers to take care of their back-to-school shopping lists.
  9. Most parents will buy stationery and apparel: Clothing and stationery are the top items parents plan to pick up for back-to-school shopping this year. Accessories like backpacks or lunch bags were the third most popular item, while over 30 percent of parents plan to buy home office and arts-and-crafts supplies.
  10. Most kids will have input in shopping choices: Roughly half of parents will let their kids choose what to buy, while fewer will have input on where to shop and even fewer kids will do their own shopping.

Click here for more from the survey.

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