News | August 24, 2009

Average Family Has More Than Half Of Back-To-School Shopping To Complete

Though school bells in some areas of the country have already started to ring, most parents have a lot of shopping left to get kids ready for the classroom. According to NRF's latest Back-to-School/College Consumer Intentions and Actions survey, conducted by BIGresearch, the average American family had completed only 41.6 percent* of their back-to-school shopping as of August 11. Similarly, families of college students have completed 41.0 percent of their shopping. In addition, nearly one-third (30.5%) of families with school-aged children (K-12) haven't even started their shopping.

According to NRF's annual Back-to-School and Back-to-College surveys, released in July, total back-to-school and back-to-college spending will reach $47.50 billion this year. According to the survey, families of students in grades K-12 will spend $548.72 on school merchandise, a decline of 7.7 percent from $594.24 in 2008. Families of college students will spend $618.12, up slightly from last year's $599.38.

"Price is an important factor when it comes to back to school shopping, but there are other aspects to consider," said Mike Gatti, Executive Director of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, a division of NRF. "Unique and creative marketing campaigns coupled with the right prices will be the key to driving sales as the summer comes to a close."

Back-to-School Shoppers Focus on Price, Deals

Those who have already begun their shopping said sales or coupons have influenced nearly half (47.8%) of purchases so far this season. And with everything taking a back seat to price this year, shoppers are keeping their eyes open for any and all special savings. According to the survey, 43.4 percent of back-to-school shoppers said coupons influenced them to shop at a particular store. Advertising inserts (42.1%), newspapers (32.2%), in-store promotions (32.1%), word of mouth (29.9%) and direct mail (16.2%) were also strong influencers in their decision on where to shop.

"The days of mom or dad letting children put whatever they want in the shopping cart are over," said Pam Goodfellow, Senior Analyst, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. "Parents don't want to send their kids to school in clothes that don't fit or with a calculator that doesn't work, but they are making careful spending decisions based on price instead of giving kids free rein to pick out whatever they want."

The survey also found six out of ten (62.2%) American families who have shopping left to do will head to a discount store. Additionally, 44.8 percent will check out a department store and 31.8 percent will head to a clothing store.

When it comes to what retailers had the best back-to-school website, Wal-Mart, Target, JCPenney, Staples, Kohl's and Old Navy ranked among the top. One out of five (18.5%) consumers said that the website motivated them to shop at that retailer, while an additional 33.0 percent said the websites had no impact because they were already planning to shop there.

More College Shoppers to Hit Stores in August

Although one-fifth (20.8%) of college shoppers say they've finished shopping, there is still plenty left to be spent on new dorm furnishings, collegiate apparel and school supplies. According to the survey, 41.9 percent of families with students already in or planning to attend college have not even started shopping.

College shoppers are also swayed by sales and promotions, as the average shopper said deals influenced 40.8 percent of shopping decisions Traditional methods of getting shoppers' attention have not changed much, but when it comes to back-to-college promotions, most (38.8%) prefer receiving coupons. Other favorite advertising methods include advertising inserts (31.4%), word of mouth (31.2%), in-store promotions (23.7%), newspapers (23.2%) and television ads (21.1%).

College students and their families ranked Wal-Mart, Target,, JCPenney, Staples and Office Depot as having the best back-to-college website. According to the survey, 14.2 percent saying the websites influenced the decision to shop at that store and another 38.5 percent said they already were planning to shop there.

About the Survey

NRF's 2009 Back-to-School and Back-to-College Consumer Intentions and Actions Surveys, conducted by BIGresearch, were designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends. The poll of 8,543 consumers was conducted from August 4-11, 2009 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.0 percent. BIGresearch is a consumer market intelligence firm that provides unique consumer insights that are gathered online utilizing very large sample sizes.

BIGresearch's syndicated Consumer Intentions and Actions survey monitors the pulse of more than 8,000 consumers each month to empower its clients with unique insights for identifying opportunities in a fragmented and changing marketplace.

The National Retail Federation is the world's largest retail trade association, with membership that comprises all retail formats and channels of distribution including department, specialty, discount, catalog, Internet, independent stores, chain restaurants, drug stores and grocery stores as well as the industry's key trading partners of retail goods and services. NRF represents an industry with more than 1.6 million U.S. retail establishments, more than 24 million employees - about one in five American workers - and 2008 sales of $4.6 trillion. As the industry umbrella group, NRF also represents more than 100 state, national and international retail associations.

SOURCE: The National Retail Federation