Consumers Plan to Spend Smart This Back-to-School Season

back to school retail salesMore than two thirds of consumers (68 percent) plan to spend up to $500 this back-to-school shopping season, according to the PriceGrabber® 2013 Back-to-School Survey, and classic school supplies and clothing top their lists.  This is up significantly from 2011, when just 48 percent of consumers surveyed said they would spend up to $500, and up from 63 percent in 2012. Additionally, 17 percent of respondents plan to spend between $500 and $1,000, and 15 percent of shoppers said they have no back-to-school shopping budget this year.

“The outlook for the back-to-school shopping season remains positive. With the unemployment rate dropping from 8.2 percent in June, 2012 to its current rate of 7.6 percent, shoppers are more inclined to spend than they were in the last couple of back-to-school seasons,” says Rojeh Avanesian, SVP of Marketing and Sales of PriceGrabber. “However, instead of spending on the newest gadgets, shoppers are looking for ways to get the most for their money by looking for deals as well as reusing already owned items before purchasing new ones.”

Classic school supplies and clothing top shopping lists

Consumers are planning to purchase practical items, putting basic school clothing and supplies at the top of their back-to-school shopping lists. Regarding which items they plan to purchase this back-to-school shopping season, 72 percent selected general school supplies, such as notebooks, binders, and pencils, 68 percent said new clothing, 42 percent said a backpack or tote bag, and 36 percent of shoppers said they plan to purchase books.

In the electronics category, computers topped back-to-school shopping lists with 17 percent of respondents selecting laptop computers, and 11 percent citing an electronic tablet purchase. Ten percent of consumers said they would purchase computer accessories, 9 percent said cell phones, and only 5 percent selected a desktop computer.

When survey respondents were asked to select all of the ways they plan to save money while back-to-school shopping this year, visiting discount stores ranked in first place with 50 percent. Some 46 percent of consumers said they plan to search for school supplies they already own before buying new items. Some 45 percent of consumers indicated they will use online shopping sites, 37 percent plan to take an inventory of their kids’ closets to see what items need to be replaced and 33 percent plan to visit retailer websites to print coupons.

Discount stores and online retailers score big with consumers

When respondents were asked to select all of the types of stores they plan to shop at for back-to-school items, 80 percent selected discount stores. Online-only retailers were chosen by 54 percent of consumers, and office supply chain stores came in third place with 44 percent. It is noteworthy to mention that 42 percent plan to shop at traditional department stores and 24 percent plan to shop at electronics stores this back-to-school season.

When survey respondents were asked to select all of the methods by which they plan to purchase back-to-school items this year, 13 percent answered they plan to shop using their mobile phones, compared to 6 percent in 2012, and 16 percent said they plan to make purchases via an electronic tablet device, versus 8 percent last year. Sixty-nine percent of shoppers said they plan to make back-to-school product purchases online, 58 percent indicated purchases at a brick-and-mortar store and 11 percent noted a potential purchase from a printed catalog.

Free shipping, sales and coupons incentivize back-to-school shoppers

Consumers continue to look for ways to stretch their dollars and take advantage of retailer incentives to save money. According to the survey, 72 percent of consumers chose free shipping as the top retailer strategy that would entice them to make a purchase. Sales came in a close second with 71 percent of the vote, 69 percent cited coupons, 43 percent selected online promotions, 41 percent noted rebates and 38 percent selected free items with a purchase.

According to the survey, 50 percent of consumers plan to start their back-to-school shopping in August, 6 percent cited September and 3 percent selected October. The remainder had planned to shop in June and July. Conducted from June 17 to July 8, 2013, the survey includes responses from 2,191 U.S. online shopping consumers.