Washington–Recognizing that a number of the best deals of the summer are still to come, some families have only scratched the surface of their back-to-school shopping lists as of mid-August. According to NRF’s latest Back-to-School/College Surveys, the average family with children in grades K-12 completed just half (49.9%) of their shopping by that time, down slightly from last year (52.1%).
“As the shopping season draws to a close, budget-conscious parents are likely hoping that end-of-summer sales and promotions will be just what they need to wrap up their school lists,” said NRF President/CEO Matthew Shay. “Much of the delay this summer could also stem from families holding out for a sales tax holiday in their state, as well as from influential teenagers who want to first see what their friends are buying before they ask mom and dad to commit to their fall needs.”
Looking for Last Minute Deals
According to the survey, as of August 12, fewer families had stepped out to take advantage of retailers’ special school savings opportunities; specifically, one-quarter (23.6%) had not started shopping yet, up from 20.9% last year. However, there were some who were eager to get started as they looked to spread out their spending: 15.7% say they have completed their lists, which is about the same amount as last year.
College families on the other hand, got a good jump on retailers’ sales and promotions this summer: 23.4% say they are completely finished with their lists, up from 20% last year. Additionally, slightly fewer families this year say they haven’t started shopping (26.2% vs. 28.8% last year.)
Hoping to trim the costs where they can, some back-to-school shoppers made it a point to look for coupons and sales while scouring for new footwear, supplies, electronic items and apparel. And, according to the most recent survey, 15.2% of back-to-school shoppers said 100% of their purchases were influenced by coupons, sales and promotions, the highest percent since 2011; 14.8% of college students and their families say 76% to 99% of their shopping was influenced by coupons, also the highest for that range in the survey’s history.
In July, NRF found eight in 10 (81.1%) families with children in grades K-12 said the state of the economy would impact their school spending in some way; seven out of 10 (77.2%) college students and their families agreed.
In the survey, when asked what payment method back-to-school families used most often to purchase school necessities, 44.9% say they have or will use their debit cards more than cash (24.9%) and credit cards (27.9%). College students and their families have or will use debit cards (43.4%), followed by credit cards (33.7%) and cash (18.9%).
To wrap up their lists, most back-to-school shoppers will shop at discount (54%), department (47.7%) and clothing stores (35%), and online (24.8%). One-third (33.7%) will visit an office supply store and 10 percent will shop local and support small business.
Back-to-college shoppers will finish their shopping at discount (47.4%), department (40.3%) and clothing stores (26.8%). The most in the survey’s history – 37.4 percent – will wrap up their lists online.
“As schools looks to parents more and more to help fund classroom needs, parents are looking for as many ways as they can to cut costs, and that could very well be why we’re seeing more people seek out coupons and sales this summer,” said Prosper Insights Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow. “Low prices at the end of the season will definitely drive more college and school families to shop last minute, especially for those with specific items they need in order to start the school year.”
About the Survey
NRF’s 2014 Back-to-School and Back-to-College Surveys were designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to back to school spending and back to college spending. The surveys were conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The poll of 6,285 consumers was conducted from August 5 to12. The consumer polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 percentage points. View sample charts and the complete survey in NRF’s Retail Insight Center.