NRF: Early Promotions Resonate with Back-to-School Shoppers

In What's New, Industry News by Accessories Staff

Back to School ShoppingWashington–As many retailers report their second quarter earnings this week, they often give status updates on their third quarters, which include back to school.

If the latest results from the National Retail Federation (NRF)’s 2013 Back-to-School and Back-to-College Survey are any indication, the current retail quarters are off to a good start.

The NRF surveys, conducted by Proper Insights and Analytics, found the average family with school-age children in grades K-12 has already completed more than half (52.1%) of its shopping, up from 40.1% the same time last year and the highest percent in the survey’s history.

College families have completed nearly half of their shopping as well (49.5%). NRF estimates school and college spending will reach $72.5 billion.*

“Given the historic level of early-bird shoppers we’ve seen this year, it is evident that many families still consider price and value when looking for their back-to-school and college needs,” said Matthew Shay, NRF president/ceo. “Shopping early and often has become a sign of the times as budget-conscious consumers aim to ease the brunt of large spending events.  In the weeks ahead, last minute shoppers can expect promotions to continue through Labor Day as retailers try to make room for fresh fall merchandise.”

Rising Role of Coupons, Special Offers

This year’s back-to-school items began flying off the shelves as summer heat began to set in. According to the survey, 16.3% of families with children in grades K to12 had already completed their shopping lists as of mid-August, a significant jump from the 7.8% last year. Fewer back-to-school shoppers say they haven’t started their shopping yet (20.9% vs. 26.9% in 2012).

With seven in 10 Americans (76.9%) saying that the economy is still impacting their school and college spending plans, sales and coupons are growing in popularity. Of those who have already started their shopping, the survey found that four in 10 (42.8%) back-to-school shoppers say retailers’ sales, coupons and promotions influenced at least half of their purchases, up from 38.5% last year.

Those shopping for back-to-college earlier also have risen from last year. According to NRF’s survey, by mid-August, two in 10 (20.0%) college shoppers have already completed their shopping, an increase from 16.4% who had wrapped up their shopping by this time last year.  Although many families were eager to take advantage of the best deals, 28.8% had not yet started their shopping as of mid-August.

Given the cost of many traditional college necessities, such as dorm furniture and electronics, one-third of back-to-college shoppers (33.1%) say at least half of their purchases were influenced by retailers’ special offers, promotions and coupons. And, when it comes to staying on budget, four in 10 (44.5%) college shoppers will use debit cards most often for their college purchases, and one-quarter (25.3%) will use cash most often. Another 24.9% say they will use their credit cards.

“The importance of sticking to a budget is all too familiar for families today, especially when it comes to big spending events such as back-to school and back to college,” said Prosper Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “Savvy shoppers are learning that the method of payment is just as significant as spreading out spending when trying to stay within their means.”

In order to check off the last items on their lists, consumers will continue to look for bargains in stores and online. College shoppers and their families will do the remainder of their shopping at discount (50.0%), department (38.2%) and clothing stores (31.9%). More than one-third (34.8%) will complete their shopping online.

About the Survey

NRF’s 2013 Back-to-School and Back-to-College spending 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 5,679 consumers was conducted August 5 to 12. The consumer polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 percentage points.


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