Study: One in Three Consumers Skip Back-to-School Shopping

A slower retail season?

Back-to-school sales will continue to drop this year, according to projections from The Integer Group. The global retail marketing agency teamed up with M/A/R/C Research to complete the study, which found that 36 percent of U.S. consumers, constrained by tight budgets, will not do any back-to-school shopping this season.

A decline was already evident in 2013, with a dip of 3.5 percent from the prior year. This year, a drop of nearly 5 percent is projected. With fewer people shopping, retailers will be under more pressure to offer compelling deals, higher quality products and engaging ad campaigns.

Craig Elston, svp of insight and strategy at The Integer Group, offered a theory on what triggered the decline. "A combination of several factors could explain why a third of the respondents won't be shopping, including fewer school-age children in the home and households repurposing school supplies and merchandise to help minimize costs," he said.

Among those who do shop, a growing number will go online. According to Deloitte’s annual back-to-school survey, six in 10 shoppers will buy supplies on their tablets, while one in five will use social media to complete back-to-school shopping. Integer’s data indicates that half of all millennial shoppers are using the Internet to complete their purchases.

Some other key findings of Integer’s study:

  • For three out of four shoppers, price is the most important element in back-to-school purchases, although a growing number of consumers are focused on quality and fun.
  • Hispanic shoppers are more likely to shop for back-to-school: Only 17 percent will not be shopping, compared to 43 percent of Caucasians.
  • Although 44 percent of all shoppers still browse traditional circulars and catalogs, only 24 percent of millennials do, indicating that digital channels are likely to surpass print over time.
  • Over half of all shoppers will wait until one to three weeks before school to buy their supplies.