Cost Conscious and Efficient: A Profile of the Back-to-School Shopper

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August 4, 2016


Back-to-school shopping is an economic event with a sizeable impact on the economy. To get a sense of how shoppers go about their spending, JLL surveyed nearly 2,000 consumers nationwide. According to JLL’s survey, back-to-school shoppers, like many other consumers, are looking for quality and convenience at prices they can afford.

The cost of goods is of supreme importance to this cost-conscious group of consumers. 71.2 percent of respondents ranked “low prices” as number one or two on a list of factors that influence their shopping. Furthermore, 50.8 percent of respondents ranked this as the single biggest factor affecting where they shop.

Most shoppers ranked apparel or supplies as their top category of back-to-school spending. 52.2 percent of shoppers told us they will spend more on clothes than any other category. According to data from the National Retail Federation (NRF), shoppers will pay on average $235.39 on clothing and accessories, and another $107.76 on school supplies.

Shoppers opt for superstores, where prices are low and both clothing and supplies are in abundance. 85.2 percent of respondents say they will shop at superstores for school supplies, with Walmart and Target as their top destinations.

The top back-to-school retail destinations named were:

  1. Walmart
  2. Target
  3. JCPenney
  4. Macy’s

In addition to offering low prices, these retail destinations appeal to the “one-stop-shop” efficiency of back-to-school shoppers. 81.7 percent of respondents plan to shop at five or fewer stores for back-to-school items. Their affinity for efficiency, however, has not driven them online. Just 19.2 percent said they would buy school supplies online and only 26.7 percent said they would buy apparel online. These responses are representative of how e-commerce has had an uneven impact on various segments of the retail industry. Retail segments like clothing, the largest area of spending for back-to-school shoppers, have been minimally disrupted by the emergence of e-commerce.

Despite consumers naming low prices as a major factor in their shopping decisions, many plan to spend more per child this year than they did last year. Those that intend to spend from $101 to $500 per child dropped by 12 percentage points, while those spending $501 to $1,000 grew by 8.2 percentage points. At a macro level the NRF estimates back-to-school spending will grow by 11.5 percent this year.

For the full JLL Back-to-School Survey, click here.

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