Back-to-School Still Means Back to the Store - eMarketer

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Back-to-School Still Means Back to the Store

In-store tops for most back-to-school items; foot traffic to continue through start of school year

August 10, 2015

Back-to-school shoppers are likely trekking to brick-and-mortar stores this summer. In June 2015 polling by, 91% of US parents planned to shop for back-to-school items in-store this year, vs. 37% who cited retailer sites, 16% cash-back sites and 7% mobile shopping apps.

Back-to-School Items that US Parent Internet Users Plan to Purchase In-Store vs. Digitally, July 2015 (% of respondents)

When a July 2015 study by Deloitte asked US parent internet users about the back-to-school items that they planned to purchase in-store vs. digitally, almost all of the categories were largely labeled as in-store-only purchases.

Nearly nine in 10 respondents with at least one child attending kindergarten to 12th grade this fall said they would buy school supplies in-store only, while eight in 10 planned to head exclusively to brick-and-mortar shops for shoes and more than seven in 10 for backpacks, book bags and lunch boxes. About two-thirds intended to make other fashion purchases such as accessories and clothes solely in stores, though more promising percentages would rely on both digital and physical shopping.

Technology and wearableshigh on students’ wish lists—stood the best chance at seeing digital action, especially the latter.

Back-to-School/Back-to-College Product Categories that US Parent Internet Users Intend to Purchase Digitally vs. In-Store, by Education Level of Child, June 2015 (% of respondents)

Polling by Rubicon Project in June 2015 found similar results. Among US parent internet users queried, respondents were more likely to say they would purchase items in-store than digitally or via both channels for every category listed—especially food and drinks, school supplies and apparel. Again, technology items such as mobile phones and telecommunications products as well as tablets, PCs, music players and so forth were the most likely to see digital action. Further, digital shops stood the best chance among back-to-college shoppers.

May 2015 research by Eyeview suggests that digital will still play a part in the path to purchase for school supplies. When the study asked US parent internet users if they webroomed, two-thirds reported researching items digitally before buying in-store.

The back-to-school buying season started months ago, but stores should still be prepared to see heavy foot traffic in the coming weeks as parents finish stocking up. Fully 54% of parents said they would complete their back-to-school shopping less than one month before the school year, and more than three in 10 planned to do this after it started.

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