Trend Alert: Despite Inflation Concern, Back-to-School Spending to Remain at Record Levels  - Retail Innovation Conference & Expo

Trend Alert: Despite Inflation Concern, Back-to-School Spending to Remain at Record Levels 

I know…we can’t believe it’s mid-August either! Before we start breaking out our fall décor (oops), we have to dig into all the back-to-school trends we’re seeing in yet another unprecedented year.  
Over the past few years, we’ve seen pandemic-driven shopping behaviors, hybrid learning formats and supply chain challenges impacting the back-to-school season. Now, we can add inflation to the list because it is a big reason why consumers are prioritizing the essentials, shopping earlier, doing more comparative shopping online and following stricter budgets.  

According to data from the National Federation of Retail (NRF), one-third of consumers (38%) are cutting back in other spending areas to cover the cost of items for the upcoming school year. As a result, total back-to-school spending is expected to match 2021’s record of $37 billion.   
We’ve been keeping a close eye on industry research and have uncovered some noteworthy trends that may stick around going into the holiday season — and beyond.  

3 Key Shopping Behaviors

The back-to-school shopping season is typically a big sales period for big-box retailers and 2023 is no exception: InMobi’s recent survey found that consumers’ top retailer for purchasing school supplies is Walmart, with Target (36%), Amazon (31%) and Dollar General (29%) following shortly behind. It’s also worth noting that consumers are shifting to back-to-store shopping. While 39% of shoppers are online shopping (down from 48% last year) to get necessary supplies, 61% are shopping in stores, according to RetailMeNot — up from 52% last year.  
While it’s great that consumers are back to shopping in stores, digital channels are still effective for driving product discovery and influence. Take, for instance, the role that digital played for consumers who wanted to get an early start on back-to-school shopping. Research revealed that last month (July), was the most popular month for consumers to begin back-to-school shopping. Consumers considered this to be prime time for early deals and savings for the essentials (hello, Amazon Prime Day). 
These three trends confirm that it’s all about connected commerce, ensuring the online experience and the physical experience are in sync! So, keep that in mind as you bring your holiday campaigns and strategies to market. Believe us, it’ll be here before you know it! 

More Insights on Back-to-School Trends 

Looking for more data on back-to-school shopping trends? We’ve rounded up a few recent articles for you to dive even deeper:

  • RetailMeNot on category-level spending: Not all spending is created equal. See how much consumers are spending across electronics, apparel, school supplies, décor and other categories. 
  • JLL’s findings on how inflation will impact back-to-school spending: In addition to inflation-focused findings, this research digs into shopping behaviors by generation. Whether your target customers are Boomers or Gen Z, you’ll have some great context into how they plan to shop (and what’s a priority for them).  
  • Deloitte reveals new shopper priorities: Sure, in times of economic pressure, consumers want to find the best value. But some consumers (Gen Z and Gen Alpha) are looking at retailers’ sustainability practices and whether brands are supporting causes that are meaningful to them, such as mental health. Execs, this is especially important as you think through your broader engagement strategies!  

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