August 25, 2009, 12:00 AM

Survey and analyst agree: Old Navy leads in back-to-school retail sites

A new study by the National Retail Federation and an industry expert both rank Old Navy as one of the best back-to-school retail web sites.

A new study by the National Retail Federation and an industry expert both rank Old Navy as one of the best back-to-school retail web sites.

According to the NRF poll of more than 8,500 consumers, Old Navy ranks as one of the top back-to-school e-commerce sites along with those of Wal-Mart, Target, J.C. Penney, Staples and Kohl’s. 18.5% of consumers queried said that the web site motivated them to shop at that retailer, while an additional 33.0% said the web sites had no impact because they were already planning to shop there.

Nikki Baird, a managing partner at Retail Systems Research LLC and a mother, also gives Old Navy high marks.

“I just bought some children’s clothes for back to school. I went to Target, Old Navy and Children’s Place. I was really impressed with Old Navy. I was able to search by size, something that I didn’t realize was valuable until I went to Target’s site and had to click through each item to see if it was even available in the size I was looking for,” she says. “I know it’s not new or whiz-bang, but there is definitely something to be said for understated elegance when it comes to design.”

The NRF Survey also polled college students and their families about their favorite school shopping sites. They ranked Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon.com, J.C. Penney, Staples and Office Depot as having the best back-to-college web sites. Among college students 14.2% say the web sites influenced their decision to shop at that store and another 38.5% said they already were planning to shop there.

“Price is an important factor when it comes to back-to-school shopping, but there are other aspects to consider,” says Mike Gatti, executive director of the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association, a division of NRF. “Unique and creative marketing campaigns coupled with the right prices will be the key to driving sales as the summer comes to a close.”

The NRF estimates that total back-to-school and back-to-college spending will reach $47.5 billion this year. Families of students in grades K-12 will spend $548.72 on school merchandise, down 7.7% from $594.24 in 2008. Families of college students will spend $618.12, up slightly from last year’s $599.38.

NRF’s 2009 Back-to-School and Back-to-College Consumer Intentions and Actions Surveys were conducted Aug. 4-11 by BIGresearch.

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