July 19, 2012, 4:33 PM

Consumers return to web for back-to-school shopping

Continuing a five year trend, more consumers plan to shop online this year than last.

Amy Dusto

Associate Editor

Lead Photo

This year more consumers are turning to the Internet to aid their back-to-school shopping, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation. 39.6% of consumers buying school supplies and clothes for their children plan to shop online, and 17.9% say concerns about the economy are the reason. These numbers are up from last year, when 31.7% of consumers planned to shop online and 15.3% cited the economy as why.

The trend towards e-commerce for back-to-school shopping has been continuing through five years of survey data, during which time the amount of consumers who plan shop online for the occasion has increased from 21.4% in 2007.

Consumer research organization BIGinsight conducted back-to-school and back-to-college surveys for the NRF between July 2 and 9 this year. It polled 8,509 consumers over the age of 18 about their spending plans.

More consumers will also look for back-to-school savings online this year than last, 17.9% versus 15.3%, and use the Internet to comparison shop, 32.1% versus 29.8%. Similarly, more back-to-college shoppers also plan to shop online this year, 37.3% versus 33.4% last year, and comparison shop on the web, 34.6% versus 30.7% last year. 20.5% of back-to-college shoppers say the economy is driving their move towards Internet shopping this year, compared with 18.8% last year.

The surveys also revealed that, altogether, consumers this year will spend an average of $688.62 on school supplies and clothing for their K-12 children, up from $603.63 last year. In total, they’ll spend $30.3 billion; with college students, $83.8 billion. And they all want sales. Responding to how the state of the economy affects their shopping plans, most K-12 shoppers (51.1%) say they’ll shop for sales more often, as did most college shoppers (41.2%).

The timing of back-to-school shopping will also spread out: Just 3.2% of consumers will wait more than one week after school starts to shop, 2.7% will shop the week school starts, 24.0% will start shopping one to two weeks before, 47.8% will start three to four weeks before and 22.3% may already be shopping, responding that they’d start at least two months in advance.

“We fully expect retailers to be aggressive with their promotions both in-store and online, keeping an eye on inventory levels as families look to spread out their shopping throughout the entire summer,” says NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay.


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