Back-To-School: This Year, Online Is Big, Discount Stores Are Bigger

Back-to-school shoppers will either be more tightfisted than usual or more likely to spend as much as $500, according to a pair of dueling surveys reported separately by Chain Store Age.

Part of the difference may be due to the in-store/online split. A survey by e-commerce platform vendor PriceGrabber shows that 68 percent of U.S. back-to-school customers have set that $500 limit, compared with 63 percent in 2012 and 48 percent in 2011. But that survey of 2,191 consumers came from online shoppers.

Meanwhile, Deloitte's annual back-to-school and back-to-college surveys found that number of parents with grade-school children who said they'll buy only what the family needs increased to 57 percent from last year's 52 percent, and those who plan to reuse last year's items jumped to 35 percent from 20 percent in 2012. (PriceGrabber's survey also found that reusing instead of buying new will be big this year.)

Deloitte's surveys found that 36 percent of parents expect to do at least some of their back-to-school shopping online—a substantial jump from last year—while PriceGrabber's survey pegged that number at 54 percent. Both surveys said discount stores are still the top back-to-school destination, and office supply stores are in the top three.

The fact that the parents Deloitte surveyed are getting much closer in their where-to-shop preferences to those in the PriceGrabber online survey suggests that the brick-and-mortar and e-commerce split is steadily disappearing. Increasingly, everyone is an online shopper and everyone heads for brick-and-mortar stores, depending on when they think it's appropriate.

But that also means retailers can no longer pin their hopes on somewhat better-off online shoppers. When everyone wants to rein in spending and reuse instead of buy new in an economy that's only moderately improving, it's going to take more work than usual to get shoppers to buy. No wonder back-to-school started in June this year.

For more:

- See this Chain Store Age Deloitte survey story
- See this Chain Store Age PriceGrabber survey story

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Back-To-School Creep Is Here, But It May Not Help