Back-to-School Shopping Only at Halfway Mark, Despite Early Start

WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Although back-to-school shopping started earlier this year, families are
slowly tackling their supplies lists. According to the National Retail
Federation’s annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics,
the average family with children in grades K-12 has completed almost
half (48 percent) of their shopping as of early August, slightly down
from last year (50 percent).

“It is evident that many families are still considering price and value
when shopping for their back-to-school and college needs,” NRF President
and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Shopping early and often is a trend we have
seen from many budget-conscious consumers over the last few years. In
the weeks ahead, parents will take advantage of the aggressive deals
that retailers will offer as they get ready to welcome the fall season

K-12 Spending Update

According to the survey, only 13 percent of families with children in
grades K-12 have completed their shopping lists. However, 22 percent of
families have yet to start their shopping, up from last year’s 20

For the first time, the survey asked consumers which back-to-school
items they still needed to complete their shopping list. According to
the survey, 77 percent need to buy school supplies, followed by clothing
(70 percent) and shoes (57 percent).

When searching for the perfect deals, 48 percent of parents are
influenced by coupons, up from 43 percent last year and the highest in
the survey’s history. Families will also take advantage of in-store
promotions (39 percent) and advertising inserts (33 percent) to complete
their shopping lists. For those who started shopping early, half (50
percent) of their purchases were influenced by coupons, sales and/or

Taking a deeper dive into classroom needs, the survey found that 64
percent of supply purchases for back-to-school are influenced by school
requirements. In addition, 45 percent of parents buying electronics were
influenced by their schools.

When it comes to where consumers will finish their shopping, 53 percent
will head to discount stores, 51 percent to department stores, 39
percent to clothing stores and 37 percent to office supply stores. More
will shop online this year, 31 percent compared with 27 percent last
year, the highest in the survey’s history.

When asked what payment method families will use most often to complete
their purchases, 49 percent will use their debit cards while 29 percent
will use their credit cards. Cash (21 percent) and checks (2 percent)
will hardly be used as primary forms of payment, reaching the lowest
levels ever in survey history.

College Spending Update

Similar to back-to-school shoppers, college students and families with
children in college have completed almost 48 percent of their shopping,
slightly down from 49 percent last year. According to the survey, only
15 percent of consumers have completed their shopping lists, compared
with 19 percent at this point last year.

“When it comes to big spending events such as back-to-school and
back-to-college, families are being very savvy in how they tackle their
lists,” Prosper Principal Analyst Pam Goodfellow said. “Families are
slowly completing their shopping this season while taking advantage of
expected promotions that will continue through Labor Day, and spreading
their budget as necessary.”

Consumers were asked for the first time which back-to-college items are
still needed to complete their shopping lists. According to the survey,
61 percent still need to purchase school supplies, followed by clothing
(50 percent) and personal care items (33 percent).

The survey found college consumers will likely complete the rest of
their shopping at discount stores (42 percent, lowest in survey
history), followed by department stores (42 percent, highest in survey
history) and online shopping (40 percent, also a survey high).

Coupons and promotions are helping consumers with back-to-college
purchases: 42 percent of college consumers say they are using coupons to
complete their shopping list. A few more college shoppers will take
advantage of in-store promotions (32 percent), followed by advertising
inserts (29 percent). For those who have already made back-to-college
purchases, half were influenced by promotions (50 percent, up from 48
percent last year).

Debit/check cards are the most preferred method of payment for college
shoppers, with 44 percent using them. Credit cards continue to make
gains, with 36 percent of respondents using them to complete their

The survey asked 6,915 consumers about both back-to-school and
back-to-college shopping plans. It was conducted August 2-9 and has a
margin of error of plus or minus 1.2 percentage points.

If you are a member of the press and require additional information or
insight about our back-to-school and college survey results, please
contact Ana Serafin Smith at

About Prosper Insights & Analytics

Prosper Insights & Analytics delivers executives timely,
consumer-centric insights from multiple sources. As a comprehensive
resource of information, Prosper represents the voice of the consumer
and provides knowledge to marketers regarding consumer views on the
economy, personal finance, retail, lifestyle, media and domestic and
world issues.

About NRF

NRF is the world’s largest retail trade association, representing
discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, Main
Street merchants, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and Internet
retailers from the United States and more than 45 countries. Retail is
the nation’s largest private sector employer, supporting one in four
U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.6 trillion to
annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s
This is Retail campaign highlights the industry’s opportunities for
life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the
critical role retail plays in driving innovation.



National Retail Federation
Treacy Reynolds or Ana Serafin Smith