Surveys show more spending likely on back-to-school shopping

back to school shopping RetailMeNot, Inc., a leading digital savings destination connecting consumers with retailers, restaurants and brands, both online and in-store (, released a new study today, titled “Back-to-School Cheat Sheet: Consumer Trends and Insights for Retailers,” that explores the shopping habits of parents as they prepare for their students’ return to the classroom.

While shoppers plan to spend an average of $273 per child, up from their anticipated spending of $246 in 2015, the strain on family budgets keeps deal-seeking top of mind. In fact, more than half (56%) look for back-to-school deals regularly. From book bags to smartphones to the latest fashion, consumers have weighed in on what they plan to spend, when they’ll hit the stores and what kinds of promotions grab their attention and entice them to head to the nearest checkout.

“The fact that consumers are saying they will spend more money for back-to-school shopping speaks to increased consumer confidence,” said Marissa Tarleton, chief marketing officer of North America for RetailMeNot, Inc. “Deals give consumers the added confidence to splurge on the things they need and want. What’s most interesting to me is that even high earners are deal seekers. Everyone is looking for the most value when spending their hard-earned dollars, and when they find it, they tend to spend more.”

Majority of Parents Say Yes to Big Back-to-School Spending

As the second-largest shopping season of the year, it should come as no surprise that nearly 9 in 10 parents (86%) plan on shopping for back-to-school supplies this summer. But how much will they spend with retailers? More than 2 in 5 (42%) surveyed said that they plan to spend between $100 and $500 per student this fall. Another 12% plan to spend more than $500 on back-to-school merchandise for each child.

The majority of parents still prefer to head in-store, with more than half (56%) expecting to buy supplies mostly or completely in a physical store. Merchants wanting to capitalize on these shoppers should plan to offer mobile deals in order to drive shoppers from browsing to buying. In fact, according to a February 2016 study from Placed and RetailMeNot, Inc., 43% of consumers search for coupons on a mobile app, and 15% look for digital deals while in-store.

There is good news for retailers hoping to catch online shoppers as well; 32% of consumers will shop equally online and in-store for back-to-school items. Surprisingly, fewer than 1 in 10 will shop mostly or completely online.

“Back-to-school shopping continues to be an in-store shopping holiday,” says Tarleton. “For retail marketers, reaching those consumers on-the-go via their mobiles devices becomes increasingly important. Mobile deals entice those shoppers into retailers’ stores.”

Many Shop All Summer to Find the Best Deal

Back-to-school shopping habits vary, including how often and when shoppers make it to the stores. Most parents prefer to begin their shopping later in the season, with 50% preferring to start in August or September. However, nearly 2 in 5 (38%) parents will make it to retailers earlier in June or July, the majority of those beginning in July. More than any other region, consumers in the South tend to shop earlier, with 37% starting in July.

U.S. parents shop in three different ways, almost equally: 26% say they buy items as they go on sale; 24% do all of their shopping on one weekend, and 23% plan to shop several days or weeks throughout the summer. Wishing to avoid the summer mall madness, 1 in 5 say that they shop throughout the year. In fact, one-third of the back-to-school shoppers who plan to spend $1,000 or more said they shop year-round.

What catches their eye when it comes to promotions, though? Most prefer a percentage off the total purchase (38%), however tax-free savings are preferred among many consumers in the South.

With nearly a third (28%) of parents saying that back-to-school shopping is a strain on their family’s finances, many are looking for the best deal. Females are more likely than males to always seek a deal.

Money also matters, and high spenders and high earners equally like to catch a break during the back-to-school season. Of those consumers who earned $150K or more a year, 1 in 3 say that they search for deals every time they shop.

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