woman shopping apparels in clothing boutique with protective face mask as new normal requirement in Malaysia

Back-to-school shoppers are expected to spend a bit more this year than in 2019 — even in spite of uncertainty over school openings, according to a new survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers.

Its back-to-school survey was conducted by Engine Insights on behalf of ICSC in late July and is a representative U.S. sample of 1,005 adults 18 years of age and older.

The ICSC, which is a membership organization serving retail and real estate professionals, said the average consumer is expected to spend an average of $1,053 on back-to-school or related items, which is up approximately $200 from last year, with an expected increase in spending on electronics and furniture.

“Fluidity” is looking like the norm for back-to-school policies these days, as students and administrators remain entirely uncertain about when — or if — they will return to school. Only 26 percent of respondents indicated school would resume with regular instruction, and 28 will resume schooling in an online-only format (which was a particularly “popular pursuit” in the South, at 30 percent and the West, at 40 percent), authors of the report said.

Preparing to stay at home means shoppers showed strong demand for electronics and home furnishings, at 59 percent and 45 percent, respectively, to accommodate changes — and perhaps also beautify their surroundings, as well as invest in standard school supplies and clothing.

Tom McGee, president and chief executive officer at ICSC, said, “It is encouraging to see consumers planning to spend more on back-to-school this year, especially in light of the uncertainties brought on by the pandemic.”

Los Angeles Retail Reopening amid COVID-19 Pandemic - 28 May 2020

Back-to-school shopping trends will look a bit different this year.  Michael Buckner/WWD

“Ultimately, the goal is for students to resume their education safely and effectively. Retailers are doing everything in their power to meet changing consumer needs this back-to-school season.”

Authors of the report added, “uncertainty around the structure of learning may be changing how and when consumers shop for goods this year,” citing that 62 percent of respondents won’t begin shopping until they have a definitive answer about how their child’s school will reopen, and 65 percent stating that the amount they spend is contingent upon the schedule and format of their child’s schooling.

“This could extend the back-to-school shopping season, as 55 percent of consumers intend to make several trips to stores for items, and 58 percent of spending expected to happen in August and September,” the authors noted.

And for a much-needed dose of optimism, the organization said 96 percent of respondents will make purchases from stores with a physical presence and that “click-and-collect” shopping has also popularized of late, with 56 percent expecting to use this method.

McGee continued, “This is no ordinary back-to-school season, but that isn’t deterring consumers from spending money at physical stores. Back-to-school shopping continues to be popular, even in these uncertain times.”

For more Business news from WWD, see:

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