B-T-S transaction activity begins in late June.

A just-released study from HRC Retail Advisory revealed a preference by Generation Z consumers to shop sooner and in stores this back-to-school season. The survey found that 54 percent of respondents will shop for b-t-s items “exclusively in-store this season.”

“Further, retailers should be ready for increased foot traffic earlier than ever, with a quarter of Generation Z consumers already starting to shop for back-to-school, and nearly all actively seeking deals or discounts before buying online,” the researchers of the firm said.

The report comes as consultants and economists see b-t-s sales ticking up higher this year compared with last. Today, Deloitte noted spending on apparel is pegged to rise to $501 per household this year, which compares with $488 last year.

Farla Efros, president of HRC Retail Advisory, said as Generation Z heads into stores earlier, “bricks-and-mortar retailers need to be prepared, particularly as this group continues to show distinct preferences, habits and influence over household purchases. Mass merchant stores like Wal-Mart, for example, will likely see increased traffic from these price-conscious consumers who will be actively seeking deals on their must-have back-to-school items including sneakers, athleticwear and the latest technology.”

The firm’s survey was based on 676 respondents who live in North America, and focused on “their attitudes, behaviors and influences driving their purchases this season.”

In regard to preferences for shopping exclusively in stores, purchases of school supplies and beauty and personal grooming items skewed higher than other categories. There were also differences in preferences between genders. “While 30 percent of respondents leverage both in-store and online shopping, online retailers are more relevant to boys than to girls,” authors of the report said. “Nine percent of boys report they’ll shop exclusively online for back-to-school versus just 4 percent of girls, which highlights the need for retailers to market to these groups differently and distinctly.”

HRC also said “boys are almost twice as likely to shop early, particularly those in the 10 to 13 age group.”

More than 90 percent of respondents said “discounts are at least somewhat important, while more than a third (37 percent) say they’re extremely important when shopping back-to-school.” The firm said that boys “place more importance on discounts when buying athletic shoes and sneakers, sports and athletic clothing and technology.” With girls discounts were key for school supplies, beauty and grooming products, footwear and decorative products.

The survey also showed a preference for shopping at mass merchants. “Thirty-six percent of boys and girls cite Wal-Mart as their first choice for back-to-school shopping, more than double that of any other retailer,” HRC researchers noted. “Target ranked second (14 percent), especially among girls, followed by Amazon (12 percent), led by boys. Department stores and specialty stores didn’t make the list, when ranking the top back-to-school shopping destinations.”

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