MODEL RELEASED Group of school children (10-13) using computers in classroomVARIOUS

It may be only July, but back-to-school is lurking around the corner.

Parents with children in grades kindergarten through 12 are expected to spend an average of $501 per student on b-t-s shopping this year, reaching an estimated $27 billion, according to Deloitte’s “2017 Back-to-School Survey” released today.

The b-t-s shopping season accounts for about 50 percent of consumers’ annual school-related spend and involves about one-quarter of U.S. households, according to the study.

One key finding of the survey is where parents plan to shop for b-t-s merchandise. The study found that market share is moving away from department stores and specialty channels, toward mass merchants and off-price venues.

According to the study, 81 percent of parents said they plan to shop at mass merchants — a 24 percent jump from last year. Forty percent said they’ll shop at dollar stores and 36 percent said they’ll shop at online-only retailers. Twenty-eight percent of parents said they plan to shop at department stores, a significant decline from 54 percent last year.

Clothing and accessories garnered the largest piece of the b-t-s spend. Of the $501 average clothing budget this year (compared with $488 a year ago), 55 percent is earmarked to clothing and accessories, 20 percent to school supplies; 14 percent to computers and hardware, and 9 percent to electronic gadgets.

“With today’s technology-based education system, there is less need for traditional school supplies, likely contributing to the shift toward more spending on clothing and accessories before children head back to school,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution practice leader. “Part of this shift may also come from the popularity of preconfigured school supply kits, which 30 percent of families plan to use. Shoppers can now get their supplies all at once, leaving more time and budget for spending in other categories such as clothing and accessories.”

According to the survey, in-store shopping still prevails, but shoppers are shifting their spend across distribution channels. The expected in-store spend is more than twice that of the online spend ($288 in-store versus $103 online, on average). High spenders are more likely to shop for computers and gadgets and opt for online channels compared to other spenders, the survey found.

Digital influence was found to be strong across multiple touch points. More than two-thirds expect online and physical channels to complement each other. The survey found that shoppers still utilize computers and smartphones during the shopping journey, but more still purchase via computer. One-quarter plan to use social media for transactional purposes to find promotions and coupons and browse. Some 77 percent said they would use new digital in-store technologies that offer value and convenience.

Finally, 71 percent of the total b-t-s spend occurs during an eight-week period from early July through late August. The survey found that early shoppers are likely to spend more than late starters, in all regions except the West.

The Deloitte survey was conducted online using an independent research panel between May 31 and June 6. The survey polled a sample of 1,200 parents of school-aged children. All respondents had at least one child attending school in grades K-12 this fall.

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