b-t-s spending

Back-to-school spending is poised to see just a slight gain this season, according to Deloitte’s most recent survey, and households are expected to continue to make more purchases online. The report sets the b-t-s season as running from July through September, and said spending will rise 1.8 percent to $27.8 billion, or $519 per student, which compares with $510 last year.

The data was culled from a poll of 1,200 U.S. consumers.

At 54 percent of the total, apparel and accessories will take the lion’s share of b-t-s spending, researchers at the firm said in their report. This compares to school supplies at 22 percent and electronics at 11 percent. The spending estimates are for students in grades K through 12. By growth, consumer electronics is pegged to see the largest year-over-year gain.

“Spending on electronics and gadgets [smartphones, tablets, wearables] are set to rise $800 million, a 29 percent increase over 2018,” authors of the report said. And in regard to where consumers will make purchases, physical stores remain a top destination, but online continues to see gains.

“Most back-to-school purchases will continue to occur in stores [56 percent], consistent with prior years, but online is gaining ground and set to grab 29 percent of back-to-school spending, up from 23 percent last year,” Deloitte said. “The increase reflects a shift online among individuals who were previously undecided between online and in-store.”

With online, mobile shopping is also on the rise. Forty-two percent of consumers will be using desktops to shop, which is down from 49 percent last year. And of the consumers using smartphones, 54 percent are using the devices to visit a retail site while 51 percent are looking for promotions.

Rod Sides, vice chairman of Deloitte’s U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution business, said for the first time, “people are telling us they’re just as likely to use a smartphone to make purchases as a laptop or desktop, which previously held the lead when it was time to click the ‘buy’ button. Additionally, we continue to see just over half of purchases occurring in the stores, with undecided shoppers gravitating online. Retailers who understand this will position a range of in-store and digital offerings to meet consumers where they are.”

In regard to shopping preferences, Deloitte found that price is paramount. The researchers found that when it comes to deciding where to shop, competitive prices and promotions topped the list of preferences at 57 and 69 percent, respectively. “While most people also see convenience when shopping, only one-fifth [21 percent] plan to buy pre-configured school kits from their child’s school or Parent Teacher Association/organization,” the firm said.

Sides added that “price, product and convenience are the foundation of back-to-school shopping, like reading, writing and arithmetic. Nearly all shoppers are in the market for school supplies, which tend to be most price-driven, and clothing, where children have the greatest influence among all categories in the survey. While big-ticket items have the lowest overall demand, they command the highest average spend.”