Posted July 11, 2013 4:27 pm by with 0 comments

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1110956_pencilsThe average person divides the year into four seasons – winter, summer, spring and fall. But for retailers, the seasons are defined by the highpoints in the shopping cycle. Mother’s Day is over, as is 4th of July and that means it’s time for back-to-school.

Last year, consumers spent a total of $84 billion over seven weeks. This year, because unemployment is down and consumer sentiment is up, everyone is expecting to see an increase of around 4%. just published the results of their back-to-school survey and there was some good news and bad news.

First, they asked parents of school-aged children to estimate their total spend.

  • 21% will spend $1-$100
  • 22% will spend $101-$200
  • 21% will spend $201-$300
  • 8% will spend $301-$400
  • 16% will spend more than $400
  • 4% won’t spend anything
  • 8% are not sure what they are spending

I say, anyone who gets away spending under $100 must be home schooling or dreaming. The number of supplies that students are required to purchase grows larger every year. If you include the cost of school uniforms or just a few new outfits, you’re over the $100 mark. Multiply that by multiple kids and you can see why so many parents fall into the $200 to $400 bracket.

Even with parents taking on a portion of the load, RetailMeNot reports that nearly 9 in 10 (87%) teachers have had to pay for classroom supplies for their students using their own money. (You can read more about that situation and help a teacher win a 3-minute Costco shopping spree here.)

Back to the report:

78% of back-to-school shoppers plan to shop in-store

This number floored me at first, but then I started thinking about it. A large portion of the back-to-school budget goes to buying small items like pencils and notebooks and highlighters. You can buy these things online and you might save money, but even to me it feels like the wrong way to go. However, I remember what its like to walk into Staples on the first day of school and its insane.

For those who are buying big ticket items such as new computers or school uniforms for the year, online makes sense but apparently only a small portion of consumers can see that.

97% of those surveyed said they were hoping to find back-to-school deals. Most were looking for deals on clothes and shoes. Only 21% said they were looking for discounts on computers and tech. 3% said they’re okay with paying full price. Really? I know hunting for deals can be a pain, but you really don’t care about saving money?

As for the timing, 47% said they’ll be doing the majority of their shopping in August. Which is not that far away.

If you sell anything even remotely connected to back-to-school, it’s time to start pushing those items to the front of your website. Next thing you know, it’s going to be all Ho, Ho, Ho.