One in five US back-to-school shoppers save money by shopping late

August 7, 2015

With the back-to-school shopping season in full swing, new research from Mintel reveals how consumers are leveraging saving strategies to cut costs. Some 42 percent of back-to-school (BTS) shoppers say it takes multiple trips to get everything they need for the upcoming school year, including one in five (23 percent) who say they get better deals by waiting until later in the shopping season. Similarly, slightly more than half of US parents (55 percent) agree that postponing BTS purchases until after the end of the season is a good way to save money.

Other popular saving strategies for BTS include the nearly nine in 10 (88 percent) parents with school-aged children who use coupons as way to save money when buying BTS items. Coupons are especially popular with moms/female guardians, who are the most likely to strongly agree (60 percent) that coupons are a good way to save money when BTS shopping.

“Our research indicates many shoppers are waiting to purchase back-to-school supplies in order to take advantage of last minute deals. However, we know parents are strapped for time and waiting could cause unwanted stress as consumers scramble to get everything they need, creating a desire for added convenience later in the shopping season,” said Bryant Harland, Technology Analyst at Mintel.

Kids have a say in BTS purchases

One third of BTS shoppers (33 percent) admit that children have a strong influence on the items they buy. Among parents, this influence becomes more clear with nearly 40 percent saying they’re willing to spend more on products for their kids than when they’re shopping just for themselves. According to Mintel’s Kids as Influencers US 2014 report, 84 percent of parents with children age 6-11 said they either sometimes or often ask their kids for their opinions when purchasing clothing products.

Mothers and fathers are equally likely to be influenced by children when shopping (32 percent vs 34 percent respectively). However, Mintel data highlights that although 64 percent of fathers say they will spend more as a result of children’s influence, they are also more likely than mothers to say they conduct thorough research before making BTS purchases (61 percent of fathers vs 50 percent of mothers). In general, women tend to place more value on coupons and discount-related features. Over half (52 percent) of women age 35 and older state coupons influence their purchase decisions, indicating that engaging moms is more of a matter of offering the right deal at the right time.

There are a few top-ranking information sources that affect consumers on the path to purchase. Back-to-school shoppers ranked coupons (43 percent) and brand familiarity (40 percent) as important to them when looking for specific products. Just 9 percent of BTS shoppers ranked retailers’ advice as an important source of information.

In-store still the most popular BTS shopping destination

While consumers aged 25-44 are the most likely to report participating in BTS shopping (65 percent), the incidence of BTS shopping from other age groups remains significant with 50 percent of adults age 45-54 reporting they went shopping in 2014. Most BTS shopping purchases are conducted in-store, including office supply (31 percent) and dollar stores (26 percent). However, e-commerce is still a prominent force in the BTS market with 42 percent of BTS consumers shopping at internet-only retailers.

Younger BTS shoppers are more likely than older ones to shop with their friends and family (66 percent of those age 25-34 compared to 44 percent of those age 55 and older), but they are also more likely to prefer shopping by themselves (69 percent vs 44 percent). While this may seem contradictory, Mintel’s Back to School Shopping US 2015 report indicates that men and women aged 25-34 are more likely than older shoppers to agree they often feel rushed to get BTS items (67 percent), indicating a need to shop alone on occasion to expedite the process. Despite the potential for stress, 54 percent of BTS shoppers view BTS shopping itself as a fun and social experience.

Back-to-school shoppers age 25-34 are more likely than all other age groups to plan to spend more in the 2015 BTS shopping season (53 percent compared to 35 percent overall). About half or more of all other age groups plan to spend about the same on BTS in 2015, including 51 percent of consumers age 35-44 and 59 percent of 45-54 year olds.

“Nearly half of US consumers plan to spend about the same on back-to-school in 2015, indicating that price will continue to remain a factor and most consumers are aiming to remain within their previously allocated budgets for back-to-school. Despite the potential draws of online shopping, consumers overwhelmingly prefer to shop back-to-school in-store. For parents, shopping in-store ensures they’re buying products their children like while still ensuring that the items match any specific requirements from their kids’ schools.” continued Harland.

Shoppers seek improvements through discounts, added convenience and larger product selection

The majority of shoppers (60 percent) ranked more discounts as an improvement they would like to see in the BTS shopping experience. Other core consumer frustrations are focused around product availability (37 percent) and the convenience of buying or returning items (24 percent). Younger men and women age 18-34, as well as men age 35+ show an elevated interest in product and service bundles (25 percent).

When considering other highly desired retail improvements, consumers are looking for added convenience, including free delivery for online purchases (23 percent) and fewer barriers between entering the store and purchasing a product, including a faster checkout process (35 percent). According to Mintel’s Mobile Phones US 2014 report, improvements to expedite checkout could come in the evolution of mobile payment.

“Back-to-school shoppers are looking for more discounts, more convenient features in-store and larger product selections to improve the back-to-school shopping experience. Advancements in retail technology, including mobile payment and syncing online ordering capabilities when in stores, could drive greater engagement value for BTS shoppers,” concluded Harland.


Press review copies of the Back to School Shopping US 2015 report and interviews with Bryant Harland, Technology Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

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