Consumers likely putting off back-to-school shopping

Most will opt to compare prices, use money-saving techniques

LOS ANGELES — Back-to-school shopping likely will take place even later this year than in 2010, as consumers hope to score last-minute deals, the latest forecast from PriceGrabber revealed.

PriceGrabber, a part of Experian, found that 95% of consumers are planning to use some sort of money-saving technique when back-to-school shopping, and they plan to start shopping later in 2011 than they did in 2010.

According to the survey, 49% of back-to-school shoppers plan to make purchases in August, compared with 38% who said that in 2010. Only 14% said they will begin shopping in June, versus 26% in 2010.

PriceGrabber found that the reason for the delay is because shoppers want more time to compare prices online and take advantage of last-minute discounts. The survey found that 69% of consumers will shop online or use comparison shopping websites, and 41% will visit retailer websites to print out coupons.

Though shoppers may be delaying their purchases, economic concerns have most saying they will spread them out, with 55% saying they will distribute the cost of purchases over a longer time period.

"While the economic climate is beginning to improve, we are not surprised to see that back-to-school shoppers remain cautiously optimistic," PriceGrabber general manager Graham Jones said. "Further analysis of the data supports the idea that consumers are careful to distribute their purchases over an extended period, if possible. However, shoppers are also becoming increasingly savvy and open to taking advantage of online shopping solutions that they may not have considered in the past, as can be seen by many consumers' decisions to begin shopping at a later date."

When back-to-school shoppers do get around to making purchases, they will be budget-conscious. Of the consumers who are shopping for back-to-school items this year, 52% planned to spend as much as they did last year, and 35% planned to spend less. Only 13% planned to spend more this year because of the economic recovery.

The survey was conducted between May 12 and 19 and includes responses from 2,612 U.S. online consumers.

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