Integer study: Fewer back-to-school shoppers this year, but more spending

DENVER — About 36% of shoppers don’t plan to do back-to-school shopping this year, up from 31% in 2013 and 28% in 2012, according to a new study by the Integer Group and M/A/R/C research. However, those who will shop are poised to spend more than ever.

"Shoppers are expected to spend more this year so our study showing a drop in the amount of people who will be shopping presents an interesting dynamic," the Integer Group’s SVP insight and strategy Craig Elston. "A combination of several factors could explain why a third of the respondents won't be shopping, including fewer school-age children in the home and households repurposing school supplies and merchandise to help minimize costs."

Among those who will be shopping, a little less than half will look to mass retailers for their back-to-school essentials. This number, though, is about 6% lower than it was in 2013. In fact, most shopping channels are in decline when it comes to back-to-school shoppers. The starkest contrast over the past three years is in drug stores, where only about a fourth of shoppers plan to shop this season — down nearly 10% from 2012 and 5% from 2013.

Among back-to-school shoppers, the most important thing, according to the study, is the lowest price on the items they need. Many shoppers are moving online, with about 40% of millenials planning to shop online. Additionally, more shoppers are getting the information about which retailer to visit online, with social media, retailer sites and the Internet generally gaining shoppers, while such traditional forms as newspaper circulars — down 19 points from 2013 — lose steam. However, in store, 44% of shoppers refer to circulars.

“Retailers must work to improve integration between their brick-and-mortar and online shopping experiences to provide optimized product selection, availability and expedited shipping or in-store pickup,” the report said. “Brands, as well, need to ensure that back-to-school coupons and promotions feature a user-friendly and engaging digital component, including use of mobile and social media platforms.”

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