Back-to-school shopping began earlier than ever this year, and according to NRF’s 2013 Back-to-School and Back-to-College Surveys conducted by Prosper Insights and Analytics, the average family with school-age children in grades K-12 has already completed more than half (52.1%) of its shopping, up from 40.1 percent the same time last year and the highest percent in the survey’s history. College families have completed nearly half of their shopping as well (49.5%). NRF estimates school and college spending will reach $72.5 billion.
“Given the historic level of early-bird shoppers we’ve seen this year, it is evident that many families still consider price and value when looking for their back-to-school and college needs,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.
“Shopping early and often has become a sign of the times as budget-conscious consumers aim to ease the brunt of large spending events. In the weeks ahead, last minute shoppers can expect promotions to continue through Labor Day as retailers try to make room for fresh fall merchandise.”
This year’s back-to-school items began flying off the shelves as summer heat began to set in. According to the survey, 16.3 percent of families with children in grades K-12 had already completed their shopping lists as of mid-August, a significant jump from the 7.8 percent last year. Fewer back-to-school shoppers say they haven’t started their shopping yet (20.9% vs. 26.9% in 2012).
With seven in 10 Americans (76.9%) saying that the economy is still impacting their school and college spending plans, sales and coupons are growing in popularity. Of those who have already started their shopping, the survey found that four in 10 (42.8%) back-to-school shoppers say retailers’ sales, coupons and promotions influenced at least half of their purchases, up from 38.5 percent last year.
In the survey, when asked what payment method back-to-school families used most often to purchase school necessities, 46.2 percent say they will use their debit cards most often, over cash (31.0%) and credit (19.9%). To wrap up their lists, most will head to their favorite discount (57.6%), department (52.4%) and clothing stores (39.5%), and online (25.1%).
Many families can check back-to-college shopping off their to-do list
According to NRF’s Back-to-College Survey, by mid-August, two in 10 (20.0%) college shoppers have already completed their shopping, an increase from 16.4 percent who had wrapped up their shopping by this time last year. Although many families were eager to take advantage of the best deals on everything from TVs to fashionable curtains, 28.8 percent had not yet started their shopping as of mid-August.
Given the cost of many traditional college necessities, such as dorm furniture and electronics, one-third of back-to-college shoppers (33.1%) say at least half of their purchases were influenced by retailers’ special offers, promotions and coupons. And, when it comes to staying on budget, four in 10 (44.5%) college shoppers will use debit cards most often for their college purchases, and one-quarter (25.3%) will use cash most often. Another 24.9 percent say they will use their credit cards.
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