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wslstrategicretail-bts-shopping-destinations-august2012.png3 in 4 back-to-school shoppers will be shopping at mass merchandisers such as Target, Walmart, and Kmart, motivated by selection rather than pricing, with just 26% of parents seeking to shop only where the best promotions are offered, according to an August 2012 study from WSL/Strategic Retail. A distant second in popularity among the nationwide survey respondents were department stores (34%), followed by dollar stores (30%), and internet sites (29%). Drug stores and warehouse clubs are comparatively less popular, with 24% of respondents choosing each.

Online Shopping Estimates Differ

The online shopping figure (30%) found by WSL/Strategic Retail differs from other studies, which show a wide range of online shopping preferences. For example, it is higher than reported by NPD Group in a July survey, which found that 16% of parents were planning to shop online for their back-to-school needs, with department stores (26%) their primary destination. A separate study from the NRF, also released in July, found that almost 2 in 5 back-to-school shoppers would shop online, with discount stores (67.6%) being the leading destination.

And per results from a Brand Keys survey of 10,000 US households with school-aged children, 54% cited online shopping as a preferred retail category this year, up 33% from last year, though discount stores (92%; -3%) and department stores (50%; -8%) were also preferred by many.

Online retailers certainly appear to be targeting these potential customers: according to the Retail Email Blog, the top online retailers sent each of their email subscribers an average of 3.6 promotional emails during the week ending August 10, 2012, up 19% year-over-year.

Some Parents Holding Off On Shopping

Meanwhile, an Ipsos and RetailMeNot.com survey released in August found that while 14% of parents say they typically start shopping in June or earlier, a plurality (32%) said they wait until August, with just 6% waiting until school begins to decide what will be in their basket. The Brand Keys survey found more patience among shoppers, with three-quarters saying they were planning to wait until the end of August and shop just before schools open.

The NRF survey also found a plurality (47.8%) of back-to-school shoppers saying they would shop 3 weeks to 1 month before school starts (thus, in August), though the trend from last year appeared to see families intending to shop earlier. That finding aligned with PriceGrabber survey results, which found 46% of respondents waiting until August or September to shop, down from 56% last year.

Other Findings:

  • The WSL/Strategic Retail study found that the most commonly sought items in shoppers’ baskets this year are school supplies (84%) and clothing and fashion accessories (76%). The Ipsos study also saw clothing and school supplies taking up the majority of parents’ budgets, while the NRF and PriceGrabber surveys both revealed these to be popular items. The Brand Key results showed clothing ($426) as the top budget item by average spend, with computers/electronics ($220) and shoes ($130) ahead of supplies ($97).
  • According to the Ipsos survey results, among parents who are back-to-school shoppers, 4 in 5 plan to spend up to $500 per child.
  • Per the Brand Keys survey, 4 in 5 parents say the economy has an impact on their overall spending, though this is down 7% from last year.
  • The Brand Keys survey found that Amazon was the top retailer in terms of increase in consumer intent-to-shop from last year.

About the Data: The WSL/Strategic Retail survey was conducted as a nationwide survey of men and women 18+ in June, 2012. The Ipsos poll was conducted July 12-17, 2012. For the survey, a national sample of 1,041 adults aged 18 and older with a child under the age of 18 from Ipsos’ U.S. online panel were interviewed online.

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