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Early Promotions Resonate with Back-to-School Shoppers, According to NRF

For Immediate Release
Shari Brown or Kathy Grannis (855) NRF-PRESS
browns@nrf.com or grannisk@nrf.com
www.nrf.com/backtoschool

Download complete survey results

Early Promotions Resonate with Back-to-School Shoppers, According to NRF
-NRF/Prosper survey finds families staying on budget by using cash or debit rather than credit cards-

Washington, August 20, 2013 – 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. 

“The importance of sticking to a budget is all too familiar for families today, especially when it comes to big spending events such as back-to school and back to college,” said Prosper Consumer Insights Director Pam Goodfellow. “Savvy shoppers are learning that the method of payment is just as significant as spreading out spending when trying to stay within their means.”

In order to check off the last items on their lists, consumers will continue to look for bargains in stores and online. College shoppers and their families will do the remainder of their shopping at discount (50.0%), department (38.2%) and clothing stores (31.9%). More than one-third (34.8%) will complete their shopping online.

Visit sample charts at NRF’s Retail Insight Center.

About the survey

NRF’s 2013 Back-to-School and Back-to-College spending surveys were designed to gauge consumer behavior and shopping trends related to back-to-school spending and back-to-college spending. The surveys were conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The poll of 5,679 consumers was conducted August 5-12. The consumer polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 percentage points.

Prosper Insights and Analytics delivers executives timely, consumer-centric insights from multiple sources. As a comprehensive resource of information, Prosper represents the voice of the consumer and provides knowledge to marketers regarding consumer views on the economy, personal finance, retail, lifestyle, media and domestic and world issues. www.ProsperDiscovery.com

As the world’s largest retail trade association and the voice of retail worldwide, NRF represents retailers of all types and sizes, including chain restaurants and industry partners, from the United States and more than 45 countries abroad. Retailers operate more than 3.6 million U.S. establishments that support one in four U.S. jobs – 42 million working Americans. Contributing $2.5 trillion to annual GDP, retail is a daily barometer for the nation’s economy. NRF’s This is Retail campaign highlights the industry’s opportunities for life-long careers, how retailers strengthen communities, and the critical role that retail plays in driving innovation. www.nrf.com

The total spending figure is an extrapolation of U.S. adults 18 and older.

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