Americans are expected to spend record amounts on back-to-school and back to college this year, and they plan to do most of that spending in physical stores.
That’s according to Forbes, which says back-to-school shopping, the second-biggest season of the year for retailers in terms of dollars spent, increasingly is becoming the most important opportunity of the year to draw shoppers into physical stores, and to create new customer relationships and strengthen existing ones.
Retailers who invest in making back-to-school shopping a pleasant experience for parent and child will be the biggest winners this year, according to retail experts and analysts.
“Parents want the BTS [back-to-school] experience of their kids picking out their backpack, and their pencil box, and their lunch box, and putting it in the cart — all as part of the rituals of school and getting them excited about the upcoming school year,” said Nikki Baird, a longtime retail analyst and VP of Strategy at Aptos, a retail technology company.
The annual Back-to-School survey by shopper analytics and retail solutions provider Sensormatic Solutions found that 79% of consumers plan to do their back-to-school shopping in stores this year, up from 76% in 2022 and 2021.
Sensormatic Solutions, which helps retailers track store traffic, expects the peak back-to-school shopping period will begin this week and run through Aug. 26.
Most back-to-school surveys this year show consumers are less concerned about inflation than they were last year, and in the mood to spend.
The most optimistic forecast, from the National Retail Federation, which bases its projections on consumer estimates of what they expect to spend, predicts Americans will spend $41.5 billion for back-to-school items for grades K-12. That’s an increase of $4.6 billion, or more than 12%, vs. last year. The NRF expects back-to-college spending to jump $20 billion to a record $94 billion.
Retail foot traffic analytics firm Placer.ai is seeing back-to-school shopping drive up visits to apparel chains, as well as at specialty retailers like Staples and Best Buy. Mass merchants such as Walmart and warehouse clubs such as Costco also have seen traffic gains as the back-to-school season began.
“Visits to the clothing category — and to its value-priced and children-oriented segments in particular — are up relative to this time last year. Leading superstore and wholesale chains and specialty electronics and office supply retailers are also seeing promising visit trends,” Placer.ai’s back-to-school report states.