July 29, 2014

Majority of Parents Say They Will Increase Back-to-School Spending This Year and Most Plan to Shop in a Physical Store, Accenture Survey Finds

Parents carry the wallet, but children carry the purchasing power and influence many shopping decisions

NEW YORK; July 29, 2014 – A majority of parents plan to spend more on their children’s back-to-school shopping this year, driven by rising costs or necessity rather than greater spending power, according to a survey released today by Accenture (NYSE:ACN). The Accenture Back-to-School Shopping Survey, which polled U.S. parents of children entering kindergarten through college, shows that nearly all (89 percent) plan to do most of their back-to-school shopping in a physical store, though many will still use online to browse and search – "webrooming."

According to the survey, two-thirds of parents (67 percent) plan to spend between $100 and $500 and 41 percent plan to spend $500 or more for back-to-school shopping this year. Compared to last year, just over half (52 percent) of the parents said they will spend more on back-to-school shopping than last year, 37 percent plan to spend the same and only 11 percent expect to spend less. One-third (33 percent) of parents spending more plan to increase their spending by $250 or more. Among the reasons given for the spending increase, 71 percent cited higher prices and 56 percent cited increased school requirements. Nearly one in five parents (19 percent) said they will spend more in order to help their children "keep up with their friends."

The survey results demonstrate the growing importance of the seamless shopping experience. For example, nearly eight out of 10 (79 percent) plan to participate in "webrooming" – browsing online and then going to a store to make their purchase. The top reasons respondents cited for webrooming were: to check if an item is in stock before going to a store to make a purchase (47 percent); to touch and feel the product before buying (43 percent); to avoid shipping costs (43 percent); and to ask the store to match a better price found online (33 percent).

"The fact that the majority of parents we surveyed plan to participate in webrooming underscores the significance of having a consistent and convenient experience across all retail touchpoints," said Dave Richards, managing director of Accenture’s Global Retail practice. "Since many will be heading to the stores to shop after browsing online to find the best deals and check product availability, it is imperative for retailers to introduce mobile devices, train associates to solve problems and support sales. They also need to add wireless networks to create interactive experiences, and connect in-store shopping experiences with omni-channel capabilities. Retailers have an opportunity to position their stores as the epicentre for product support which is critical to a brand’s customer loyalty."

The survey also shows that while parents carry the wallet, their children carry purchasing power: more than half of parents (54 percent) said their children influence 50 percent or more of the back-to-school shopping decisions. At the same time, survey results indicate that 33 percent of children will be spending some of their own money for back-to-school shopping – $266 on average for college students and $128 on average for K-12 students.

"Retailers should start to pay more attention to the purchasing power children have nowadays, if they’re not already," said Richards. "When making their school shopping decisions, parents are feeling outside pressures and will still be very focused on pricing and promotions. However, children know what they want, and a portion of the increase in spending that we’re seeing can certainly stem from them making just as many decisions for back-to-school shopping as their parents do."

Among the additional trends highlighted by the survey:

Spending on College Students Driving Increase

Discount Retailers Rule Back-to-School

Retailers’ Advertisements Influencing When to Shop

The Back-to-School Shopping List

Pricing and Deals Drive Online Shopping

"Overall, we’re finding that retailers need to advertise earlier, as consumers are starting to shop earlier and are searching for the best discounts. More and more shoppers will likely begin to gravitate toward a subscription service for their back-to-school needs – and possibly other similar purchases in the future," said Richards. "Ultimately, securing the best deals, alongside the quality of items, offering a broad selection at a single store and of course the ability to provide accurate, consistent product information to your customers across all channels comprise critical factors when it comes to having a successful back-to-school shopping season."

Accenture conducted an online survey in June 2014 using a representative sample of 500 U.S. parents of children entering kindergarten through college (undergraduate degrees).

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with more than 293,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. The company generated net revenues of US$28.6 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2013. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

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Aleks Vujanic
+ 44 (0)7500 974 814

Nancy Goldstein
Burson-Marsteller for Accenture
+ 212 614 4827