Caitlin Storhaug
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July 26, 2006
High Gas Prices Won’t Dampen Back-To-School Shoppers’ Spending, but Might Result in Fewer Shopping Trips, Accenture Survey Finds

Crowded Stores and Out-Of-Stock Items are Shoppers’ Main Complaints about Retailers

NEW YORK; July 26, 2006 – The majority of those planning back-to-school shopping trips said high gas prices will not affect how much money they spend, according to a survey released today by Accenture.

The survey of more than 500 U.S. school-age shoppers and parents yielded wide-ranging insights on the upcoming back-to-school retail season.

Three-quarters (76 percent) of consumers surveyed said the price of gas will not affect how much money they spend on back-to-school items. However, nearly one-third (32 percent) of respondents said high gas prices will cause them to shop at fewer stores and make fewer trips, and nearly one-quarter (24 percent) said high gas prices will cause them to buy more sale items than in prior years.

The majority (88 percent) of those planning back-to-school shopping trips will be buying from mass merchants, and nearly three quarters (72 percent) of those respondents cited reasonable prices as the main reason for doing so. About half (49 percent) of consumers said they would do back-to-school shopping at an office supply store, and more than one-third (37 percent) said they plan to shop in a department store.

“With consumers making fewer trips and shopping in fewer stores, it is even more important for retailers to get their inventory and assortment right,” said Janet Hoffman, managing partner of Accenture’s North American Retail practice. “Retailers must give customers a positive store experience from the front door through the check-out lane.”

When asked to identify their top complaints about retailers, nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents cited crowded stores and more than half (58 percent) cited out-of-stock items. In terms of suggestions for retailers, roughly half (51 percent) of respondents said they would like to see increased product selection, the same proportion said they want stores to ensure in-stock items, and 40 percent said they want more check-out lanes.

About half (52 percent) of back-to-school shoppers said they expect to spend more this year than they did last year, and two-thirds (67 percent) of these respondents cited higher prices as the reason why. Four in 10 (40 percent) of respondents said they plan to spend about the same amount on back-to-school shopping this year as they did last year. Only 8 percent said they would spend less, and 49 percent of these respondents cited having less discretionary income as the reason why.

Nearly all (98 percent) of the respondents said they will spend most of their back-to-school money on clothing and accessories. The largest percentage of back-to-school shoppers, 38 percent, said they expect to spend $101 to $200 on clothing and accessories. More than one quarter (29 percent) of respondents said they expect to spend $201 to $500 on clothing and accessories and 22 percent said they plan to spend $26 to $100.

Among those shopping for their child or someone else, only 14 percent reported being heavily influenced on where they shop by the student. One-third (33 percent) of those shopping for a child or someone else said that the students’ purchase requests are influenced by friends, and only 10 percent said that the students’ requests are influenced by television advertising.

“Retailers that understand the big picture about who is shopping their stores and who influences what they buy will be the big winners in the back-to-school season,” said Hoffman.

Other key survey findings include:

Methodology
The Web-based survey of 573 U.S. consumers, comprised of both 18- to 22-year-olds and adults with school-age children, was fielded in June 2006.

About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company. Committed to delivering innovation, Accenture collaborates with its clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. With deep industry and business process expertise, broad global resources and a proven track record, Accenture can mobilize the right people, skills and technologies to help clients improve their performance. With more than 133,000 people in 48 countries, the company generated net revenues of US$15.55 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2005. Its home page is www.accenture.com.

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