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
  • The parents of college children expect their spending increases to be higher than the parents of younger children: 28 percent of parents of college students believe they will spend $500 or more than last year compared to only six percent of parents of K-5 students.
  • Among parents expecting to spend less this year, 58 percent plan to decrease spending by $100 or less than last year. More than half (55 percent) of these parents said they will reduce their spending because they have less discretionary income and 28 percent say they will reduce spending because of higher living costs.
Discount Retailers Rule Back-to-School
  • Discount / mass retailers are the number-one shopping destination by far for back-to-school shopping (90 percent), followed by office supply stores (63 percent) and department stores (49 percent).
  • Pricing, quality of items and a broad selection to get all or most items at one store are the most important factors for parents when choosing a retailer for back-to-school. Offerings such as loyalty programs, flexible returns and price-matching ranked much lower on the back-to-school shopping priority list.
Retailers’ Advertisements Influencing When to Shop 
  • Nearly one-quarter (23 percent) of parents had already done most of their back-to-school shopping by the end of June and 58 percent of parents plan to do most of their back-to-school shopping between July 16 and August 15. A large majority (81 percent) of parents will be finished with the bulk of their back-to-school shopping by mid-August.
  • Four out of ten parents said that retailers’ advertisements and commercials influence their decision-making on when to do their back-to-school shopping.
  • However, they had mixed opinions about the best time to shop for the best deals: 40 percent spread out their shopping throughout the summer and school-year; 35 percent shop early in the season; and 23 percent shop late in the season to get the best discounts.
The Back-to-School Shopping List 
  • The top items on back-to-school shopping lists this year are: general school supplies (88 percent), clothing and shoes (87 percent), accessories such as backpacks (71 percent) and computers, tablets, phones, gadgets and electronics (60 percent).  Food and grocery spending also rang in at 41 percent and big-ticket furniture, mainly for college students, at 13 percent.
Pricing and Deals Drive Online Shopping
  • For those parents planning to shop online, most will use their home computer (89 percent), but nearly one-third (30 percent) will use a smartphone or tablet (31 percent).
  • When asked why they choose to shop online, searching for deals and the best price are the top reasons, above convenience: 65 percent expect to save money or find better discounts by shopping online; 59 percent want to spend more time researching the best prices; 44 percent prefer the convenience of having everything they need shipped to their doorstep; and 22 percent hope to avoid a boring shopping trip for the children.
  • Half of respondents (51 percent) said they are likely to use a subscription service from a retailer for school-related purchases.
"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
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