THE CLARUS Blog

New Back-to-School Shopping Data: Clues to the Upcoming Holiday Season

For many families, the back-to-school season this year was quite different from last year. 

With many schools returning full-time to the classroom this year, it also impacted how families shopped for back-to-school clothing and other items. 

Amid heightened consumer expectations with a focus on convenience and value, we wanted to find out how consumers treated this back-to-school shopping season – and share the insights retailers can use to strategize for the holiday shopping season.  

Here are the most important back-to-school statistics shopping you need to know from our recent survey.  

 

1. Price is the most compelling factor to make a purchase when back-to-school shopping. 

While the pandemic has negatively impacted many people financially, consumers still love a discount. In fact, nearly 50% of shoppers cited price as the most compelling factor to make back-to-school purchases. 

Since price remains a major differentiator, find ways to reward your loyalty program members often through faster rewards and more discounts. 

Consumers still value saving money. Back-to-School shopping can be expensive with clothes, backpacks, books, pens, and technology (to name a few key items). 

Quality still matters, though, with 23% of back-to-school citing quality of product the most compelling factor. 

 

2. In-store sales influence back-to-school purchasing the most. 

Last year an IBM report showed that COVID-19 accelerated the shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by about five years. 

So, it’s interesting to note that 50% of consumers said in-store sales influenced their back-to-school purchasing. People are coming back to stores. 

This means retailers need to ensure their in-store experience is proficient ahead of the upcoming holiday shopping season. This includes in-store sales and other in-store events. 

Especially after last year’s holiday season was heavily impacted by the pandemic, you can be sure more consumers will be shopping in-store this year. 

While in-store sales influence back-to-school shopping the most, online sales checked in second at 30%. Word-of-mouth was third with 17%. 

Price sets the stage and in-store shopping is still very important to consumers. Retailers need to be prepared for this. 

 

3. Most people are still shopping in-store but supplementing with online shopping. 

Consumers are shopping in-store and online and the retail omnichannel experience has never been more important. 

More consumers (45%) preferred in-person shopping over online, but 34% opted for the reverse. While the pandemic fast-forwarded e-commerce to the forefront, consumers are now shopping in-store for back-to-school items and seeking a return to normalcy. 

Brick-and-mortar is a critical piece of the puzzle for brands. Only 13% shop exclusively in person and 7% exclusively online. 

 

4. Spending Stayed Roughly the Same or Increased 

While 42% of shoppers reported that their back-to-school spending stayed the same, 25% said that spending somewhat increased. And 11% said spending increased significantly. Consumers are ready to spend again.  

year. Since the economy started to reopen during the summer, back-to-school marked the first big shopping event with holiday right around the corner. 

 

5. Three-quarters of people shopped the same amount or more since the pandemic started. 

There wasn’t just an increase in back-to-school spending, but there was also an increase in shopping frequency. 

And increased shopping frequency translates to a good opportunity to offer a great experience and get more people signed up for your loyalty program.  

This is important to keep in mind with the holidays approaching. The more loyalty program members you can acquire now, the more top of mind your brand will be with those members in a few months. 

 

6. Most Back-to-School Shoppers are Buying from Multiple Stores 

Eighty-nine percent of consumers back-to-school shop in multiple stores. Just 11% reported sticking with one store. Therefore, it’s important to build loyalty. One way to do that is with a great loyalty program. 

For example, CVS has a great program that combines free (CVS ExtraCare) and premium (CVS CarePass) programs. 

CVS ExtraCare is a great free loyalty program that offers cash back and extra savings for members – And it’s free to sign up for. 

For CVS’s top customers, CarePass was introduced for $5 per month. 

This premium loyalty tier offers free delivery on eligible prescriptions, as well as fast, free shipping and instant discounts on certain CVS Health brand items and monthly rewards that can be used in-store and online. In addition, members have access to a live pharmacist chat line 24/7. It’s a great program for those who value those benefits. 

Consumers are shopping in multiple stores now, ahead of the holiday season, so prepare yourself and make sure your loyalty program is engaging and enticing. 

 

7. Most people shop at Walmart, Amazon, or Target for back-to-school supplies.

Most consumers shopped at Walmart (41%), Amazon (26%), or Target (21%) for back-to-school supplies. 

These statistics show that to compete against these three retailers, having an engaging, successful loyalty program and a seamless omnichannel experience could be the answer. 

While every retailer can’t sell everything, this is a good opportunity to consider adding on a marketplace for loyalty members or considering a strategic partnership with other complementary brands. 

 

Make Loyalty a Differentiator for Your Brand as the Holidays Approach 

As more and more consumers shop online and return to stores, customer loyalty becomes more important for your brand and to set yourself apart from the competition. 

Our survey statistics are cues for retailers as they prepare for the all-important holiday season. 

Some key things to remember: 

Price remains an important factor for consumers. In-store sales attract many consumers, along with a great omnichannel experience. 

Consumers are shopping more now, both online and in-store, and your loyalty program can become a powerful tool in acquiring and retaining loyal customers. 

Survey Methodology: Clarus Commerce surveyed 563 U.S. parents/guardians shopping on behalf of a child in K-12 in August 2021.   

 

Are You Ready to Go Premium?

If you want to become a 24/7 presence in your best customers' lives, it's time to get started.