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Back to School Shopping - US - January 2017

With planned BTS (back-to-school) shopping reaching almost $76 billion in 2016, the season is a vital opportunity for retailers to connect with young shoppers, build relationships, and introduce new products. While challenges to the BTS market include limited growth in family household incomes and stagnant school enrollment, the vast majority of college students and parents with school-age kids participate in back-to-school shopping. Digitally savvy shoppers have been embracing BTS omni-channel retailing and using a range of traditional and online tools to shape their purchasing choices. Opportunities lie in meeting consumer interest in innovations that can make BTS shopping easier, more efficient, more customized, and more fun.

This report examines the following issues:

  • Market tends to be cyclical and consumers uncertain in post-election landscape
  • Little growth in school-age population and stagnant enrollment challenges market

For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has used the following definitions:

This Report defines back-to-school shopping as any shopping done in preparation for a school term. This may include clothing and accessories, pens, pencils, paper, electronics, and other items consumers purchase specifically for school. This includes parents shopping for children in grades K-12 as well as shopping for college students and college students who shopped for themselves.

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Definition
      • Executive Summary

        • The issues
          • Market tends to be cyclical and consumers uncertain in post-election landscape
            • Figure 1: Total planned US back-to-school (K-12 and college) spending, at current prices, 2011-16
          • Little growth in school-age population and stagnant enrollment challenges market
            • The opportunities
              • Digitally savvy BTS shoppers fuel growth for omnichannel and online retailers
                • Figure 2: Select retailers used for back-to-school shopping, in-store and online – Parents, October 2016
                • Figure 3: Select retailers used for back-to-school shopping, online and in-store, college students, October 2016
              • Many points of entry, as BTS shoppers take into account multiple influencers
                • Figure 4: Select back-to-school shopping influencers, parents and college students, October 2016
              • BTS shoppers eager for time-saving innovations, omnichannel features, free shipping
                • Figure 5: Desired improvements to back-to-school shopping – Parents, October 2016
                • Figure 6: Desired improvements to back-to-school shopping – College students, October 2016
              • What it means
              • The Market – What You Need to Know

                • 2016 BTS market shows strong growth, but this is largely cyclical
                  • BTS shoppers and their kids are increasingly diverse
                    • Digitally engaged generations make up the core of BTS shoppers
                    • Market Size

                      • Planned back-to-school spending grows in 2016, a “stock up” year
                        • Figure 7: Planned back-to-school (K-12) spending, in current dollars, 2011-16
                      • Back-to-college planned spending reaches $48.5 billion in 2016
                        • Figure 8: Planned back-to-college spending, in current dollars, 2011-16
                    • Market Factors

                      • Macroeconomic factors show stronger outlook
                        • Figure 9: Consumer confidence and unemployment, 2000-September 2016
                      • Slow rise in household income and high expenses still squeeze families
                        • Figure 10: Median household income, in inflation-adjusted dollars, 2005-15
                      • Rising costs associated with raising kids also squeeze families
                        • Figure 11: Cost to raise a child from birth to age 18 for middle-income families, by share of expense, 1993 vs 2013
                      • Tight school budgets can mean more is demanded of families
                        • Tax-free holidays support BTS, can shape timing of promotional activity
                          • Population growth among kids, teens, and young adults stagnates
                            • Figure 12: US population under age 24, by age, 2012-22
                          • School enrollment is essentially flat, college enrollment in decline
                            • Figure 13: US school enrollment, 2011-15
                          • More kids, parents, and college students are racially diverse
                            • Figure 14: Population by race and Hispanic origin, 2012-22
                        • Market Perspective

                          • Digitally engaged generations represent growing share of population
                            • Changes and opportunities as schools integrate more technology
                              • Figure 15: Desktop and laptop computer ownership (household), April 2015-June 2016
                            • Online courses may transform landscape of higher education
                            • Key Players – What You Need to Know

                              • Walmart and Target are lead players, building omnichannel presence
                                • Marketing showcases new trends, low prices, and education’s value
                                  • Traditional department stores struggle to stay relevant
                                    • Amazon is the leading online retailer, and a force of innovation
                                      • Customization, “kids for kids” product lines, and easy list fulfilment
                                      • What’s Working?

                                        • Mass merchants lead with one-stop, high-value, omnichannel appeal
                                          • Low prices underpin Walmart’s lead position, while 2016 ads also evoke other themes
                                            • Promoting clothing via “cool” looks for kids and deals for “moms”
                                              • Figure 16: Macy’s, back-to-school ad featuring dancing in halls, august 2016
                                              • Figure 17: Macy’s, back-to-school ad for high school students, august 2016
                                            • Parents still want to get it “right” and prize school’s serious purpose
                                              • Figure 18: Office Depot OfficeMax, Get Back to Great project TV ad, July 2016
                                          • What’s Struggling?

                                            • Traditional department stores struggle to stay relevant
                                              • Efforts to reinvigorate include partnerships, one-on-one service, and refreshed merchandising
                                                • Value-oriented department stores doing comparatively well
                                                  • Online commerce is a key bright spot for department stores
                                                  • What’s Next?

                                                    • Ongoing innovation and growth in online and in omnichannel retail
                                                      • Optimizing use of individual and aggregate data
                                                        • Taking a lead from Amazon’s strengths, and innovations
                                                          • Empowering kids via personalization and “kids for kids” products
                                                              • Figure 19: Target, Back to School 2016: The Project TV ad, July 2016
                                                            • Online tools and new apps to make shopping even easier
                                                            • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                              • Vast majority of parents and college students engage in BTS shopping
                                                                • Walmart, Target, and Amazon stand out as top retailers
                                                                  • Clothing leads for K-12 shoppers, supplies for college shoppers
                                                                    • Parents seek balance of price and quality, weigh range of influencers
                                                                      • Free shipping and more time-saving measures widely sought
                                                                      • Participation in Back-to-School Shopping – K-12

                                                                        • Almost all parents do at least some back-to-school shopping
                                                                          • Figure 20: Participation in back-to-school shopping, October 2016
                                                                        • Parents aged 35+ more likely to participate in back-to-school shopping
                                                                          • Figure 21: Participation in back-to-school shopping, by gender and age, October 2016
                                                                        • Participation is fairly high across household income brackets
                                                                          • Figure 22: Participation in back-to-school shopping, by household income, October 2016
                                                                        • Hispanic parents lead BTS shopping for 2016-17 school year
                                                                          • Figure 23: Participation in back-to-school shopping, by race and Hispanic origin, October 2016
                                                                      • Participation in Back-to-School Shopping – College

                                                                        • Virtually all college students make back-to-school purchases
                                                                          • Figure 24: Participation in back-to-school shopping – College students, October 2016
                                                                        • Living situation shifts as students advance through school
                                                                          • Figure 25: Participation in back-to-school shopping, 2016-17 school year – College students, by current living situation, October 2016
                                                                        • Lower-income college students less likely to participate
                                                                          • Figure 26: Participation in back-to-school shopping, 2016-17 school year – College students, by household income, October 2016
                                                                      • Retailers Shopped for Back-to-School Shopping – K-12

                                                                        • Virtually all shop for BTS in stores, three quarters also go online
                                                                            • Figure 27: Retailers shopped for BTS items – K-12, October 2016
                                                                          • Younger parents favor mass merchandisers; dads choose electronics stores
                                                                            • Figure 28: Retailers shopped in-store for BTS items, by gender and age, October 2016
                                                                          • Younger parents, especially dads aged 18-34, favor online shopping
                                                                            • Figure 29: Retailers shopped online for BTS items, by gender and age, October 2016
                                                                          • Less affluent stick to Walmart and dollar stores; wealthier visit a wider range
                                                                            • Figure 30: Retailers shopped in-store for BTS items, by household income, October 2016
                                                                          • Affluent shoppers embrace online retailers
                                                                            • Figure 31: Retailers shopped online for BTS items, by household income, October 2016
                                                                          • Race and Hispanic origin impacts retailer choice for BTS shopping
                                                                            • Figure 32: Retailers shopped in-store for BTS items, by household income, October 2016
                                                                            • Figure 33: Retailers shopped online for BTS items, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2016
                                                                        • Retailers Shopped for Back-to-School Shopping – College

                                                                          • College students show high usage of Target and Amazon
                                                                            • Figure 34: Retailers shopped for BTS items – College students, October 2016
                                                                          • Female college students favor Target, males look to electronics stores
                                                                            • Figure 35: Retailers shopped in-store for college BTS items, by gender, October 2016
                                                                            • Figure 36: Retailers shopped online for college BTS items, by gender, October 2016
                                                                          • Less-affluent college students turn to Walmart; wealthier ones to Target
                                                                            • Figure 37: Retailers shopped in-store for college BTS items, by household income, October 2016
                                                                        • Anticipated Spend by Category – K-12

                                                                          • Clothing is top category for back-to-school spending
                                                                            • Figure 38: Anticipated spend by category – Parents, October 2016
                                                                          • Moms expect to spend on clothes, young dads spend on shoes, gadgets, bags
                                                                            • Figure 39: Anticipated spend by category – K-12, by age and gender, October 2016
                                                                          • Less-affluent parents prioritize clothing and basic supplies
                                                                            • Figure 40: Anticipated spend by category – K-12, by household income, October 2016
                                                                          • Blacks anticipate spending on clothing, footwear; Asians on electronics
                                                                            • Figure 41: Anticipated spend by category – K-12, by race/Hispanic origin, October 2016
                                                                        • Anticipated Spend by Category – College

                                                                          • Supplies, clothing, food, and electronics are priorities for college BTS shopping
                                                                            • Figure 42: Anticipated spend by category – College students, October 2016
                                                                          • Females spend on a wide category range; males focus on electronics
                                                                            • Figure 43: Anticipated spend by category – College students, by gender, October 2016
                                                                          • Less-affluent students spend less on supplies and electronics
                                                                            • Figure 44: Anticipated spend by category – College students, by household income, October 2016
                                                                        • Attitudes toward Back-to-School Shopping

                                                                          • Parents seek to do it “right,” but also to please kids and have fun
                                                                            • Figure 45: Attitudes toward back-to-school shopping – Parents, October 2016
                                                                          • Less-affluent shoppers are more attentive to price, but still want BTS to be fun
                                                                            • Figure 46: Attitudes toward back-to-school shopping – Parents, by household income, October 2016
                                                                          • Older kids have bigger impact on BTS choices
                                                                            • Figure 47: Attitudes toward back-to-school shopping – Parents, by age of child, October 2016
                                                                          • College shoppers reuse items, prioritize price, and set budgets
                                                                              • Figure 48: Attitudes toward back-to-school shopping – College students, October 2016
                                                                          • Back-to-School Shopping Influencers – K-12

                                                                            • School recommendations and brand familiarity are top influencers
                                                                              • Figure 49: Back-to-school shopping influencers – Parents, October 2016
                                                                            • Gender and age impact influencers that guide BTS choices
                                                                              • Figure 50: Back-to-school shopping influencers, part 1 – Parents, by gender and age, October 2016
                                                                              • Figure 51: Back-to-school shopping influencers, part 2 – Parents, by gender and age, October 2016
                                                                            • Household income shapes influencers for BTS shopping
                                                                              • Figure 52: Select influencers on back-to-school shopping (any rank), by household income, October 2016
                                                                            • Online influencers important to Hispanics
                                                                              • Figure 53: Back-to-school shopping influencers – Parents, by race and Hispanic origin, October 2016
                                                                          • Back-to-School Shopping Influencers – College

                                                                            • Brand familiarity and coupons are top influencers in college BTS
                                                                              • Figure 54: Back-to-school shopping influencers – College students, October 2016
                                                                            • Deals motivate college-age women; online influencers shape men
                                                                              • Figure 55: Back-to-school shopping influencers – College students, by gender, October 2016
                                                                          • Desired Improvements to Back-to-School Shopping

                                                                            • Free shipping is widely sought, with time-saving measures also wanted
                                                                              • Figure 56: Desired improvements to back-to-school shopping – Parents, October 2016
                                                                            • Free shipping wanted by over 70% of college BTS shoppers
                                                                              • Figure 57: Desired improvements to back-to-school shopping – College students, October 2016
                                                                          • Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

                                                                            • Data sources
                                                                              • Sales data
                                                                                • Consumer survey data
                                                                                  • Abbreviations and terms
                                                                                    • Abbreviations
                                                                                    • Appendix – Market

                                                                                        • Figure 58: Average household size, by race and Hispanic origin, 2016
                                                                                        • Figure 59: Distribution of generations by race and Hispanic origin, 2017
                                                                                        • Figure 60: Median household income, by race and Hispanic origin of householder, 2015
                                                                                        • Figure 61: Population by generations, 2012-22

                                                                                    Back to School Shopping - US - January 2017

                                                                                    US $3,995.00 (Excl.Tax)