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Industry Insights

ICSC Survey Finds Physical Stores Drive Back-to-School Shopping

August 3, 2017

Back-to-school shoppers — those buying materials for K–12 or college — will be busy in August, when the largest share of them (82 percent) will make some of their purchases for this school year, according to an ICSC survey. A whopping 91 percent of shoppers will make purchases in brick-and-mortar stores, and this rises to 97 percent when online shopping from retailers with physical stores is included.

About 89 percent of back-to-school shoppers will have gone to a shopping center for these purchases by the time school starts. Moreover, while these shoppers are at the center, most will spend on other activities too. For instance, 60 percent will have a bite to eat, and 28 percent will catch a movie.

Overall, some 38 percent of U.S. adults will be buying back-to-school merchandise this year, spending an average of $353 each. Seven out of ten back-to-school shoppers say they will spend more this year than last year, while 26 percent say they expect to spend about the same.

Back-to-school shoppers will allocate 82 percent of their total expenditures to retailers that have both physical stores and an online platform. More specifically, 60.5 percent of these expenditures will be spent in physical locations, and 21.5 percent will be spent online from retailers with stores. Moreover, 81 percent of shoppers who ordered online and then picked up the items in-store made additional purchases when they did so, according to the survey.

Nearly 90 percent of the respondents say that sales promotions influence the amount they spend and the items they purchase. And yet another reason retailers can expect to be busy this month is that 51 percent of these back-to-school shoppers say they believe August is the best time to find bargains.

“Back-to-school is one of the shopping seasons where we really find people looking for specific items at the best price,” said Tom McGee, president and CEO of ICSC. “Consumers are more informed than ever, and they research prices and products prior to making a purchase, so it isn’t surprising that so many shoppers are waiting for sales and discounts before buying their back-to-school items.”

The survey is based on a poll of 1,010 U.S. adults conducted July 6–9. The full results can be seen here.