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Deloitte: Back-To-School Season Significance Slips

Shoppers are willing to take their time purchasing for student needs according to Deloitte’s annual Back-to-School and Back-to-College surveys. The notion of an August deadline for back-to-school items isn’t pushing consumers off the beach, particularly as they relax with smartphones in hand for purchase planning, the market research firm noted.

Of surveyed parents, 38% shopping for children in grades K to 12 said the back-to-school shopping season is less important to their families because they replenish school supplies throughout the year and feel less need to stock up. At the same time, 31% of Deloitte respondents stated that they plan to complete their back-to-school shopping after the start of the school year, a five percentage point increase from 2014.

The study results determined that Americans shopping for children in grades K to 12 and college combined would spend, on average, $1,747 versus $1,766 last year.

The number of consumers who plan to reuse last year’s items rose from 26% in 2011 to 39% in 2015. Still, in what could be a nice note for retailers, during that five-year period, coupon clipping decreased 14 percentage points and intentions to buy more lower-priced items fell 11 percentage points, Deloitte maintained.

Eight in 10 smartphone owners in the Deloitte study said they planned to use their devices in the back-to-school shopping process, a six percentage point increase over last year, the market research firm related. Over the past five years, smartphone device ownership more than doubled among survey respondents from 40% in 2011 to nearly 90% in 2015.

Of all devices owned, survey respondents said they plan to use their smartphones most frequently for back-to-school shopping, ahead of their laptops, PCs and tablets, Deloitte noted. The firm added that consumers also appear more inclined to use their phones to find information than to immediately purchase, with 44% saying they would browse websites and 42% saying they would look for product information on their smartphones but just 29% saying they plan to make a mobile purchase.

“Consumers are sending a message to retailers that says the back-to-school shopping season just isn’t that important anymore, and that could dramatically disrupt an industry that traditionally relies on this defined period for a significant portion of annual sales,” said Alison Paul, Deloitte LLP vice chairman and retail and distribution sector leader. “The question for retailers is how to capture the sales that may not fall exclusively in July or August, but increasingly spread throughout the year. If consumers are content with the items they already have, the two-for-one promotion may no longer get them to the register. Instead, retailers will have to provide something more meaningful or exclusive that fits their customers’ needs when they are ready to buy.”

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