Christian Retailing

Back-to-School Shoppers Use Coupons, Delay Purchases to Get the Best Deals Print Email
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Thursday, 21 August 2014 12:15 PM America/New_York

MatthewShay-NRF-WebEven as the first school bells ring around the nation, many families have lots of school-supply shopping left to do. The National Retail Federation’s latest Back-to-School/College Surveys show that the average family with children in grades K-12 completed just half (49.9%) of their shopping by mid-August, down slightly from last year (52.1%).

“As the shopping season draws to a close, budget-conscious parents are likely hoping that end-of-summer sales and promotions will be just what they need to wrap up their school lists,” said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay. “Much of the delay this summer could also stem from families holding out for a sales-tax holiday in their state, as well as from influential teenagers who want to first see what their friends are buying before they ask Mom and Dad to commit to their fall needs.”

Hoping to trim the costs where they can, some back-to-school shoppers made it a point to look for coupons and sales while scouring for new footwear, supplies, electronic items and apparel. And, according to the most recent survey, 15.2% of back-to-school shoppers said 100% of their purchases were influenced by coupons, sales and promotions, the highest percent since 2011; 14.8% of college students and their families say 76-99% of their shopping was influenced by coupons, also the highest for that range in the survey’s history.

“As schools look to parents more and more to help fund classroom needs, parents are looking for as many ways as they can to cut costs, and that could very well be why we’re seeing more people seek out coupons and sales this summer,” said Prosper Insights principal analyst Pam Goodfellow. “Low prices at the end of the season will definitely drive more college and school families to shop last minute, especially for those with specific items they need in order to start the school year.”

According to the NRF survey, as of Aug. 12, fewer families had stepped out to take advantage of retailers’ special school savings opportunities; specifically, nearly one-quarter (23.6%) had not started shopping yet, up from 20.9% last year. However, there were some who were eager to get started as they looked to spread out their spending: 15.7% say they have completed their lists, which is about the same as last year. A separate study conducted by The Integer Group® and M/A/R/C Research shows that some families have opted out of back-to-school shopping altogether, as the number of back-to-school shoppers in-store shows a decline of nearly 5% over last year.

“Our study showing a drop in the amount of people who will be shopping presents an interesting dynamic," said Craig Elston, SVP of Insight & Strategy at The Integer Group. "A combination of several factors could explain why a third of the respondents won't be shopping, including fewer school-age children in the home and households repurposing school supplies and merchandise to help minimize costs."

The Integer study also showed that finding the lowest price is the most important goal of back-to-school shopping for 3 out of 4 shoppers, and that 44% of all shoppers use in-store circulars, referring to them for planning and shopping, which is an increase of 6% over 2013.

 Of those who are shopping, college families got a good jump on retailers’ sales and promotions this summer: 23.4% say they are finished with their lists, up from 20% last year. Additionally, slightly fewer families this year say they haven’t started shopping (26.2% vs. 28.8% last year.)

To wrap up their lists, most back-to-school shoppers will shop at discount (54%), department (47.7%) and clothing stores (35%), and online (24.8%). One-third (33.7%) will visit an office-supply store, and 10% will shop local and support small business.

Back-to-college shoppers will finish their shopping at discount (47.4%), department (40.3%) and clothing stores (26.8%). The most in the survey’s history–37.4%–will finish their lists online.