NPD Says Practicality Will Determine Back-to-School Shopping Trends

npd-group copyPractical decisions related to factors such as price, convenience, and product quality are on the top of consumers’ minds when it comes to where and how they do their back-to-school shopping, whether in-store or online, according to the new Back-to-School Report from The NPD Group

More than 70 percent of last year’s back-to-school purchases were made in stores. Looking across the 14 industries included in the NPD study, in-store purchases varied from a low of 61 percent for sports equipment to a high of 78 percent for school supplies. The most important benefits of in-store shopping identified by consumers, regardless of the category shopped for, point to practical thinking, or the ability to get their other shopping done and having a wide selection of brands or products from which to choose. The go-to retailers for back-to-school purchases were mass merchants such as Target and Walmart.

Best/lowest prices, sales/discounts/promotions, and wide product selection are top considerations when deciding where to back-to-school shop. For some key categories, one-stop shopping, and trusted brand availability enter into the top three. Store displays and word-of-mouth are among the top ways consumers research and learn about where to go or what to buy when shopping for most back-to-school categories. Free shipping was identified as one of the most important benefits of online shopping, which represented 21 percent of 2016 back-to-school purchases, on average.

The practical personality of back-to-school shoppers is evident in the most important drivers behind their purchase decisions. Regardless of the category being purchased, almost 60 percent of consumers revealed that they only buy back-to-school items on sale/discount. But these shoppers aren’t solely focused on cost. Quality/durability and functionality rounded out the top three factors that influenced back-to-school purchases. When it comes to fashion (apparel, footwear, and accessories), comfort takes the place of functionality, ahead of color, style, and brand. Overall, there is little loyalty when it comes to brands; the majority of consumers said they buy both national and store brands. Compared to other shopping seasons, an average of 43 percent of consumers said they are more concerned with the quality of the merchandise they purchase for back-to-school and less concerned about look/design.