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The Back-To-School Shopping Paradox


Citi Retail Services released the results of its annual nationwide back-to-school shopping survey to shed light on one of the most anticipated retail events of the year. The study revealed a shopping paradox – while the vast majority of parents (81%) say they value savings over time, 70% of parents believe they are more efficient shoppers with their children, yet are actually spending more money than when shopping alone. In fact, the average spend per child for back-to-school supplies, including clothing, books, classroom supplies, electronics and more is $322. When parents shop with their children, they end up spending $97 more on average.

The survey also uncovered interesting data concerning savings-minded parents who shop throughout the summer (40%) versus one-stop-shop parents (60%). The parents who hunt for bargains throughout the summer – visiting a maximum of 4 stores on average to find the best price on one item – actually spend an estimated $58 more than those who get their shopping done all at once. Other key survey findings include:

– While online shopping has increased exponentially in recent years, the vast majority (77%) of parents are still shopping at brick-and-mortar stores to save money on back-to-school shopping through extra discounts such as coupons or rewards programs.

– In fact, nearly two out of three parents surveyed would rather drive an hour to pick up a last-minute back-to-school purchase in-person rather than pay $25 to have it shipped overnight.

– 19% of parents between the ages of 18-29 are adopting voice assistants, such as Amazon Alexa, to do back-to-school shopping while doing other tasks.

– As a means to save time and money, consumers are buying back-to-school items in bulk. About one-third (32%) of respondents said that they are purchasing items in bulk.

– While most parents will prioritize savings over time, even the most bargain-conscious shoppers won’t spend all day walking the aisles. The top time-saving measures parents have taken while back-to-school shopping is:

  • Doing all shopping at one store or website (53%)
  • Ordering items online and picking them up in-store (44%)
  • Shopping for items online while at work (28%)