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Shopper survey anticipates stark increase in back-to-school shopping

Apparel is estimated to be a top seller as children brace for a return to in-person school; Walmart and JCPenney have rolled out new private brand clothing for the back-to-school season.
Dan Ochwat
Executive Editor
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According to a recent shopper survey, 85% of American shoppers expect to spend the majority of their back-to-school budgets on apparel, shoes, coats and functional wearable items compared with 18% feeling that way a year ago.

The survey was conducted by Influence Central, a Boston-based influencer marketing agency, also finding that 83% expect to spend on supplies such as paper, notebooks, pencils, glue, scissors, etc., compared with 37% planning to use BTS spending in those areas. Nearly 60% expect to spend money on backpacks and lunchboxes vs. only 5% of respondents spending on similar items last year.

The return to in-person school expects to fuel these increases in school shopping, according to the survey — and store brands could benefit.

Stacy Debroff, CEO, Influence Central, told Store Brands that supply side issues facing traditional brands — especially with them sourcing products from Asia from backpacks to clothing — retailers can get their private brand products to consumers at less expensive pricing, higher profit margins for the retailers, and leverage a supplier’s surplus if available.

“Especially as we just heard from our consumer panel of over 350 back to school families that 85% plan to dramatically increase their purchases for this coming back to school year, this expansion of [store brand] products offers a huge sales possibility,” she said.

Walmart launched an exclusive partnership with tween brand Justice to capitalize on BTS, along with touting its own brands. JCPenney launched a new apparel brand dedicated to children in time for the season, too. JCP calls the brand Thereabout and said the brand is its most inclusive ever.

As parents prepare for a return to school nearly three-fourths of respondents said they plan on sending kids back to in-person school. 

Other statistics from the survey include:

  • Over 50% of consumers spent less money on back-to-school shopping in 2020
  • than prior years;
  • 58% expect to spend more across categories leading into the 2021-22 school
  • year;
  • 70% of consumers will do their back-to-school shopping both online and in-store.