Home Deloitte: Consumers Will Spend on Back-to-School Despite Worries
July 20, 2022

Deloitte: Consumers Will Spend on Back-to-School Despite Worries

Posted In: Retail Articles

By Mike Duff

Contributing Editor

Consumers have genuine financial concerns as summer proceeds, but according to a study from Deloitte, they still plan to spend for back to school.

Many sources demonstrate that consumers are worried about the current tumultuous economy, which has delivered mixed signals and prompted worries about everything from recession to stagflation. For example, financial services firm Primerica recently released a study demonstrating that 41% of middle-class Americans rate inflation as their top concern, followed by paying for food and groceries, at 26% and up four points from March, and their current financial situation, at 25% and up eight points from March. As such, 71% reported cutting back on restaurant/takeout meals, up from 57% in March, while 69% said they plan to keep current technology instead of upgrading, up from 44% in March, and 49% said they are planning to budget or cut back on groceries, up from 37% in March. In addition, 38% said they have already delayed a major purchase due to rising interest rates.

Even with all that, though, 39% said they plan to take a vacation in the next 12 months. So, despite concerns, consumers haven’t necessarily abandoned their spending plans, an indication that intentions and actions don’t always line up, especially during uncertain times. The Deloitte study makes the case that consumers who are wary of the economy intend to spend money on their children.

Parents surveyed by a business services firm indicated that, after two years of disruption due to the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting inflation and financial concerns, they would drive back-to-school spending to a new high of $34.4 billion for K-12 students, or approximately $661 per student. Deloitte expects back-to-college shoppers to spend $28.3 billion, or approximately $1,600 per student, up 10% from the year-prior survey.

Back-to-school shoppers surveyed plan to decrease their spending on technology products by 8% year-over-year, while those shopping for college are set to increase their spend on technology by 22% from 2021.

In the survey, 57% of K-12 parents said they are concerned about the increase in back-to-school product pricing due to inflation. Yet 37% of respondents expect to spend more year-over-year.

Concern about stockouts is still high, with 63% of respondents expecting to encounter them this back-to-school season. To cope, 77% of surveyed shoppers said they would trade brands if prices on first choices are too high or if they are out of stock. Still, the survey indicates that consumers are resuming pre-pandemic shopping patterns, with 53% of respondents expecting back-to-school spending to occur by the end of July.

Parents of K-12 students report planning to spend on products that encourage mental wellness, including items for extracurricular activities. Parents concerned about a child’s mental health, at 50% of respondents, plan to spend 8% more than the average back-to-school shopper. In addition, half of the parents said they are willing to spend more for sustainable products.

After the recent tech spending spree, K-12 parents are set to spend 8% less on technology this back-to-school season versus the year before. In contrast, back-to-college parents plan to spend 22% more on tech year-over-year, which exceeds the 16% growth for the category in 2021 versus 2020. Those back-to-college parents expect to spend 12% more on household appliances and related supplies and 10% more on clothing but less on dorm or apartment furniture and related supplies, down 15%.

In-store shopping will likely surge, the survey suggests, accounting for 49% of the overall back-to-school spend, up from 43% in 2021. Online’s share of intended back-to-school spending among K-12 parents surveyed decreased to 35% in 2022 from 39% in 2021. While shopping, Generation Xers are using social media to seek deals, although Millennials are more likely to look for reviews and advice.

When it comes to online shopping, free shipping is vital, with 79% of survey respondents asserting that it is more important than fast shipping.

As retailers continue to offer more tech-enabled shopping tools, parents of college students are ready to use them, with 59% saying they would use smartphones for their back-to-college shopping, up from 49% in 2021. At the same time, 30% would use social media, up from 22% in 2021, and 44% will use emerging technology, up from 29% in 2021 and 26% in 2019.

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