With clarity about the upcoming school year and consumer sentiment continuing to rise, Deloitte announced its research indicates back-to-school spending will be at its highest level in recent years.
According to the business services firm, back-to-school spending should reach $32.5 billion for K to 12 students, or about $612 per student, and $26.7 billion, or about $1,459 per student, for back-to-college shoppers.
The pandemic propelled education into the digital age, helping to fuel a 37% increase in technology spending for K to 12 students, according to Deloitte, and 17% increase for college students.
However, a year of supply chain challenges and lingering concerns about stockouts is likely to pull spending forward with 59% of K to 12 planned purchasing to occur by the end of July.
Shopping behaviors adopted as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic will continue for convenience sake, Deloitte added, with parents of K to 12 students planning to shop more frequently at online retailers and dollar stores. In addition, 34% of consumers plan to leverage services such as buy online, pick up in store and curbside pickup more frequently.
Although online shopping continues to rise, parents of K to 12 students are twice as likely as parents of college students to use emerging technology to complete their purchases.
In a look at the bigger picture, 55% of K to 12 parents and 46% of college parents are more confident about the economy’s prospects, up from 17% and 14%, respectively, in 2020. In addition, household financial situations are holding steady with 78% of K to 12 parents and 75% of college parents in similar or better shape than last year. So, parents are in a position to spend. Overall spending will increase across categories with 40% of K to 12 households planning to spend more on back-to-school items, Deloitte pointed out.
The pandemic spurred digital integration in higher education, driving prospective back-to-college tech category growth by 17%. Meanwhile, spending on traditional college supplies looks to be down 9% to $6.8 billion, Deloitte noted. A third of college families expect to spend more on education-related items this year. Middle-income family spending is set to rebound and surpass pre-pandemic levels, with their estimated spend coming in at more than that of higher-income families in computer hardware. Deloitte added that dorm and apartment furniture and electronic gadgets are generating renewed investment.
Mass merchandisers remain the most popular retail channel to shop for back-to-school merchandise, with 74% of consumers looking to pay a visit, but online-only stores have become the preferred format for tech purchases. Overall, more people expect to shop at online retailers, at 49%, and closer to home at dollar stores, at 41%, versus a year ago.
“As Americans anticipate a more traditional return to the back-to-school season, the good news is that parents are ready to spend more and earlier to ensure their children have what they need to be successful,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader. “This includes increased spending on technology for both K to 12 and college students, demonstrating a shifting focus on how students learn as well as how parents are shopping for these necessities. We’ve entered a new era of schooling where traditional back-to-school supplies are fading in favor of tech, while consumers expect certain conveniences and competitive prices. Retailers that demonstrate their resiliency during this time will appeal to shoppers and be better positioned to capitalize on growing consumer sentiment.”