Shifting Purchase Priorities Will Impact Sales for Back-to-School

Fluid U.S. back-to-school plans, many of which will include at least partial remote learning due to impacts from COVID-19, are expected to have a negative impact on seasonal apparel and accessory purchases despite a forecast that overall spending could reach record levels.

While 90 percent of BTS shoppers will purchase clothing and accessories, their average category spend this year is projected to decline 10 percent to $261, according to findings from a recent Deloitte survey. Total clothing/accessories revenues are projected to drop nearly 17 percent from 2019’s $15.0 billion to approximately $12.5 billion, with about one-third of purchases generated online.

Average kindergarten to grade 12 spending is forecast to rise 13 percent from 2019’s level to $789.49 per family, according to the annual National Retail Federation/Prosper Insight & Analytics survey released last week. Total spending for K-12 and college combined is projected to hit $101.6 billion, exceeding last year’s $80.7 billion and the $100 billion mark for the first time.

Total BTS spending is expected to hit $33.9 billion, exceeding last year’s $26.2 billion and a record $30.2 billion set in 2012, as technology and personal hygiene products for the student fuel sales growth.
Despite uncertainty on when and how schools will open, Deloitte found that BTS customers are sticking with their typical purchasing patterns, with 54 percent projected to shop during the last two weeks of July and 62 percent during the first two weeks of August. Approximately 26 percent of BTS shoppers intend to utilize “Buy Online, Pick-Up In-Store” (BOPIS) this year, up 47 percent from last year.

While the report doesn’t specifically include data related to footwear purchases, one retail trend could be an opportunity for smaller retailers: Shopping preferences have become more localized due to COVID-19. Visits to drug stores and supermarkets for BTS purchases will rise as online-only store purchases will hold steady and purchases from the dominant mass merchant channel will dip this season, Deloitte said.