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Later School Shopping Challenges Retailers

Volume 2, Issue 16
August 30, 2014
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The Back-to-School buying season may be done and it will be a while before we see exact sales figures, but we’ve already learned a few things about the behavior of retail customers.

On Aug. 20 the National Retail Federation reported its surveys showed that one-quarter of BTS shoppers and more than one-third of Back-to-College shoppers anticipated shopping online for some part of their remaining purchases this summer.

That said, over half of online BTS shoppers said they also planned to head to department stores (62%), discount stores (55%), clothing stores (54%) and office supply stores (47%), along with other merchants. Online BTC shoppers also expect to head into these stores for some of their remaining shopping, though somewhat less so than BTS shoppers.

“With consumers still generally fiscally cautious, it’s not surprising that online shoppers this year are on the lookout for specials and offers,” observed Fiona Swerdlow, Head of Research for Shop.org, NRF’s digital retail division.

Of those who had started their shopping by Aug. 5-12, when the surveys took place, close to half of BTS online shoppers and 20% of BTC online shoppers said that coupons, sales and/or promotions have influenced anywhere from one-quarter to three-quarters of their purchases.

By contrast, ad inserts and TV were somewhat more influential for BTS online shoppers than those heading to college. Nearly four in 10 online BTS shoppers turned to advertising inserts for inspiration, and another quarter to TV/broadcast.

By comparison, around one-quarter of BTC shoppers looked to ad inserts while 20% cited TV/broadcast, NRF reported. Nearly one in five parents (18.2%) say that 100% of their BTC electronics purchases were influenced by course/school requirements.

For BTS families, whose lists often include supplies needed for the classroom, 21% of parents say that

100% of the supplies they buy are influenced by classroom and school requirements. When it comes to electronics, 16.4% said that every electronic item they buy is influenced by classroom lists and school requirements.

“As schools look to parents more and more to help fund classroom needs, parents are looking for as many ways as they can to cut costs, and that could very well be why we’re seeing more people seek out coupons and sales this summer,” said Pam Goodfellow, principal analyst with Prosper Insights, which conducted the survey for NRF.

“Low prices at the end of the season will definitely drive more college and school families to shop last minute, especially for those with specific items they need in order to start the school year,” she noted.

SCM Failures Threaten Retailers

The bad news: 1010data, Inc., a big data discovery and data sharing provider, said its August 2014 BTS survey found that if a retailer is out of stock of an item just twice, 40% of parents say they will avoid shopping at that retailer again.

With nearly 7 out of 10 parents reporting that they expect stores to run out of BTS items by the time school starts, retail customer loyalty was at risk, the company said. Half of surveyed parents believed that BTS staples like backpacks will be out of stock when they need them most.

Nearly all parents across the country (94%) reported experiencing BTS shopping frustration, with 57% frustrated about out-of-stocks, 51% by long lines, 49% by high prices and 48% by hard-to-find items.

When asked about which types of stores parents have encountered out-of-stocks in, 74% said large chain stores, 29% said small, local stores, 27% said supermarkets and 21% cited mall stores.

However, only 12% of parents said they encountered out-of-stocks at big online retailers during the BTS season, the 1010data poll found.

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