Happy it’s Back to School?


Why do so many parents look like fans jumping out of their collective seats at an exciting sporting event, the day their kids head back to school?

Maybe it’s the release of the Kraken from its summer nest, or all the free time work-from-home-adults suddenly achieve, or the unabashed excitement parents feel towards the Matterhorn of homework about to be poured down their children’s throats!  Whatever the reason, school is back in session, and bus driver Bob is rumbling, bumbling, and stumbling down every back woods street across America delivering our most precious assets to and from their daily dose of academic enrichment.

In Ipsos Public Affairs’ most recent eNation Online Omnibus Survey, “I’m Happy it’s Back to School”, we investigate the trends around this highly anticipated retail event.

So who benefits the most from “Back to School” time of year?  Well it certainly isn’t big daddy, or little mama’s valise. After spending wildly on end the summer Labor Day cookouts, nothing could please my bank account more than a budget busting trip up and down the aisles of back to school supply stores for the pending school year.

What’s amazing to me is almost half (48%) of Americans don’t have a pre-determined budget set for back to school shopping.  Stunning, when you consider Americans spend approximately $27B on back to school shopping supplies, or $688 per student (National Retail Federation Study 8/13). Yow, that’s a lot of dough leaving the bank account, with no guardrails wrapped around it.  I wish I could create a retail event to compare with back to school. I’d be a gazillionaire. At least we can take solace in the fact that 78% of Americans look at and use in-store flyers and advertisements, when deciding where and what to buy.

Where do Americans shop, and who wins the foot traffic war at the street level? When asked to select two types of stores for back to school shopping, a staggering 76% utilize superstores, while 27% visit office supply stores and 25% shop online. Maybe it’s location, maybe it’s daily low prices, or maybe it’s parents familiarity with their favorite weekly shopping destination, but it’s clear specialty office supply stores don’t capture the share of wallet one would expect during its home run holiday season!