Report: Parents Delay Back-to-School Shopping

The annual back-to-school shopping season appears to be becoming less of a season and more of an ongoing process, according to a new report from Deloitte. The consulting company recently surveyed parents of school- and college-aged kids to find out about their shopping practices for the fall and found that many are delaying their buying or holding off altogether.

According to Deloitte, nearly one-third (31 percent) of respondents said they plan to complete their back-to-school shopping after the start of the school year, a 5 percentage point increase from 2014. And the number of parents who intend to reuse last year’s items has risen to 39 percent, up from 21 percent in 2011.

“Consumers are sending a message to retailers that the back-to-school shopping season just isn’t that important anymore, and that could dramatically disrupt an industry that traditionally relies on this defined period for a significant portion of annual sales,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman of Deloitte LLP and the leader of its retail and distribution sector.

“The question for retailers is how to capture the sales that may not fall exclusively in July or August but increasingly are spread throughout the year,” added Paul. “If consumers are content with the items they already have, the two-for-one promotion may no longer get them to the register. Instead, retailers will have to provide something more meaningful or exclusive that fits their customers’ needs when they are ready to buy.”

Mobile shopping offers an area of opportunity for retailers. According to Deloitte’s survey, nearly 90 percent of respondents own a smartphone. And of those individuals, eight out of 10 (80 percent) plan to use their mobile devices as part of their back-to-school shopping process, either for making direct purchases or to conduct advance research before entering a brick-and-mortar store.

Overall, Deloitte estimates that the average American’s spending for back-to-school will remain relatively flat this year, at $1,747, down from $1,766.

Earlier this month, the National Retail Federation issued a similarly lackluster prediction for the season, saying that families will spend a total of $68 billion to get their kids and teens ready for class. The NRF estimated that of that number, $4.64 billion will be spent on footwear.

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