Back-to-College Shoppers are Choosing the Mall Over Their Mobile Phones

With college costs continuing to soar, it’s surprising that parents have any funds left to buy supplies and clothing for their kids as they head back to class. For those that do, they’ll likely be jumping in their cars and heading to the mall instead of turing on their laptops.

According to Deloitte’s “2018 Back-to-College Survey” $25.5 billion is expected to be spent this back-to-school shopping season. Of the 1,025 parents surveyed, just 45 percent plan to do shopping via mobile phone, representing just a 1 percent increase from 2017.

This number may very well be a wake up call for e-tailers, as shopping patterns indicate the shift towards the in-store experience. Survey results show mobile and online shopping is hitting a plateau amongst parents. Down from the 80 percent of total shoppers in 2017, only 69 percent of parents surveyed plan to use a desktop or laptop this season. Of those who plan to use these digital platforms, the top uses are looking up pricing information and discounts.

While nearly the same amount of parents as last year (45 percent) choose to use mobile devices, fewer (13 percent) plan to use social media this year than in 2017 (18 percent). Of those who do plan to use digital platforms, the top uses are looking up pricing information and discounts.

“This decline in digital usage for back-to-college shoppers could be a sign that consumers desire innovation with their digital shopping interactions,” said Rod Sides, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and U.S. retail, wholesale and distribution leader. “It provides an opportunity for retailers to define innovation at the intersection of technology, engagement and decision making in the coming years.”

There’s not much time for retailers, however, to entice customers into their stores. According to Deloitte, retailers can expect the busy season to peak between the last two weeks of July and first two weeks of August as 80 percent of all back-to-college shoppers expect to be active in this period, spending $14 billion (50 percent of total spend) according to the survey and the U.S. Census Bureau’s current population survey.

See how your back-to-college spending stacks up against the survey.


Of the average $1,330 per household that parents anticipate spending this shopping season, 54 percent of that ($13.8 billion) is expected to come from in-store shopping.

Kids versus Parents

While 82 percent of parents plan to collaborate with their students on shopping needs, only 18 percent of parents expect their kids to contribute more than half the budget.

Big Guns

Mass merchants are the top destination amongst all income levels, with 75 percent of respondents planning to shop there and ranking as the number one destination for all income brackets. Low-income households prefer dollar stores (32 percent) and off-campus bookstores (27 percent), while high-income households prefer traditional department stores (27 percent) and warehouse membership clubs (26 percent).

Money Talks

Just one-quarter of sales ($6.1 billion) coming from online channels. Meanwhile, $5.6 billion (22 percent) of shoppers’ budgets have yet to be allocated.

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