Parents and caregivers of preschoolers to high school seniors have shifted their back-to-school shopping plans to brick-and-mortar stores, with 71% saying they're heading to stores, up from 66% in 2017, according to a report from news and market research firm Morning Consult.
Just 7% say they'll shop more online (compared to 11% who said so last year), and 19% plan to shop on- and offline equally — the same as last year. When asked which items they would purchase online, 27% of parents said clothes, while school supplies (22%), electronics (13%) and books (11%) came in slightly lower.
Most (91%) said that high-quality goods and stores offering everything they need are important factors in their choices. Having inexpensive products and a fast and efficient shopping experience ranked second (89%). Morning Consult's poll was conducted Aug. 2-6 among a sample of 459 parents with a margin of error of four percentage points.
Getting new clothes for the new school year is the primary goal for most parents of school-age children, and that in part explains their preference for physical stores this season, Morning Consult found. The ability to ensure clothes fit and are appropriate for school is best assessed in store, and that overcomes e-commerce's convenience factor, according to the report.
"I know convenience is big, but trying on for size, making sure the son or daughter really likes the apparel or what have you that's being bought, is really going to still happen in the store," Ray Wimer, assistant professor of retail practice at Syracuse University's Whitman School of Management, said in a Morning Consult blog post on the results.
Retailers have helped themselves by making in-store shopping a better experience, matching the convenience and low prices consumers find on the web, with BOPIS and other omnichannel opportunities in part driving that, according to Wimer.
Stores offering a lot of brand names ranked lowest on parents' priority list, with less than half (48%) saying it was important, according to Morning Consult. And about two-thirds of parents (66%) said it was important that their children like the store they were shopping at.
That can be a source of tension during the season, according to other research from shopping rewards program Ebates. Parents seem most irritated by financial concerns, including when kids want a name brand that's not in the budget (17%), want too many impulse items (16%) or can't agree on the budget (11%). Meanwhile, 20% of teens said they are annoyed that their parents waited too long, 15% are irritated they can't get a name brand and 10% are frustrated that their parents rush through stores.
While the National Retail Federation estimates that back-to-school expenditures will be slightly down this year, more than half (56%) of parents surveyed by Morning Consult plan to spend the same amount as last year, while 30% plan to spend more and 14% said less. The majority (73%) are dedicating most of their budget to clothes, 11% to school supplies and 10% to electronics.