U.S. back-to-school sales in July and August this year will grow to $857.2 billion, a 4% increase over 2016, which saw record sales in key categories, according to a forecast from e-commerce research firm eMarketer.
The back-to-school retail season is second only to holiday sales, making up 17% of total sales for the year, according to eMarketer, which will release its full report at the end of the month. The largest segments are apparel and accessories, books, music and video, computers and consumer electronics, office equipment and supplies, and toys and hobbies, including sporting goods, eMarketer said.
E-commerce continues to make its mark, this year growing 14.8% to $74.03 billion — 8.6% of total retail sales (both on- and offline) for the period, larger than its 7.8% share last year, according to the report.
Much of the shift to e-commerce is driven by the millennial and Gen Z students, who, together with their parents, spend back-to-school money on higher-ticket items like electronics. Total back-to-school spending for K-12 and college was estimated at some $75.8 billion last year, up from $68 billion the previous year, according to the National Retail Federation.
“E-commerce growth this year comes on top of a strong year last year, making it that much more impressive,” eMarketer senior analyst Yory Wurmser said in a statement emailed to Retail Dive. “Younger consumers that shop in preparation for going back to high school and college actually prefer shopping online, so e-commerce growth should continue for the foreseeable future.”
Back-to-school e-commerce sales in the core categories during July and August will exceed the quarterly growth rate for e-commerce overall at 15.8%, reaching $37.56 billion. That’s in marked contrast to the poor growth numbers logged by brick-and-mortar stores in these same areas, eMarketer said.
“Several core product areas are among the sectors with the highest e-commerce penetration,” said Wurmser. “Even apparel, which traditionally has been bought in stores, is increasingly moving online.”
EMarketer's estimates are based on an analysis of quantitative and qualitative data from research firms, government agencies, media firms and public companies, plus interviews with top executives at publishers, ad buyers and agencies, eMarketer said. Data is weighted based on methodology and soundness.