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Brand Keys: Back-to-school sales to decline; Amazon and Wal-Mart strong

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Households with school-age children (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade) plan a big cut-back in back-to-school spending. Results of the 2013 Brand Keys Back to School Report Card show that there will be a year-over-year decrease of 10% in back-to-school spending, or an average spend this year of just more than $600 per household. 

However, not every retailer will experience a decline in back-to-school profits. This year, the eight retailers showing the greatest increase in consumer intent-to-shop were:

  1. Amazon
  2. Wal-Mart
  3. Target
  4. Macy’s
  5. Zappos
  6. TJ Maxx / Kohl’s
  7. Best Buy / Footlocker
  8. Staples 

Average anticipated spending in the major back-to-school categories are all down from last year. This includes:

  • Clothing: $301 (-29%)
  • Shoes: (athletic & dress) $110 (-23%)
  • Computers/Electronics/Tablets/Smartphones: $150 (-32%)
  • Supplies: $39 (-60%)
  • Books/Study Aids: $10 (-56%)

Looking at preferred retail categories for back-to-school spending, discount stores, online platforms and, secondarily, catalogs were the only categories to show any increase. Ninety-seven percent of households will shop at discount stores (up 4%), while 72% will shop online (up 34%), 28% will shop at department stores (down 44%), 25% will patronize office supply stores (down 55%), 30% will frequent specialty retailers (down 10%) and 35% will use catalogs (up 3%). 

This year’s survey showed that 70% of consumers intend to wait until the middle-to-end of August period to shop just before schools open. The genesis of the shorter back-to-school purchase cycle is a consequence of increased levels of consumer expectations, according to Brand Keys analysis.

“Some of what we’re seeing reflects concerns of a slowing economic recovery, but the specific back-to-school figures also represent a shift in consumer buying habits,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. “Retailers may be running back-to-school ads right now, but they’ve been discounting and couponing for the past seven months. Educated consumers have already stockpiled supplies for the first day of school.”


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