We are almost on the other side of the second biggest spending event of the year, the back-to-school season. With inflation at a record high in over 40 years, 2022 back-to-school spending revenue is going strong. According to the National Retail Federation, revenue is expected to reach $37B on supplies for K-12th grade, with families spending an average of $864. Back-to-college families are spending an average of $1,199, contributing to the total expected spending to reach $74B. 

As expected, consumers are changing how they shop in response to inflated prices. 2021 spending experienced record highs as students went back to school after a year of stimulus checks and at-home learning. This year’s shopping behaviors look a lot different from pre-pandemic years, as consumers are more strategic and creative with their spending.

 

Over a third of consumers surveyed by NRF said they planned to cut back in other categories to compensate for the inflated cost of items needed for the school year. Technology has returned as the top category this year, contributing to 50% of back-to-school spending. Since the onset of the pandemic, it has grown into the core category for back-to-school shoppers. With the high value and essential nature of these items, consumers are prioritizing this category. In addition to saving in other areas, they are covering the cost in ways such as working overtime; using buy now, pay later; taking out additional credit cards; and borrowing money or taking their bank account into the negative.

Other ways we are seeing more and more creative methods for shoppers to ease the blow to their wallets include:

  • Adding all the back-to-school essentials to various online shopping carts and comparing prices
  • Stretching out the spending season over a longer period of time to take advantage of promotions, prepare for potential product delays and shortages, or simply spread out their budgets
  • Engaging in Facebook groups of parents sharing saving tips
  • Reducing products with frills such as glossy notebooks or tech with all the bells and whistles
  • Holding off on purchasing some items while kids are back at school to ensure that the items are necessary 
  • Shopping at consignment stores rather than buying new clothes

 

In light of the hard times that come with inflation, we are seeing that students of all ages are geared up to have a successful school year. In addition, parents are getting creative in attaining and saving on necessary items, with some even building community around it. These shopping behaviors inform the buying patterns that retailers will see in the upcoming holiday season. Methods like comparative shopping while walking around the store on their phones, prioritizing value over brand names, and shopping dispersed across the winter months all indicate that retailers are going to have to be more strategic when the holiday season rolls around.