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Back-to-School Spending Will Drop in 2016, Survey Says

Discount-hungry shoppers are eager for deals this back-to-school season and are planning to spend less.

In a new study conducted by loyalty program provider Excentus of more than 1,100 Fuel Rewards program members, nearly 85 percent of back-to-school shoppers said they plan to spend up to $300 per person this summer on clothing, shoes, learning supplies and electronics for back-to-school.

That’s $75 less than the $375 average spent identified by Deloitte during the 2015 back-to-school season. About 84 percent of consumers say they plan to shop during July and August, and most say they’ll return to those same retailers a few months later to do their 2016 holiday shopping.

Where they shop will be influenced by three key factors: back-to-school sales and promotions, product value versus competitors, and loyalty programs that help them earn and use rewards for their must-have purchases.

A total of 67 percent of back-to-school shopping will be done by parents, versus 33 percent involving the whole family, and those parents say they prefer to shop in-store when it comes to buying clothing, shoes, and school supplies for their children. Ninety percent of parents said they will be buying clothing for their children this year, while 82 percent said they’d be buying shoes.

Big box retailers came out as winners in terms of parental preference, with 85 percent of shoppers saying they prefer Target and Walmart. They came out ahead of legacy brand-name chain retailers like Macy’s, Kohl’s, Dillard’s, JCPenney, and Old Navy (58 percent) and far ahead of Only 36 percent of parents said they prefer the online giant for back-to-school.

The good news for retailers? Only 16 percent of parents are able to do all their back-to-school shopping in one trip, with the majority (59 percent) reporting they take 2-3 trips, while another 17 percent take 4-5 trips. This represents an opportunity for stores to capture the same customer’s dollar more than once, especially as parents return to stores in late August and September for last-minute items.

“For retailers, these findings reinforce the dual impact of targeted marketing strategies and robust rewards programs for customers during the lucrative back-to-school shopping season,” said Excentus Executive Vice President of Program Development Megan Flynn, which operates the Fuel Rewards program.