WSL Strategic Retail Survey Predicts Strong Back-To-School Season

While early outlooks anticipate back-to-school spending to lag behind 2012, a surprising 88% of shoppers surveyed by WSL Strategic Retail say they plan to spend at least the same or more as last year during the 2013 back-to-school season. The finding was revealed Aug. 8 as part of WSL Strategic Retail's "How America Shops Back-to-School 2013" trend study, which tracks the stores and categories parents are shopping.

“Back-to-school has always been an important indicator of consumer sentiment and spending,” says Wendy Liebmann (pictured), CEO of WSL Strategic Retail, a leading authority on shopper behavior and retail trends based in New York City. “This year 60% of shoppers tell us that they plan to spend the same as they did in 2012, and 28% say they will spend more. This is encouraging news for retailers who saw strong back-to-school numbers last year.”

Although shoppers remain cautious, those who say they will spend more represent a cross section of all income groups—a key indicator of how important this category is to lower- and middle-income shoppers. In fact, one-third of those busy parents who plan to spend more will even pass on the big sales in stores—saying that they are willing to pay a premium for the convenience of getting all of their back-to-school shopping done online.

“The category to watch this year is healthcare,” adds Candace Corlett, WSL Strategic Retail president. “Over half of back-to-school shoppers will buy items such as hand sanitizers, vitamins and first-aid products to keep their children safe from classroom germs, making healthcare the No. 3 category that parents are shopping this back-to-school season.”

The study doesn't specifically mention lice prevention and treatment products. That product category in the professional-beauty market (from suppliers such as Fairy Tales Hair Care, Circle of Friends, etc.) has huge back-to-school sales, and is marketed by savvy beauty retailers to worried parents as healthcare.

Overall, 44 percent of those surveyed in the study reported that they're shopping for beauty and personal care.

What Else They’re Shopping For:
● 86%—School supplies
● 69%—Clothing and fashion accessories
● 56%—Healthcare items (hand sanitizers, first-aid, vitamins, etc.)
● 48%—Food and beverage (lunch supplies, after-school snacks)
● 21%—Electronics (computers, tablets, e-readers, etc.)

Where They’re Shopping:
● 76%—Mass merchandisers such as Target, Walmart and Kmart
● 40%—Department stores such as Macy’s, Kohl’s, JC Penney, Nordstrom, Saks, etc.
● 36%—Online sites such as Amazon
● 34%—Dollar stores, including Dollar General, Family Dollar, etc.
● 32%—Drugstores such as CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid, etc.
● 29%—Warehouse clubs, including Costco, Sam’s Club, etc.
● 25%—Malls, including outlet malls and strip malls
● 22%—Specialty clothing stores

The "How America Shops Back-to-School 2013" trend study was conducted as a nationwide online survey of 320 back-to-school shoppers ages 18 and older in July 2013.

[Image courtesy of WSL Strategic Retail]