With the economy still feeling unsteady, people plan to spend just about as much as they did last year on back-to-school purchases, reports the NPD Group. But marketers from Timberland to Macy's to Walmart are out to increase their share.
Timberland, for example, is rolling out boys, girls, and infants lines this fall in a new agreement with the Parigi Group. (The company has designed childrens' duds for such marketers as Puma and DKNY.) Macy's is expanding its Material Girl collection, adding beauty products, denim and bedding, as well as its Jessica Simpson and Tommy Girl offerings. K mart is wooing shoppers with a new "Epic year, epic you" contest. And Walmart just kicked off its season with a "The list -- for less" effort, which includes online bargains and free shipping.
But the competition is going to be tough, with parents determined to hold the line on expenses. According to NPD's annual Back-to-School Spending Intentions Report, 40% of shoppers plan to spend the same as they did last year, 38% plan to spend less, and 22% plan to spend more -- exactly mirroring the poll from the year before.
Perhaps because they've gotten cannier about waiting for bargains, however, there is a minor shift in timing plans, with just 35% planning to start shopping by Aug. 1, down from 38% last year.
"The consumer is holding on, but it is an indication that consumers remain cautious about their spending," writes analyst Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst, in the market researcher's release.
As was true in last year's survey, value is still the No. 1 motivator for shoppers, cited by 82%. (Last year, it was also the first choice, but with 79%.) The next-biggest reason for buying any back-to-school item is that it's required (45%), followed by replacement (32%.)
"Here we have a clear sign that 'trendy and fashionable' or 'influenced by friends' is shrinking and 'value' is gaining momentum," comments Cohen, "And just when you think that 'value' can't get any more important, consumers tell us that value is what they are looking for. What's more, their idea of what 'value' continues to evolve. Today's consumer value equation is the combination of price, quality, and name brands they trust."