Back-to-School Outlook: Parents Wary Of Pricing


When parents start their back-to-school shopping next month, look for little clouds of inflation fears hovering over the lunchboxes and looseleaf paper.

A new study from Deloitte finds that while 86% of the adults in its recent survey plan to spend at least as much or more this year, they are ultra-aware of rising prices, both at the pump and at the grocery store.

In fact, inflation was listed as the top concern, with 72% mentioning higher food prices, and 70% citing higher energy prices. Concerns about the job market came in a distant No. 2, named by 51%.

Not surprisingly, that means they plan to be more militant about pricing in the weeks ahead, with 65% saying that good deals are the things they will look for most. (And 29% say they are finding that back-to-school items are more costly than they were last year at this time.)



They've even mapped out their deal-seeking strategies, with 64% of smartphone owners planning to use their phones to check back-to-school prices, 55% saying they will buy only what their family needs, 35% planning to use social networks, 28% consolidating trips to save on gas, and 26% reusing last year's items.

"Retailers need to be prepared for a consumer who is sensitive to prices, especially with the pinch households are feeling from higher gas and energy costs this summer," Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and Deloitte's retail & distribution sector leader, says in the report. "Retailers should monitor customers' reactions closely to recognize where they are flexible, and where promotions are necessary, to drive traffic and generate purchases of higher-margin products in the store."

The survey, which included 1,000 parents of school-age kids, found that among those earning $100,000 plus, confidence is much higher, with 82% of those respondents saying it was the same or better than last year, compared with 66% of those earning less than $100,000.

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