Parents Drag Heels On Back-to-School; Online Heats Up

School may be right around the corner for most kids, but it looks like parents have been lollygagging, with the National Retail Federation reporting in its latest survey that parents had finished just 45% of their back-to-school shopping, the lowest level in five years. At the same point last year, they’d checked off 52% of their shopping lists. 

The Washington, D.C.-based trade association says that of the 7,200 parents it surveyed, only 13% had wrapped up the back-to-school frenzy by early August, and 23% hadn’t even begun. The study, conducted for the NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics, finds that 79% still needed to buy basic classroom supplies like pencils and paper, while 75% needed clothing and 58% still hadn't bought new shoes.

The results are a little surprising, it says, since its research at the beginning of the summer found parents were eager to start shopping early, with 27% planning to kick off their shopping expeditions two months before the start of the new school year, up from 22% last year.



Shopping for college students showed a similar lag, with only 12% completing all their shopping.

Overall, 55% of respondents plan to shop at department stores, 49% at discount stores, 39% at specialty apparel chains, 35% at office-supply stores and 33% online.

And a new back-to-school analysis from A.T. Kearney, a management consulting firm, finds that traffic to e-commerce sites is up 15% compared to last year. And as more Millennials are readying their kids for class, it also sees a 4% increase in the number of parents who do all their shopping online.

The report, based on 1,000 adults, says that compared to last year, “consumers are becoming increasingly demanding as they expect better shopping experiences and lower costs, with free expedited shipping offers and the rewards of loyalty programs.”

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