Every day is back-to-school shopping day. Almost.
Back to school shopping, (which includes household items like kitchenware, tableware and home decor among those college-aged folks) has become hard to pin down, according to a new study from The NPD Group.
While U.S. students usually go back to school around Labor Day and traditional back-to-school shopping also had a season, NPD reports the timing of back-to-school shopping and what consumers are shopping for has become less predictable in recent years.
For one thing, back-to-school shopping doesn’t have a clear start time anymore, the research group says.
“The scope of the back-to-school shopping season has expanded due to the endless shopping opportunities both in-store and online, enabling consumers to spread their spending out and address needs as they arise,” says Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst for NPD. “As a result, the back-to-school shopping season is starting earlier, lasting longer and expanding beyond the traditional thinking of a single peak retail period. This kind of change is the new constant in retail.”
According to NPD’s new Back-to-School Report, while some consumers plan to start their 2017 back-to-school shopping the same time as last year, 28 percent said they planned to start earlier. More than 30 percent of consumers told NPD that they started their 2016 back-to-school shopping in August, and more than a third said they completed it in August.
Although August remains the big month for back-to-school shopping, last year 58 percent of consumers started their shopping before August and nearly a third completed their shopping before August. And some people were procrastinators who didn’t finish until September or later in the school year.
Sales are catnip to back-to-school shoppers. Almost 60 percent of consumers said they only buy back-to-school items on sale. Which may be a tactic for retailers to consider as consumers report they plan to spend less on kitchen items and small electrics when shopping for school this year.
The top categories for the back-to-school “season” are fashion and school supplies; 45 percent of shoppers said they planned to boost spending on those areas this year. Spending plans for electronics for this year are more evenly divided with a third of consumers planning on spending more and 38 percent spending less.
Cohen says retailers have an opportunity to build up back-to-school shopping season again, especially when it comes to outfitting college dorms. But start early, he says.
“The challenge for today’s retailers, both brick-and-mortar and e-commerce, is to bring the excitement of back-to-school shopping back into the equation for all students from kindergarten through their final year of college.”