Parents Spending More For School Supplies, Clothes

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — A majority of parents plan to shell out more money on their children's back-to-school shopping this year, driven by rising costs rather than having greater spending power, according to a survey conducted by Accenture, the Chicago-based management consulting and technology services company.

Read More: Costs Are Biggest Back-to-School Stress, Parents Say

The survey, which polled parents of children entering kindergarten through college, shows that 89% plan to do most of their back-to-school shopping in a physical store, although many will still go online to browse ahead of time before purchasing at a store, which is known as "webrooming."

I think that people prefer doing their back-to-school shopping at physical locations, because they can take their children with them," said Gail Cunningham, spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based National Foundation for Credit Counseling. "That way the kiddos can say whether or not they like the clothes and try on them on, thus avoiding returns. Today's child knows exactly what he or she wants and mom is aware of that, so she's saving herself some time by letting them be part of the shopping experience."

The majority of parents (67%) said they plan to spend between $100 and $500, and 41% plan to spend $500 or more for back-to-school shopping this year, according to the survey conducted by Accenture. Just over half (52%) of the parents said they will spend more on back-to-school shopping than last year and 37% plan to spend the same.

Read More: Will You Spend This Much on Back-to-School Supplies

Their back-to-school budget increased this year with 71% of parents who said higher prices are the cause and 56% who cited increased school requirements. Many parents said they plan to spend less on shopping this year with 58% who plan to decrease spending by $100 or less than last year. More than half or 55% of these parents said they will reduce their spending because they have less discretionary income and 28% say they will reduce spending because of higher living costs.

Nearly eight out of ten plan to participate in "webrooming" with 47% who want to check if an item is in stock before going to a store to make a purchase, 43% who want to touch and feel the product before buying and 43% who want to avoid shipping costs.

"Given that there are often different deals and promotions online versus in-store, consumers will have to grapple with the decision – whether the in-store deal offsets having to sometimes pay for shipping for the same item online," said Dave Richards, managing director of Accenture Retail.

Shopping for school is no longer limited to the month or weeks right before classes start with 40% of parents who spread out their shopping throughout the summer and school year, 35% shop early in the season and 23% shop late in the season to get the best discounts.

Parents tend to take their kids shopping with them for school clothes and supplies because it can be a faster process and become a teachable moment for kids to learn how to set up a budget and contribute some of their own money, said Trae Bodge, senior lifestyle editor for RetailMeNot, the Austin, Texas digital offers company.

"It's really an experience and you have to have that touch and feel," she said.

Parents are spending an average of $659 per year on school-related costs, according to RetailMeNot's latest survey. In fact, 75% of parents reported spending less on something for themselves because of their child's education costs.

Webrooming has emerged as a new shopping trend across all market categories, especially for teens and tweens who are spending their own money on clothes, said Erin Rechner, kidswear editor at WGSN, the New York City-based trend forecaster.

"They want to make sure what they buy is 'trending' and 'liked' before they buy," she said. "With the influx of daily, if not hourly social media engagement, webrooming provides the consumer a preview of what to expect in brick and mortar stores for back to school. This gives them the opportunity to get the opinions of their friends and peers before hitting up the mall for final purchases so they can save on shipping and wait times."

Chevine Anderson, a managing partner of Nobility Advisors, a Conyers, Ga. consulting firm, said he prefers to take his children shopping with him to take advantage of the tax-free shopping weekend and because he knows the clothing will fit.

"It motivates my oldest to see others out and about getting ready," he said.

--Written by Ellen Chang for MainStreet

Read More: Back-to-School Shopping Isn't What It Used to Be

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