Back-to-School Shopping Actually Started Months Ago

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Once all the July 4th fireworks smoke drifts off, it's officially back-to-school shopping season.

Not that parents waited even that long to start equipping their kids for the next school year. Maybe it's the stark realization that kids are going to be spending every moment of the next few months at home that makes 5% of parents start back-to-school shopping in April and 7% to start shopping before June, according to online shoppers surveyed by Bizrate Insights. In fact, the 12% of parents who start their back to school shopping in June is equal to the 12% who hit stores during the first two weeks of July.

Retailers should be ready to support shoppers across channels by the end of June," Hayley Silver, vice president of Bizrate Insights, advised back in May. "Product availability, price and coupons are important, but be sure to also include indicators of quality, such as ratings, reviews and guarantees."

Last year, according to the National Retail Federation, only 19.5% of families hadn't started back-to-school shopping until August. With 64% of their purchases considered mandatory parts of classroom lists, 51.3% of parents turned to coupons, sales and promotions for relief.

"Given the extra costs some parents take on these days when it comes to stocking their children's classroom, many will certainly look to take advantage of retailer's sales and promotions as well as their state's sales tax holidays as they wrap up their lists," says Pam Goodfellow, principal analyst for the NRF's survey partner Prosper Insights and Analytics. "More retailers than ever are in the back-to-school spectrum, so it won't be difficult for mom and dad to find what they need wherever they shop, be it their favorite website for free shipping offers or their local drug store for last-minute deals on supplies."

That's why these next few days are going to be the last time you're able to do some back-to-school shopping without running into hordes of other parents who've already snatched up finite seasonal supplies. As DealNews discovered in a survey of 2,278 consumers, 64% of folks going back-to-school shopping this season will shop whenever they see a back-to-school deal. If that just happens to be in early July, so be it. It doesn't even matter if those deals are online or in stores, as 72% of consumers tell DealNews they do back-to-school shopping in both.

When 60% of back-to-school shoppers are buying for two kids or more, chasing deals is part of the game. Though 56% of Bizrate Insights respondents say their kids' preferences drive shopping decisions, 81% credit a combination of price and school recommendations for their back-to-school shopping patterns.

Besides, much of what's being purchased has a fairly flexible price point anyway. With 24% of consumers telling DealNews they plan to purchase school supplies, 21% shopping for clothes, 20% seeking out shoes and 17% buying purchase backpacks, parents can start scanning for any of those items just as soon as back-to-school sales begin.

In fact, DealNews notes that, last July and Augusts, Staples had a coupon for 25% off sitewide and Amazon's Back-to-School Sale saw discounts of 50% or more on pens, pencils, paper, and other supplies. Also, last year, Wal-Mart had backpacks in-store starting at $4, which Amazon came close to matching tat price. JCPenney took 20% to 77% off the price of its backpacks, while Kmart dropped prices up to 40%. Even clothing sees huge drops just before the change in seasons, withThe Children's Place, Gymboree, OshKosh B'Gosh, Gap Factory, Carter's, Old Navy, Sears and Target for discounts ranging from 40% to 65% off.

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