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The top planned school supply purchases are pens and pencils (80%), paper / notebooks (80%), shoes or clothes (78%), and folders / binders (75%). 37% of shoppers will use a list of items provided by their child(ren)’s school to shop for supplies.

Some 80% of back-to-school shoppers plan to purchase at mass retailers

And 69% plan to shop in-store

Numerator, a data and tech company serving the market research space, has released its 2023 Back-to-School Preview, sourced from a sentiment survey of 1,200 consumers who plan to make back-to-school purchases this year, with results segmented by their child(ren)’s grade level. Overall, the majority of these consumers plan to shop at brick-and-mortar mass retailers, one-third plan to base their shopping on a school’s recommended supply list, and 32% expect their back-to-school spend to increase compared to 2022.  

Some of the other findings include: 

  • Back-to-school shoppers are more likely to be purchasing supplies for younger children. Over half of consumers (51%) are shopping for K-5th grade, 35% are shopping for 6-8th grade, and 46% are shopping for 9-12th grade
  • More than one-third of back-to-school shoppers rely on their school’s recommended supply list. The top planned school supply purchases are pens and pencils (80%), paper/notebooks (80%), shoes or clothes (78%), and folders/binders (75%). Thirty-seven percent of shoppers will use a list of items provided by their child(ren)’s school to shop for supplies
  • Parents might be shopping, but children are influencing the purchases. Thirty-two percent of consumers shopping for 9-12th graders will allow them to have input on all school supplies, compared to just 15% for those with K-5th grade children and 18% with 6-8th grade children
  • The majority of consumers prefer to shop in-store for back-to-school items. Sixty-nine percent plan to buy their supplies in-store, 17% plan to buy online and have the items delivered, and 9% plan to buy online for in-store pickup
  • Mass retailers win with back-to-school shoppers. Eighty percent of shoppers say they will buy their supplies at mass retailers (e.g. Walmart, Target, etc.), 20% plan to shop at dollar stores, and 15% plan to shop at club stores
  • The importance of name-brand school supplies varies by category and age of student. Almost one-third (30%) of all shoppers consider name-brand supplies important. Among this group, those with children in K-5th grades care more about name-brand art supplies (80%), while shoppers with kids in 9-12th grade are more likely to find name brand important for electronics (85%) and apparel (85%)
  • Shoppers want to finish back-to-school shopping quickly and early. Thirty-four percent of back-to-school shoppers say they will try and get all shopping done in one day or trip. Eighty-six percent plan to be done shopping by early August, while only 2% say they will continue shopping until September or later
  • Over half of back-to-school shoppers will spend over $100 on supplies. Fifty-seven percent plan to spend over $100 on school supplies this year, and 38% of consumers with children in 9-12th grade will spend over $200
  • About one-third of consumers expect to spend more on back-to-school items this year than last year. While 55% of consumers say they spend roughly the same amount as last year, 32% expect their spend to increase, and 14% expect to spend less
  • Nearly half of back-to-school shoppers plan to shop sales. Consumers are looking to save on back-to-school spending by shopping sales (45%), using coupons (35%), comparing prices (34%), and reusing old supplies (33%). 


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