Hey, Mom, It’s Back-to-School Buying Time

It’s back-to-school time yet again, and moms across the U.S. are planning their annual scholastic shopping spree.  Child’s Play Communications reached out to our Social Savvy panel to find out what was on moms’ minds as they prepared to stock up on this year’s essentials. The following responses are based on feedback from 250 moms of school-age children.

In 2012 there is good news for manufacturers and retailers: The vast majority of moms are expecting to spend the same (42.3%) or more (41.9%) on back-to-school products this year vs. last year, with only 17% spending less.

Moms who are spending more are primarily doing so because another child has started school, or one has moved up to a grade where the needs, and costs, are greater. Those who are spending less mention having stockpiled supplies from the previous year or simply having more limited funds overall in 2012.

Thirty four percent of moms plan to spend between $100 and $200; 24.5% between $200 and $300. About one fifth (19.9%) projected paying under $100 while about the same number (21.5%) expected to pay more than $300.

Most moms say that the bulk of their back-to-school money will go to clothes (68.5%), followed by school supplies (29.9%).  In contrast, only 1.7% of the budget this year will be allocated to electronics.

Moms were also clear about where they would shop and why. Surprisingly – given the popularity and time-saving element — only 2.7 % of moms will buy exclusively online. In contrast, 40.7% planned to shop in store and 56.4% through a combination of both. The biggest consideration in deciding which store to choose: price, according to 71.1% of respondents. Forty seven percent said their biggest complaint about store salespeople is their lax attitude toward customer service—almost double the number who complained about slow checkout (24%). Other annoying retail store scenarios: staff’s unfamiliarity with advertised items and their lack of knowledge about store layout/where to find products.

When asked an open-ended question regarding what they disliked the most about back-to-school shopping, finding that product was out of stock was by far the most common response.

Given the opportunity to suggest what manufacturers or retailers could do to make back-to-school shopping a more pleasant experience, moms repeatedly voiced the same themes:
• Keep shelves stocked, especially with sale items
• Offer more sales/coupons/discounts
• Create pre-packaged kits containing all school supplies, so parents can just grab and go
• Have a bigger selection/variety

Lastly, moms were asked what, if anything, was a “must have” for back to school, according to their kids. The “winner” by far: a “new” or “cool” backpack, with very specific brands/licenses, including Aeropostale, Jansport, i-Safe, Powerbag, Nike, Vera Bradley,  Lightning McQueen, Big Time Rush, Angry Birds, Batman, Iron Man, Hulk, Avengers and Justin Bieber.

Mom-readers of MomMarketTrends: What are your plans for back-to-school and what has your shopping experience been like? Manufacturers and retailers, what are you doing to make the experience better for your customers this year?

NOTE: This post was originally published in the 8/22 edition of Engage:Moms.