By Thomas J. Ryan

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) predicted a robust back-to-school selling season based on the results of its annual Back-to-School (BTS) survey.

ICSC ‘s survey showed that 78 percent of BTS shoppers expect to spend more this year, a significant increase compared with those who planned to do the same in 2015 (67 percent) and 2014 (50 percent). BTS is considered the second biggest spending season of the year after the holiday season.

When asked why their spending would increase this year, the ICSC survey found 48 percent noted a need to replace wardrobe and school supplies, 44 percent cited that school requirements have changed and 35 percent stated that the items they plan to buy are more expensive than last year. In total, the average BTS shopper is expected to spend $657.00.

Over three-quarters (77 percent) of BTS shoppers will purchase school or office supplies, 68 percent will buy apparel or footwear, and nearly half (47 percent) will spend on electronics. On average, all BTS shoppers will spend nearly $280 on electronics.

The ICSC’s findings were more upbeat than surveys from the National Retail Federation (NRF) as well as one from the Rubicon Project.

The NRF’s survey, released on July 7, found 54 percent of households with school age kids (6 to 17 years old) are planning to spend the same as last year for BTS, slightly down compared to 57 percent who said the same thing last year. When looking at parents with children heading off to college, 37 percent are planning to spend the same as last year, up slightly from 35 percent of those who responded to the same question last year.

Rubicon Project’s second annual BTS Consumer Pulse Survey that explored the purchasing intent of parents of children in grades K-12 and parents with children entering their freshmen year of college found that 61 percent of all parents plan to spend more than they did last year, spending approximately $917 per child on average. College freshmen parents plan to spend more than $1,300 per child, twice what the average K-12 parent plans to spend.

The following are additional details from each of the reports:


The ICSC survey, based on a sampling of 1,023 adults from July 7 to 10 conducted online by Opinion Research Corp., found that the BTS shopping season is starting and ending earlier this year. More consumers are planning to spend in July and less in September than 2015. Almost one-third of those surveyed have already started spending and 6 percent completed all their shopping needs. August remains the most popular time to shop with 87 percent of Americans planning to do their shopping then. Forty-nine percent of shoppers believe August is the best time for BTS deals, promotions and discounts.

The survey also found that 93 percent of BTS shoppers plan to spend at a mall or shopping center. A third plan to make a purchase online to be picked up in a physical location. Eighty-six percent will use their mobile device while shopping in-store, primarily to compare prices (58 percent), retrieve discounts (45 percent) and view ratings (34 percent).


The NRF survey, based on a poll of more than 6,800 adults with children in K-12 and college conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics, found more people in both school and college surveys were waiting to shop until later in the season for the best BTS deals. Twenty-eight percent of parents with school-age kids (6 to 17) are planning to use more coupons than last year for BTS. In addition, 25 percent of parents will be studying ad circulars and newspapers for the best BTS deals. Among parents with college students, 28 percent will buy more store brand/generic products, 30 percent will shop for sales more often and 21 percent will use more coupons.

Rubicon Project
Rubicon Project, an online advertising technology firm based in Los Angeles, CA, hired Penn Schoen Berland to conduct 1,506 interviews from June 3 to June 8. Its survey found that more than one-third of all parents (34 percent) and nearly half of college freshman parents (49 percent) – had already started BTS shopping at that time. The survey also found that for the first time, most parents plan to skip brick and mortar outlets for their tech purchases, picking Amazon as their go-to retailer for tech. Sixty percent of all parents surveyed also plan to use mobile devices for some back to school shopping.

Photo courtesy ICSC